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NYFRS Remind business owners to take fire safety matters seriously following prosecution

14th December 2012

 North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service are reminding all business owners to make sure that they are providing the correct level of fire safety provisions and are not breaching Fire Safety Legislation. This follows the prosecution of a national business operating in York. 

Following inspection of the Jack Wills premises at 18-20 Stonegate, York, by North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service fire safety officers, in January 2011, a notification of deficiencies was issued to the company to improve the standards and management of fire safety. This notification was to safeguard the safety of staff and members of the public within the store. 

Following further visits to the store to check that the necessary work had been carried out a formal enforcement notice was issued to ensure that the fire safety measures and management standards were brought up to the required level. 

Staff working in the store had repeatedly requested authorisation from the Jack Wills head office in London, for maintenance work to be carried out. The main issues surrounded the single staircase escape route and damaged fire doors which were not capable of holding back a fire. Staff were also not aware of the dangers posed by storage of combustible materials within the staircase enclosure and within the understairs electrical switch room. In the event of a fire, smoke and toxic gasses would have quickly filled the escape route endangering those who would need to make their escape to safety down the stairway. At first floor level the alternative escape route was not kept clear and was not clearly indicated.

Although North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Authority (NYFRA) made repeated attempts to work with and encourage Jack Wills Limited to ensure the correct standards were applied, Jack Wills failed to act fully and in a timely manner to ensure that they maintained the general fire provisions. 

Due to the seriousness of these fire safety deficiencies and failure to comply with  the enforcement notice NYFRA took the decision to prosecute Jack Wills Limited.

On December 13th 2012 at York Magistrates Court Jack Wills Limited  pleaded guilty in total to 6 contraventions of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.  

Jack Wills Limited were fined a total of £27,000 and were also ordered to pay in full £5,619.35 prosecution costs. 

In court Mr Steven Climey acting on behalf of Jack Wills Limited offered an unreserved apology to North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Authority, for the unnecessary time and effort they had to spend dealing with these contraventions and also for the company’s failure to comply with Fire Safety legislation.

Ms Karen Galloway prosecuting stated that: “The Fire and Rescue Service’s decision to prosecute was not taken lightly and this measure is only taken in the most serious cases. The Responsible Person is always in a position of authority, their lack of actions should have been foreseeable to prevent, in the event of fire, persons being put at risk of death or injury. The contraventions in this case were serious and would have continued had the Fire Authority not continued to insist that an enforcement notice, that they had served on the business and Responsible Person, was complied with.”

Station Manager, David Watson of North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service says; “The majority of business premises that we visit under our audit schedule are well-managed and are conscientious about fire safety matters. However, we do continue to find a number of businesses and premises, where the fire safety order does apply, which do not have adequate fire risk assessments or fire safety provisions. Fire safety officers always try to work with businesses and business owners to ensure they are compliant or can achieve compliance with the requirements of the legislation within an acceptable time scale. Unfortunately in this case, Jack Wills Limited chose to disregard the items identified within their own fire risk assessments and further advice offered by fire safety officers. A company of this standing should have regard for fire safety matters in a more conscientious way.  The conviction of  Jack Wills Limited shows how  seriously the Fire Authority and the Courts view those who put the safety of others at risk in the event of a fire.”

North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Authority urge business owners and those with responsibility for any premises, where the fire safety order applies, to ensure that they have conducted their fire risk assessment or reviewed any existing fire risk assessment when this is required. It is important that they are aware of the legislative obligations they need to comply with including having an up to date fire risk assessment.

In order to assist the business community to understand their responsibilities under The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (RRO), North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service organise a series of information seminars throughout the county.  

If you are a member of the North Yorkshire business community and would like to attend one of these seminars, you can register your interest by emailing business.requests@northyorksfire.gov.uk  or by visiting our website www.northyorksfire.gov.uk/businesssafety/seminars

For other fire safety information call the Fire Safety Advice Line (01609) 788545 or visit our website  www.northyorksfire.gov.uk where links to business guidance documents can be found.

 ENDS

Notes to Editor

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (RRO) is legislation that covers all premises other than domestic dwellings and certain special exemptions and its purpose is to protect occupants from fire.

NYFRS carries out around 3000 audits in business premises each year.  These audits look at the fire risk assessment which the person responsible for the business is obliged to ensure has been conducted. The audit also checks the findings of the fire risk assessment against the fire safety measures and management systems that are in place within the premises.

 

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