“A hotel and its general manager have been ordered to pay out more than £40,000 in fines and costs after a blaze led to the discovery of numerous fire safety failures at the premises. Park Hotel Limited and its manager, Ashwin Ratan, pleaded guilty to ten offences under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, in a prosecution mounted by Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service.The court heard that the problems at The Park Hotel – a bed and breakfast housed in a Victorian-styled building in Leicester city centre – came to light following a fire in August 2009. It was found that no one employed by the hotel initiated a formal evacuation procedure when the fire alarm sounded, but rather residents had to evacuate themselves informally. Given the extensive smoke logging, this could have been extremely serious and resulted in serious injury or death to a number of residents.
In addition, the fire alarm could not be heard in the basement area of the premises, where the on-site staff lived.
They were unaware of the fire until one of the residents went down to the basement to warn them. It was also established that, on the evening of the fire, the general manager had decided it was not necessary to have a night porter on duty between the hours of midnight and 7am – a decision that was taken in order to cut costs.
A post-fire inspection of the premises revealed other failures, including: the fire risk assessment was inadequate; none of the fire doors in the building were fitted with intumescent strips or cold smoke seals, and some were wedged open; and a number of the wooden steps to the rear fire escape were either loose or partially rotten in places.
Park Hotel Limited was fined £29,715 with £8,000 costs, while Mr Ratan was fined £2,985 with £380 costs.”
(Article credit: Fire Protection Association. For independent advice and guidance on managing fire safety in your workplace please visit www.thefpa.co.uk)
Hotel owners should be aware that there this case is part of a recent increase in activity by Fire Brigades seeking prosecutions under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.
One of the largest fines to date went to The Co-operative Group for what a judge described as ‘a lamentable approach to Fire Safety’ at its Hampshire stores. The fine including costs totalled £210,000 for a total of six breaches of fire safety law, including locked Fire Exit doors.
Elsewhere a Chinese Restaurant in Tadworth was fined £26,000 plus £13,000, whilst Chalk Lane Hotel in Surrey was fined £20,000 including costs. In both cases inadequate fire risk assessment were listed as common failures.
From 6 April 2010 all employers have a statutory duty to consider the capability of worker(s) who carry out tasks or assignments related to fire safety under the Fire Safety (Employees’ Capabilities) (England) Regulations 2010.
This is in addition to employers’ general duties to carry out health and safety risk assessments and fire safety risk assessments, and to review them regularly. An assessment of capability should already be an implicit part of those risk assessments, so the new regulations only serve to make it explicit in relation to fire safety.
Employers need to be aware that using their own trained but unqualified staff may be adequate for very basic premises; more complex premises should be assessed by qualified Fire Engineers. Many Risk Assessments are carried out by retired Fire Service personal and employers assume that these individuals are suitably qualified. However, it is often the case that they have only ever worked as operational fire-fighters and are not qualified in Fire Safety Engineering, nor are they up to date with Current Building Regulations.
In order to comply we would recommend that anyone you employ is suitably qualified in both surveying and fire safety measures.