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Reminder for Businesses Following Prosecution

10th October 2014

North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service is again reminding all business owners to make sure that they are providing the correct level of fire safety provision and are not breaching Fire Safety Legislation, following the prosecution of a business man operating in York. 

Mr Lawrence Stephenson has pleaded guilty to 2 breaches of articles contained in the Fire Safety Order, relating to 2 properties[1] in York, which he owns and runs as houses in multiple occupation (HMO).  

The offences were committed between November 2008 and April 2013, and relate to the duties of providing adequate general fire precautions and maintaining fire safety equipment.

Station Manager David Watson said: “These matters are arguably the cornerstone for providing adequate fire safety measures within premises and the most serious contained in the Fire Safety Order. The duty to take general fire precautions are necessary to ensure the safety of both employees and persons living or visiting the property.  It relates to taking measures to reduce the risk of fire, prevent the spread of fire, securing, at all times, the means of escape from premises, along with the ability to fight fires, detect fires, give appropriate warnings and ensuring that employees are trained to deal with fire related incidents. In this instance Fire Officers believe that the breaches of the general fire precautions were such as to result in the risk of death or serious injury.” 

Fire crews were called to attend 33a Fossgate on 6th April 2013 when a fire had broken out in one of the bedrooms at the premises. Firefighters dealt with the fire incident, where luckily nobody was injured. They then noticed that the fire safety measures were not up to the required standard. Notably there was no fire alarm and fire detection system being provided for the tenants who lived there.

A fire safety officer was called to premises and this resulted in a prohibition notice[2] being served. This meant that nobody was allowed to sleep in the properties until a fire alarm and detection system was provided.

In defence Mr Stephenson had, prior to the fire, made arrangements for a fire alarm company to install a fire alarm and detection system. The fire risk assessment had identified that a fire alarm and detection system was needed back in 2008.

North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Authority believe that Mr Stephenson should have taken action sooner to install an adequate fire alarm and detection system or that he should have provided and maintained an adequate number of domestic smoke alarms as an interim measure.

On October 9th 2014 at York Magistrates Court Mr Lawrence Stephenson pleaded guilty to two contraventions of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

Mr Stephenson was fined a total of £ 7,000 with £120 court charge. He was also ordered to pay in full £1,542.86 prosecution costs, a total of £8,662.86 in all.

In sentencing the York Magistrate said that these were serious matters where there was risk to life of death or injury. In favour of Mr Stephenson was the fact that he had co-operated with the fire officers during the investigation and had acted quickly to resolve the deficiencies following the fire incident.

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 Enforcement Notices, that they had served on the 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 are well-managed. Owners and directors of companies are usually conscientious about fire safety matters.

He continues;“We do, however, continue to find a number of businesses and premises, where the fire safety order applies, which do not have adequate fire risk assessments or fire safety provisions.

“In premises where sleeping takes place it is vitally important that the correct measures are provided and maintained. When fire alarm and detection systems are not provided or not maintained in full working order those people who are sleeping in a building may well have their lives put at risk of death or serious injury in the event of a fire.  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 and within an acceptable time scale. North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service provides fire safety advice service and fire safety information.  Unfortunately in this case the person with control did not give sufficient priority in terms of fire safety measures to the premises where people were sleeping.  The conviction 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.


[1] The premises are 33 and 33a Fossgate York.  The Fire Safety Order applies to the common parts of HMOs.

[2] Prohibition Notices are the highest sanction available to a Fire Authority and are used sparingly because of the significant impact on a business. They are only served when the general fire precautions are below the expected standards and where people are placed at immediate risk of death or serious injury.

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.

North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service 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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