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Property manager fined for seven fire safety breaches 16 December 2008

A Hillingdon property manager has been ordered to pay nearly £13,000 in fines and costs after being found guilty of breaches of fire safety legislation.'Uxbridge Magistrates' Court fined Armajit Singh, £5,600 for seven breaches of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. Mr. Singh did not own the premises but was managing it for his uncle and had responsibility for the property, maintenance and repairs.

The prosecution followed a fire at the house converted into flats on Wood End Green Road, Hayes on 14 September 2007. A man and a woman were woken by the blaze and tried to escape via the staircase but it was engulfed by thick black smoke. They escaped by smashing the first floor bedroom window and jumping out. The woman broke her ankle in the fall and the man suffered deep cuts to his hands.

Fire safety inspectors visited the premises and found that there were a number of faults including no smoke alarm or fire extinguishers in the property and none of the doors were fire resistant. Armajit Singh pleaded not guilty to all seven summonses but the Magistrates decided that Mr. Singh was responsible for the breaches and awarded in favour of the Brigade. Assistant Commissioner for Fire Safety Regulation Steve Turek said: "The residents involved in this fire suffered injuries but it could have been a lot worse".

The property had no smoke alarm or an accessible means of escape and this incident could have resulted in a death or more severe injuries to the occupants. It is important for people who are responsible for managing properties to know that they can be held to account for fire safety failures that are within their control. I urge landlords, business owners and employers to take their fire safety responsibilities very seriously. I would like to thank the inspecting officers for their hard work in bringing forward this conviction.

Notes for editors

  • Summons 1Article 9 of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, in that he failed to make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to which relevant persons were exposed.
  • Summons 2Article 11(1) of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, in that he failed to make and give effect to appropriate fire safety arrangements.
  • Summons 3Article 13(1)(a) of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, in that he failed to provide appropriate fire fighting equipment.
  • Summons 4Article 13(1)(a) of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, in that he failed to provide appropriate fire detection measures, namely, a fire alarm.
  • Summons 5Article 13(1)(a) of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, in that he failed to provide appropriate fire detection measures, namely, adequate smoke alarms.
  • Summons 6Article 14(2)(a) of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, in that he failed to ensure that persons were able to evacuate the premises as quickly and as safely as possible, in that the escape route was not properly protected.
  • Summons 8Article 15(1)(a) of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, in that he failed to establish and give effect to appropriate procedures to be followed in the event of serious and imminent fire.
  • Summons 7was withdrawn by the Brigade on the day of the hearing.

The Regulatory Reform Order (Fire Safety) 2005 came into force on 1 October 2006, and replaced over 70 separate pieces of fire safety legislation. It gives responsibility to those who are best placed to address fire safety and ensure that risks - which necessarily change over time - are kept under review. Under the FSO a 'responsible person' (usually the owner, employer or occupier of business or industrial premises) must carry out a fire risk assessment. Responsible persons under the Order are required, following a risk assessment, to implement appropriate fire safety measures to minimise the risk to life from fire; and to keep the assessment up to date.

A Bar in Lancashire

The prosecution began after fears of serious overcrowding were reported to the bars owner. However, his unhelpful approach in trying to improve the fire safety issues led to further action being taken. A full fire safety inspection was completed, which highlighted the serious fire safety breaches and provided the way to a prosecution case against the owner.

In court, the owner pleaded guilty to the following five offences under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005:

  • Failing to make a suitable fire risk assessment.
  • Not providing suitable and sufficient staff training.
  • Not providing adequate means of escape by not keeping them clear at all times.
  • Not providing adequatemeans of escape by blocking the exit routes.
  • Failing to record and provide tests of the fire alarm system.

The magistrates found the owner guilty of all five offences and he was order to pay £1,200 per offence and pay Fire Authority £2,000. This resulted in the owner having to pay a total of £8,000 within six months.

Fire-hit Gateshead pub had breached safety rules Apr 8 2009 by Linda Richards, Evening Chronicle

FIRE safety breaches were highlighted at a Tyneside pub just weeks before two men cheated death in a blaze. The men had lucky escapes after flames ripped through the upstairs of The Black Bull in Mulgrave Terrace, Windmill Hills, Gateshead. One man battled through choking black smoke to flee to safety and the other was trapped upstairs until rescued by firefighters. Their narrow weekend escape came after fire inspectors flagged up breaches of safety regulations.

Following the safety audit, an Enforcement Notice was sent to Lancashire-based brewery Trust Inns UK and Billy Graham, who took over the lease of the pub in July 2007. The company refused to comment and Mr Graham said he was in contact with them over the matter. The notice specifies work needed to be carried out to satisfy fire safety legislation. This included carrying out an annual fire safety risk assessment, which includes details about access and exit from the premises in case of fire.

The existing fire alarm was branded inappropriate and inadequately maintained. Emergency lighting was also criticised for being inadequately maintained and inspectors said there was inadequate safety training for staff. The notice warned that failure to take action to comply with the regulations could lead to prosecution.

Fire chiefs gave a deadline of May 16 for the work to be carried out. Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service group manager Paul Anderson, said:"Following a routine fire safety inspection of the Black Bull Pub in Gateshead we identified a number of breaches of fire safety legislation and as a result served an enforcement notice". The areas where the breaches occurred were due to an inadequate fire alarm system which was not adequately serviced or maintained. The emergency lighting was also not well maintained and there was inadequate fire safety training for employees. Under the Fire Safety regulatory reform order the responsible person must also carry out a fire risk assessment to ensure that the premises are safe for the public and for staff. In this case this had not been carried out.

The fire, last Saturday, was caused by a carelessly discarded cigarette outside the living area. There was also no smoke alarm in the living accommodation above the pub to give the pub manager and tenant an early warning of fire. A fire brigade spokesman added:"We cannot stress enough the importance of having a working smoke alarm" they can be the difference between life or death and in this case the occupiers were incredibly lucky and we could easily have been looking at fatalities.

The fire started in a chair in the passageway outside the living room door in the premises above the pub and we believe it was started by carelessly discarded smoking materials. Again we would like to stress to any smokers the importance of ensuring that any smoking materials are properly extinguished.

An East London Nightclub

have been ordered to pay fines and costs totaling almost £41,000 after pleading guilty to breaches of fire safety regulations. The company were fined for 12 breaches, including fire doors wedged open, no clear escape route and an exit staircase obstructed by rubbish.The court heard that the nightclub and offices had been investigated after the Brigade had been called to a fire alarm sounding at the premises. A subsequent inspection discovered the contraventions.

A restaurant in east London was fined £20,000 (the maximum £5,000 for each of four contraventions), including no fire alarm, no smoke alarm and non fire-resistant doors and windows. Costs of over £7,000 were also awarded against the Defendant. The court heard that the restaurant continued to trade whilst no effort had been made to comply with earlier enforcement notices. Magistrates considered the contraventions to be very serious and that by ignoring the notices they had put both their employees and customers at risk.

Owners of a cramped warehouse in Lancashire have been fined £12,000 plus £2,250 costs after admitting six separate breaches of fire safety laws. Fire inspectors said the safety measures in place were the worst they had ever seen, with no working fire alarm and piles of flammable boxes blocking escape routes. There was no emergency lighting in case the dimly-lit warehouse had caught fire and no risk assessment had been carried out. The court was shown photographs of fire exits sealed off and cardboard boxes of clothing piled dangerously high restricting access to escape routes.

Restaurateur in Essex fined £10,000 under new fire regulations.

The prosecution of the restaurateur, resulted in a fine of £10,000 and costs of £15,000,for a range of offences.

A clothes shop in east Londonhas been fined over £9,200 with a further £6000 costs for nine breaches of the fire safety legislation, including a rear exit door being locked shut, no lighting on a staircase and faults to the fire alarm system.The court heard that the contraventions had taken place over a period of time and that there had been unreasonable delays in complying. The Judge believed the contraventions were serious but took into consideration the Defendants mitigating circumstances, including employing a fire safety consultant.

An Essex restaurateur was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay costs of £15,000 in a prosecution for five breaches of a prohibition notice served on him in relation to his business premises.The prosecution was brought after it was discovered circumstances that presented imminent risk to life in the event of fire breaking out on the premises. A Prohibition Notice was served but subsequent follow-up inspections revealed the Notice was being breached and the defendant showed disregard for the Notice’s terms and the safety of his employees and members of the public.

A restaurant in Hampshire has been fined £33,000 plus undisclosed costs following serious contraventions of fire safety legislation identified during a routine inspection.The prosecution was brought about after an inspection revealed that an enforcement notice, issued as the result of an earlier inspection, had not been complied with. Although the Fire and Rescue Service had twice extended the deadline for the restaurant to comply with this notice, a further nine breaches of the Regulations were identified at the time of inspection - including unsatisfactory means of escape.

The owners of a nursing home in north London were fined a huge £200,000 plus costs of £30,366.28 for contraventions of fire safety regulations following a fire. When fire crews arrived at the incident they found smoke coming from the first floor windows of the three storey building. Firefighters wearing breathing apparatus discovered the fire in the basement and managed to stop it from spreading to other floors, but heavy smoke had spread throughout the entire property. During the hearing the court were presented with statements from firefighters who attended the incident describing their actions and the difficulties they faced in evacuating people due to locked doors and smoke logged hallways. Fifty six people including twelve members of staff had been in the premises when the fire started.

The Defendants had pleaded guilty to 13 Summonses. However, the Judge was of the opinion that the first two offences that: (1) The risk assessment was not suitable or sufficient, and that (2) Appropriate procedures to be followed in the event of serious imminent danger to persons at work were not established, adequately demonstrated the seriousness of the offences and effectively comprised within them all the elements of the other 11 offences.

Nine people were rescued by fire crews following the smoke logging of the building caused by fire safety contraventions. Although there were no serious injuries 14 residents were taken to hospital for check-ups. A suitable and sufficient Fire Risk Assessment and Emergency Plan might not have prevented the fire but as the Judge agreed it would have reduced the effects of the fire causing less risk to both the occupants and the fire crews.

The thirteen offences were

  • 1.The risk assessment was not suitable or sufficient;
  • 2. Appropriate procedures to be followed in the event of serious imminent danger to persons at work at the Nursing Home were not established;
  • 3.The door to room 212 was locked with the resident inside;
  • 4.The rear and final fire exit (the full height iron gates) from the basement was secured with a combination padlock;
  • 5.The fire extinguisher found on the second floor did not have a pin or security tag and the test label was damaged;
  • 6.The fire extinguisher found outside room 202 on the first floor was tested on 15 October 2003 and did not have security tag;
  • 7.By virtue of the fact that the basement double doors had been wedged open prior to the fire, large volumes of smoke entered the basement corridor compromising escape from all parts of the basement;
  • 8.The fire door leading to the laundry in the basement did not have a self closing device;
  • 9.The smoke damper at the base of the laundry chute doors in the basement was defective and wedged open;
  • 10.The corridor in the basement was being used for storage and thereby restricted the width of the escape route from the basement.
  • 11.The final exit door from the kitchen was not maintained in an efficient state, in efficient working order and in good repair in that the bolts securing the door were difficult to open;
  • 12.The door leading to the kitchen was locked with a digital lock;
  • 13.The only exit from the garden was via a gate that was locked.

A major department store in Berkshire were fined a total of £30,000.00, plus costs of £2765.00. Five of the offences, related to contraventions found at the premises following a serious fire. A further offence was found during a fire safety inspection following a subsequent fire at the same premises approximately one year later. The offences relate to the company’s failure to ensure that the premises were adequately provided with the appropriate fire safety measure

  • The premises contained some emergency lighting luminaries that were not functioning
  • A fire exit door was fitted with a door lock that required a code in order to open the door
  • A second fire exit door was fitted with a door lock that required a code in order to open the door
  • The premises were not provided with an appropriate fire alarm system
  • A final fire exit door was bolted shut by way of three sliding bolts fitted to the door
  • The fire alarm system was not being maintained

The company was fined £5000.00 for each offence, a total of £30,000.00, costs were awarded in the authorities favour of £2765.00.

A hotel in Lancashire

The managing director was fined £18000 and ordered to pay costs of £1,750 after a serious fire in which eight people, including a small baby and its mother were rescued from the building. The company responsible for the hotel admitted responsibility for a number of offences in court. These included:

  • Not completing a fire risk assessment
  • Failure to maintain clear emergency exits
  • Failure to maintain alarm and detection systems
  • Failure to protect means of escape
  • Not training the staff in fire safety.

A major supermarket and department store group were fined a massive £250,000 with £11,000 costs following a prosecution in Sussex. As the result of finding significant problems in one store, a county wide audit of all stores owned by the company commenced. Serious fire safety deficiencies were recorded in 38 of the 41 stores. A group prosecution began and twenty summonses were served against the company by the local Magistrates Court as a result of serious fire safety offences in a total of six different stores.

The offences included;

  • obstructing and locking fire exits
  • failure to complete fire risk assessments,
  • having no fire alarm systems
  • having no emergency lighting and leaving fire doors wedged open.

A glazier company in north west London has been ordered to pay £23,000 in fines and costs after pleading guilty to breaches of fire safety legislation. The Magistrates\' Court fined the Company, £13,000 for nineteen breaches of fire safety legislation after they admitted they had seriously compromised the safety of employees. An inspection of the premises was carried out and a number of contraventions of the regulations were found. This included

  • no working fire alarm
  • fire-fighting equipment and extinguishers were either out of date or inaccessible
  • and staff training on fire safety was inadequate and unrecorded.
Further to this there was numerous breaches relating to insufficient fire exits and in some cases fire exits being padlocked shut or obstructed.

The occupier of a hotel in central London has been ordered to pay fines and costs totaling £7,000 after pleading guilty to a series of fire safety breaches. When Fire Safety Officers visited the hotel they found that building work was in progress and that builder’s rubble material stored in the basement light well made it awkward for people to exit from the basement. In addition there were doors wedged open, a lot of the smoke detection was non-functioning and emergency lighting failed in certain sections of the hotel. The hotel remained open during these refurbishment works.

The Company pleaded guilty to five summonses, including the charge that building work was carried out at a time and in a manner which obstructed the means of escape from the premises.

An investigation has started into a fire which destroyed the main building of a service station on the M40 in Oxfordshire.

About 120 firefighters were called to Cherwell Valley Services, north of Bicester on Thursday. About 70 employees were inside at the time, but no-one was hurt. Firefighters said the cause of the fire was not believed to be suspicious, and work was due to begin on sifting through the wreckage.

Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service said the service station was "severely damaged",but firefighters could not start assessing it until daylight. Chief Fire Officer John Parry said: "With the darkness there was no point in making an entry, so we will now start to enter the building."We will be working through the debris, which is a fairly complex operation."We don't believe there is any cause to believe the origins of the fire were suspicious, but it will take us most of the day to work through that." Andy Leatham, spokesperson for Moto, which runs the service station, said: "Obviously the first priority is to get the service station reopened, which we're hoping to do within the next few days." He added that it could be up to a year until the service station was fully rebuilt.

Supermarket giant Tesco has been fined £95,000 and ordered to pay over £24,000 in costs after pleading guilty to five breaches of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (RRO).

London Fire Brigade, prosecuting, said firefighters were called to a fire at Tesco’s Colney Hatch store in Barnet on 14 October 2007. When they arrived found the premises locked but managed to gain access after attracting the attention of an employee who was restocking shelves.

There had been a fire in the staff kitchen but it had been put out by staff using extinguishers and a fire blanket. There was still a significant amount of smoke in the kitchen, the corridor and staff locker rooms and crews had to ask staff several times to evacuate the premises.

This incident made officers concerned about fire safety in the store, so on the following day they inspected the premises. A number of breaches of fire safety legislation were found, including a failure to review the store’s fire risk assessment, a failure to ensure escape routes were kept clear and inadequate fire separation due to doors being wedged open. An enforcement notice was subsequently served on 2 November 2007.

Tesco pleaded guilty to failing to keep emergency exits clear (£20,000 fine); failing to keep an emergency route clear (£20,000); two counts of fire doors being wedged open (£20,000 each) and storing flammable materials under an emergency stairwell (£15,000). Sentencing took place at Wood Green Crown Court on 20 April 2010.

London Fire Commissioner Ron Dobson said: “Fire safety is a key part of good business management and the general public should feel safe from fire when they are out shopping. London Fire Brigade will continue to take action when businesses, large or small, do not take their fire safety responsibilities seriously. Failure to comply with the law can, as this case has shown, result in a prosecution.”

A Tesco spokesperson told "We take safety matters in all of our stores extremely seriously. We would like to reassure customers that this was an isolated incident and all issues at this store have been resolved."

Fire Safety Prosecution Results In Substantial Fine

The world's largest consumer-owned business, the Co-operative Group, has today been fined over £200,000 after pleading guilty in Southampton Crown Court to serious fire safety breaches at its store in Shirley Road, Southampton. The prosecution by Hampshire Fire and Rescue Authority took into account six breaches of fire safety under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. The Co-Operative Group was fined £35,000 for each of the six offences and ordered to pay the total of £210,000 to Hampshire Fire and Rescue Authority, plus costs in excess of £28,000.

The offences came to light after fire safety inspections at the premises in September 2007 revealed the following findings:

  • the responsible person failed to maintain the rear emergency exit doors unlocked so that they could be easily opened in an emergency
  • the responsible person fitted a lock requiring a security code on the emergency door between the retail and storage areas which could not be easily opened in an emergency
  • the responsible person was responsible for a fire alarm call point in the storage area being obstructed, potentially delaying the activation of the fire alarm to give early warning to occupants in the premises
  • the responsible person failed to ensure that the store manager was provided with suitable and sufficient fire safety instruction and training
  • the responsible person failed to ensure that the fire alarm system was being regularly tested
  • the responsible person failed to ensure a means of early detection of fire in the retail area to give early warning to the occupants of the manager’s office to allow a safe evacuation

In addition to the six breaches of fire safety law at the Shirley Road store, three other offences were taken into account after breaches at Co-operative Group premises in Montague Avenue and Bassett Green Road in Southampton, and its Kingston Road store in Portsmouth. Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service has a responsibility to enforce the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and to identify those persons who have responsibility for the fire safety provisions in specific premises. Current fire safety legislation gives inspectors the power to make enquiries, enabling them to identify the 'responsible person' and direct enforcement action towards the correct person.

In the last two years (April 2008 - 2010) there have been eight successful prosecutions in Hampshire against companies failing to comply with the Fire Safety Order and the fire service has issued over 200 enforcement notices during the same period. Chief Officer John Bonney of Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service today said: "We strive to work closely with businesses to help them with their duty to comply under the Fire Safety Order, but where their responsibilities are not taken seriously, the Service will always consider prosecution. This case clearly demonstrates how our fire safety officers are applying the law to help ensure the safety of our community and making Hampshire safer.

"A number of common trends have emerged since the fire safety law came into force in 2006. These include blocked or locked exits, poorly maintained fire escape staircases, lack of staff fire training, storage of combustible materials in boiler rooms, lack of fire alarms, lack of emergency lighting, lack of fire doors, and in far too many cases lack of suitable fire risk assessment. "We would like this case to act as a timely reminder to business owners and landlords throughout Hampshire that the Fire Safety Order is in place, and that the regulations placing responsibilities on businesses are there to make people safer. "We will continue to use the Service's powers where necessary in order to improve the standards of safety throughout the county. The Service believes that this verdict, together with the scale of the fine, gives a clear message to members of the business community in Hampshire of the need to take their fire safety responsibilities seriously." In summing up, His Honour Judge Barnett said the case demonstrated a lamentable approach to fire safety and that the Co-Operative Group had been responsible for a potential death trap, given the severity of the fire safety failings.

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