Fire safety can be complicated, it should be common sense to ensure you’ve got working fire alarms but you might not have taken into account how safe your fire escape route is, for example. Failing to fall in line with regulations means you or your company could end up with a huge fine. However, this can easily be avoided with a fire risk assessment, an evaluation that will determine how safe your place of work is.
Not everyone heeds the advice of fire risk assessors though; here’s a summary of some recent offenders and the common trends found in each case.
No smoke alarms
It is a legal requirement for your business to have working smoke alarms or a similar fire detection system that is regularly tested and well maintained. Without such a system, not only are you putting your business and workers in danger, you are also risking being charged with a huge fine.
Chicken shop owner Manawar Ahmed and his company, Chicken Inn and Takeaway Limited, had no smoke alarms installed when London Fire Brigade’s fire safety inspecting officers visited the premises. He was subsequently fined £17,000 and had to pay £22,752 in court costs. Not only that, he was also given a 15 month suspended prison sentence and was forced to do 100 hours of unpaid work.
It wasn’t just a lack of smoke alarms that resulted in the penalties though, there were also people sleeping upstairs illegally. Mr Ahmed was served a prohibition notice but he chose to ignore it and continued to let people unsafely sleep in his chicken shop. Furthermore, there was no fire separation between the shared kitchen on the first floor and staircase, no fire resistant or self-closing doors to the bedrooms on the first and second floors, no emergency lighting on the escape route from the upper floors and combustible items – such as mattresses and oil drums – were being stored within the staircase enclosure on every floor. He had also failed to carry out a fire risk assessment.
Lack of fire assessment
Fire risk assessments are also a legal requirement, not having one done could result in the responsible person incurring an unlimited fine and they could even end up in prison. Having an assessment done isn’t enough though, you have to follow through with the advice given, otherwise you can still end up breaking the law later down the line. However, having a proper evaluation is a good start. The Rams Head Inn pub in Cheshire failed to get a review conducted and because of this, the pub brand Punch Taverns and leaseholder Graham Dennett ended up breaking a number of rules.
A fire started by a tumbledryer back in 2011 prompted a visit from the Cheshire Fire and Rescue service; they found that Punch Taverns hadn’t supplied a safe escape route from the first floor accommodation, which was used by both employees and guests. As a result, the firm was ordered to pay £2,000 in fines and £8,000 in costs.
The leaseholder, on the other hand, was found guilty of not providing sufficient fire-fighting equipment, not conducting sufficient smoke alarm and emergency lighting tests and not passing on fire safety information to employees – as well as not having a proper fire risk assessment done.
Whilst a lot of prosecutions thankfully take place before anyone’s actually been hurt, some occur as a result of injury. A car salvage firm was recently fined £65,000 for failing to follow proper fire safety procedures and burning an employee as a result. The worker in question, Lee Roberts, suffered horrific burns to his body after being set alight in an inspection pit. It turned out that the firm had pierced a petrol tank to siphon the remaining fuel out of the car he was working on when a bowser should have been used instead. In addition, the firm also didn’t have any fire alarms in the building and the staff were not fire trained either.
Another firm was also fined for unsafe practices, they had put their employees and the general public in danger after illegally storing fireworks at a retail premises in West Yorkshire. The firm was investigated after concerns were raised the previous year. They were later found to be storing seven times the amount of fireworks permitted by their registration and there were also no safety measures to prevent an explosion or fire from taking place. JTF Wholesale Ltd was found guilty and had to pay £19,000 in fines.
Making sure your staff know what to do in the event of a fire is very important, no matter where you work, but it is even more crucial when such an event could put vulnerable people at risk. A care home in Croydon was recently served an enforcement notice for breaching over half a dozen fire safety regulations, including not providing enough training to staff. The Iyanala residential home was found to not have a proper fire alarm system. Fire equipment also hadn’t properly been checked, so no one knew if it worked well or not. If the home doesn’t make changes by the 23rd of December, it could potentially be closed.
There’s a lot of things to consider when making a business a safe place to work, especially when it comes to fire regulations, but a fire risk assessment can make the job of identifying risks a much easier experience. Failing to comply with fire regulations could result in you incurring a fine, losing your businesses, or, worst case scenario, cause the death or injury of an employee or member of the public.