Building managers fined over fire safety breaches in London flats

The managers of a block of flats in London have been fined thousands of pounds by Southwark Crown Court after numerous fire safety breaches were uncovered at the property.

Inspectors from London Fire Brigade visited the Gloucester Terrace flats in Paddington after a fire broke out in one of the flats. They found a number of quite serious fire safety hazards, including failures to lock the electrical intake cupboard and failure to install a proper fire alarm system.

The fire service also found that although a fire risk assessment had been carried out on the property, both the leaseholder and the managing agent of the flats had failed to act on its findings. Whether due to a lack of fire safety training or plain negligence, no emergency plan was made, nor were emergency lighting or self-closing fire doors installed.

Douglas and Gordon Ltd, the managing agent, was ordered to pay £100,000 in fines and 13,000 in court costs. Leasehold owner of Gloucester Terrace, Atomlynn Ltd, was fined £33,000 and ordered to pay costs of £6,440.

Steve Turek, the assistant commissioner for fire safety regulation, said:

“London Fire Brigade will continue to take action against managing agents, lease owners or landlords who do not take their fire safety responsibilities seriously. Failure to comply with the law can, as this case has shown, result in a prosecution.”

Mansfield hotel manager pleads guilty to fire safety offences

A manager of two hotels in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, has pleaded guilty to a number of fire safety offences at Nottingham Crown Court.

David Liu, the manager of both the Market Inn and the Dial Hotel, admitted 15 breaches of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 after officers from Nottingham Fire and Rescue Service uncovered serious problems at his hotels.

During a routine inspection, fire safety officers found that the upper floors of both premises were being used as sleeping accommodation without the property fire safety precautions being taken to protect occupants. Risk assessments were prepared for both premises, but they both failed to spot a number of significant hazards and deficiencies in fire safety policy.

Mr Liu has now been handed a jail sentence of eight months for the breaches, along with the man who carried out the fire risk assessments on the hotels, John O’Rourke of Mansfield Fire Protection Services, was also given the same sentence. Whether through improper fire safety training on how to conduct risk assessments or through negligence, Mr O’Rourke failed in his duty to fully assess the safety of each property.

Staff use fire safety training to save residents in care home blaze

The staff at a care home in Enniskillen in Northern Ireland had occasion to use the skills learnt in their fire safety training after a fire broke out and residents had to be evacuated safely.

The Clare House care home, which specialises in the treatment of people with mental health problems, went up in flames last Tuesday (12th July) at around 12.30am. By the time the fire brigade arrived on the scene to tackle the blaze, the home’s staff had already safely evacuated most of the residents from the burning building.

The local fire service praised the actions of the staff, with group commander Robbie Bryson saying:

“An excellent job was done by the two staff members on duty,”

“When we arrived the residents were clear and none of them had suffered any problems or any smoke inhalation. The fire alarm raised the alarm and the nurse on duty noticed sparks coming from the roof.”

None of the staff nor the sixteen residents of the home were hurt during the incident, but they did have to be temporarily rehoused as Clare House itself sustained heavy damage from fire and water during the frightening incident.

Cumbrian firm fined for health and safety breaches after fireball incident

A firm from Cumbria has been fined more than £100,000 after workers were injured in a huge fireballincident at its Wigton factory.

The international packaging film manufacturer, Innovia Films Ltd, was investigated and then prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) over the incident, which endangered the lives of two workers.

There was a small fire in an electrical distribution box the day before the incident, but this was extinguished by employees using a CO2 extinguisher. The power supply was also re-routed to a switch that was not damaged so that production quality in the factory, which used cooling equipment, could be maintained.

The very next day, two workers were plating over the damaged switch when they were engulfed in what has been described as œan explosive arc of electrical energy. This set their clothes on fire, and caused serious burns and injuries which left one employee in a coma for four weeks and another facing a nine week hospital stay.

Carlisle Crown Court heard that whether because of negligence or insufficient fire safety training, a proper risk assessment had not been carried out before the two workers started their work. For putting their employees lives at risk, Innovia Films Ltd was ordered to pay £90,000 in fines and £26,790 in court costs.

How to take your fire safety knowledge to the next level

It is very important in any working environment for at least one person to hold responsibility for fire safety. This responsible person™ should have undergone at least basic fire safety training, in which they learnt how to implement fire safety practices, spot hazards and reduce risks.

There are, however, more advanced fire safety training courses you can take to help you to expand on your existing knowledge. The more training you get, the closer you are to becoming an expert in fire safety, and the more of an asset you are to your workplace.

By obtaining a qualification such as the CIEH Level 3 Award in Fire Safety Risk Assessment and Control, you will be able to understand and carry out a formal fire risk assessment for most low-complexity premises. You then become someone who can support the responsible persons™ within the business, as well as playing a bigger part in planning and implementing fire safety policy.

You may also become more valuable to current or future employers with this kind of qualification on your CV, as you will be able to help the business to meet its legal obligations with regards to fire safety. More importantly, you can contribute to making the business much safer overall.

Companies fined for safety breaches which caused Cheshire chemical fire

Two firms have been prosecuted and fined by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after a major chemical fire broke out at a site in Cheshire.

The fire at the Gateway industrial estate broke out in June 2007, and required more than 100 firefighters to put it out. The blaze also caused aerosols in drums and cylinders to violently explode, prompting police to set up a 200m exclusion zone around the factory.

Investigating the cause of the fire, the HSE found that the machine used to shred aerosols was not suitable for shredding containers which still had flammable gases and liquids inside, yet this is what it was being used for. This work should also have been carried out in an area away from flammable substances, which is yet another thing that would have come up had a fire risk assessment been carried out by someone with the right fire safety training.

Two companies were fined over the incident – the Preston-based firm Pakawaste which manufactured the shredding machine, and the recycling company Greenway on whose premises the fire took place. In total, the HSE ordered these firms to pay fines of £87,500 plus costs for breaching a number of health and safety regulations.

Newcastle takeaway blaze highlights need for fire safety training

The owner of a fish and chip shop in Tyne and Wear that was severely damaged by fire has urged other business owners to make sure all of their staff undergo extensive fire safety training.

Sid Appleby was forced to close his business, the South Gosforth Fisheries fish and chip shop in West Moor, after a fire broke out on the premises. The blaze caused so much damage to the building that the business could not reopen for three months.

Mr Appleby has now warned other business owners that the same unfortunate situation could happen to them if they don’t make fire safety training a priority. He said:

“I want to use this opportunity to tell other people who work with deep fat fryers and oil filtering machines to regularly carry out staff training regarding their maintenance processes and to make sure they do fire safety drills. I cannot emphasis enough how important it is to maintain your equipment.”

This advice was supported by Tyne and Wear rescue service, which encouraged businesses to make sure they and their staff are fully prepared for fire and other emergencies.

Manchester landlord fined over fire safety offences

A landlord has been fined more than £42,000 in Manchester Magistrates Court after he was found guilty of serious fire safety failings at a number of the properties he owned.

In total, Mohammed Javaid was fined £33,750 and was also ordered to pay £8,500 in court costs. The fine was imposed as a result of 17 contraventions of housing law and 3 breaches of the Fire Safety Order.

Of the 16 flats owned by Mr Javaid, 6 were found to be breaching fire safety regulations. Inspectors visiting these premises found issues such as missing fire alarms, smoke detectors and fire doors, dangerous electrical wiring and poor fire door maintenance in communal areas. It was also found that due to ignorance or a lack of proper fire safety training, the landlord had neglected to carry out a fire risk assessment.

In one property, officers from the city council had to issue an emergency prohibition order because conditions were so bad. Despite being expected to close the premises and move tenants out, Mr Javaid decided to keep the flats open and move new tenants in.

Commenting on the outcome of the case, Councillor Fred Walker (the chair of the Manchester Fire and Rescue authority) said:

“We welcome the clear message from the courts that action will be taken against those businesses that neglect fire safety and thereby risk the safety of the public.“

Conducting a fire risk assessment – in detail pt.1

If you run a business or own premises in which people work, you have a responsibility to carry out a thorough and detailed fire risk assessment. You can undergo fire safety training to help you conduct the assessment yourself, or you can use the services of a fire risk assessment consultant to do it for you either.

There are five stages to the fire risk assessment. Let’s take a look at the first few (the remainder will be covered in part 2 of this guide):

  1. Fire hazards. You need to think about how fire could start, identifying potential hazards like electrical equipment, heaters and naked flames. It is also important to keep these sources of ignition apart from anything that burns, such as packaging, waste and chemicals.
  2. Who is at risk? Whilst everyone is at risk if a fire breaks out, some people may face greater risk. This may be because of where they work, because they are unfamiliar with the layout of the building, or because they are elderly, disabled or children.
  3. Evaluate risks and take action. Look at everything you’ve found so far, and find ways to remove or reduce risks. Take specific action to prevent accidental fire and protect people on the premises.

Conducting a fire risk assessment in detail pt.2

Ensuring a fire risk assessment is carried out on your business premises is your legal responsibility as an employer. You can either conduct the assessment yourself or use a professional fire safety consultant. Either way, there are five steps that must be completed in a fire risk assessment. We’ve looked at three of these already in pt.1 of this guide:

  1. Fire hazards
  2. Who is at risk?
  3. Evaluate risks and take action

Let’s now look at the remaining two steps:

  1. Record, plan and train. Record all of your findings and use these to plan future fire safety policy. You can also use this information to ensure others in the business/organisation undergo the right fire safety training.
  2. Review your fire risk assessment regularly. This is especially important if anything changes within the building (i.e. changes to the layout, renovation etc.) or if there is an incident.

You can’t prevent fire in every circumstance, but keeping on top of the fire risk assessment for your premises can drastically reduce the risk. The fire risk assessment is your legal responsibility, but it is also a moral obligation.