Vulcan Fire Training brings you some of the latest UK fire prosecutions from January 2020. These cases highlight the importance of compliance with fire safety regulations, and remind you of the risks and legal consequences that can occur when regulations are breached.
This month, we’re looking at the successful prosecutions of a hotel owner in London whose fire safety failings put staff and guests at risk, and a grammar school foundation in Wakefield which lacked sufficient fire safety provision in three of its properties.
Wakefield Grammar School Foundation has been fined £10,000 after admitting to shortfalls in fire safety precautions at Queen Elizabeth Grammar School (QEGS) and Wakefield Girls’ High School (WGHS).
The school’s former risk assessor, James Gibson, was also fined £10,000 for failing to undertake suitable and sufficient fire risk assessments in both these schools, and the nearby nursery.
Leeds Crown Court heard that fire escape routes at WGHS were lined with coat hooks, and a fire exit door was partially obstructed. Essential fire doors had also been removed from cloakrooms on the first and second floors, putting students at risk if a fire were to occur. Further inspections also found fire doors which didn’t close properly.
Inspections at QEGS found five areas where bags and coats were stored inappropriately, posing a fire safety risk, and a fire exit in the main hall was completely blocked. In the nursery, again, coats and bags were stored inappropriately which would have hindered the means of escape.
Gibson and Wakefield Grammar School Foundation both pleaded guilty to failing to make a suitable and sufficient risk assessment, and the Foundation also pleaded guilty to failing to take general fire precautions.
The Foundation was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £14,533 in costs. Gibson was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £5,000 in costs.
Chris Kemp, Senior Fire Protection Manager for West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service, said: “It is essential that parents and guardians are able to leave their children in a safe and secure environment.
“We continually work with those responsible for managing buildings to support them in complying with the requirements imposed upon them, however when people have been put at significant risk as is the case here, we have no alternative but to take legal action against those responsible.”
Act Grange Ltd, which runs The Baytree Hotel in Stratford, and the company’s owner Falgun Patel have been fined after pleading guilty to five breaches of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.
During a routine audit, the London Fire Brigade found numerous fire safety failings including fire doors tied open, missing or malfunctioning door closers and no smoke detection. A first floor emergency exit route was almost entirely blocked by large amounts of rubbish, and led to a gate which had been locked and could not be opened by staff.
There was no fire risk assessment in place, no evidence of methodical management of fire safety, and staff could not explain emergency procedures.
Dan Daly, Assistant Commissioner for Fire Safety with the London Fire Brigade said: “There were serious and systemic fire safety failures at The Baytree Hotel and what few steps were taken to satisfy fire safety duties were amateurish and half-hearted.
“A fire in a building with serious fire safety failings such as those our inspectors uncovered could have been lethal and the owner has put staff and guests at very real risk by failing to maintain standards.
“If occupants had tried to escape in the event of a fire, they would have found their escape route compromised and unusable, trapping them in the building.”
Patel and Act Grange Ltd pleaded guilty to five fire safety breaches. Act Grange Ltd were fined £20,000, Patel was fined £10,000 (with 6 months imprisonment if the fine isn’t paid) and each were ordered to pay half of the £14,420 prosecution costs.
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