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Brand new police lab under review following fire safety fears

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Managers at a newly built £23 million police forensics laboratory in Dundee are reviewing fire safety arrangements following concerns raised by staff working there.

The action is being taken just months after the five-storey building was officially opened in June by justice secretary Kenny MacAskill.

Civilian employees at the site have raised concerns about the means of escape. Specifically, they are concerned that all the building’s escape routes lead to the foyer, and that the fire assembly point is situated right by the entrance to the building.

Last week, a source told the Dundee Courier of increasing fears over safety procedures at the lab. "They held a fire drill recently and it became clear that all the fire evacuation routes lead into a reception area when they should actually take people outside. It’s just a complete fire risk.”

The issue is especially sensitive following an arson attack earlier this year on another forensic lab in Edinburgh, which is believed to have been carried out in an attempt to destroy evidence.

The Scottish Forensic Service told Info4fire that following an internal safety review, proposals have been put forward to enhance the fire safety of the building. They were unable to comment, however, on whether the plans involved any alterations to the building design or layout.

More than 110 people work at the lab, which specialises in DNA databases, DNA analysis and human remains identification.

As far as Tayside Fire and Rescue Service is concerned, the lab was built in accordance with current building regulations. A spokesman told info4fire that there were in fact two escape routes from the building, one leading to the foyer near the front door, and one via a separate protected staircase. But if there were specific concerns about arson attacks and firebombing, he added, these should have been made clear at the design stage of the building. He confirmed, however, that fire service officers would be visiting the premises to ensure that evacuation procedures were appropriate and understood.

A spokesman from Dundee City Council, meanwhile, told us that a completion certificate has been accepted by the city council for the building. “This is a signed declaration by an applicant/agent that the works have been completed in accordance with the building regulations and approved plans," he said.

In an earlier statement, the Scottish Forensic Service said:

“The SPSA [Scottish Police Services Authority] forensic science facility in Dundee complies with all fire planning regulations and requirements. As part of the construction process the fire service met with the architects of the building on a number of occasions to discuss the design and layout of the facility, and a number of changes were made to the plans to comply with their requirements.

“We take the safety of our staff very seriously and have a dedicated health, safety and resilience resource in place to ensure regular reviews of health and safety procedures are undertaken across each of our locations.”
 

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