Journalist, Cherry Park

Author Bio ▼

Cherry Park is an experienced freelance journalist and reporter who specializes in features, news, and news analysis, in print and online. She has written extensively in the areas of health and safety, fire safety, employment, HR, recruitment, rewards, pay and benefits, market research, environment, and metallurgy, and she also conducts research.
November 5, 2013


State of Physical Access Trend Report 2024

International Fire Prosecutions & Standards Adoption

Commonwealth countries are already hot on fire safety, but the new fire code in Nigeria illustrates that keeping people safe from fire is now being taken more seriously as the country continues its rapid urbanization and industrialization.

The Australian company that operates the GAP retail chain, Brand Republic Pty, has been fined AUS$51,000 (US$48.5,000) after selling mislabelled babies’ sleepwear. The company has also been ordered by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to recall or refund the garments after the regulator found fire hazard warning labels attached in an incorrect position to 519 pieces of babies’ sleepwear.

Brand Republic sold five different “baby GAP”-branded children’s nightwear garments with the incorrect labels between July 2011 and May 2013. According to the ACCC, the labels were attached on a side seam of the one-piece garments and pyjama tops, whereas the relevant standard requires the labels to be attached on the inside back neck.

Three of the garments were also sold in packaging that was not marked with fire hazard information and obscured the “low fire danger” warning labels attached to the garments.

In another Australian prosecution, the owners of Primo Australia Scone Abattoir have been fined AUS$110,000 ($104,000) after a contractor suffered serious burns to his arm and head when he cut a butane gas pipe that ignited.

The Newcastle Herald reported that either sparks from his concrete saw, or the gas coming in contact with a section of metal, ignited the fire. Moreover, a set of stairs that would have helped the contractor escape had been removed.

P and M Quality Smallgoods Pty pleaded guilty to a breach of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2000.

The company had not conducted a risk assessment before the work started and did not observe its own policies and procedures. The contractor had not been told that a gas pipe was behind the wall, nor was the gas was disconnected before work began.

The owner of a hotel in Calgary, Alberta, was fined CAN$30,000 ($28,700) (the maximum at the time) after a fire broke out at the Shamrock Hotel in August 2012, necessitating the evacuation of 11 occupants via second-floor windows smashed by firefighters to facilitate their escape. Three people were taken to hospital with smoke inhalation.

The company pleaded guilty to two charges relating to fire doors at the top and bottom of exit stairwells that were not properly closed, causing the stairs and fire escape to become filled with smoke and heat.

The maximum fine for such safety code offenses has since been significantly increased to CAN$100,000 ($95,800) per count.

Also in Canada, a property owner in Simcoe County, Ontario, was fined CAN$3,500 after pleading guilty to four charges under the Fire Protection and Prevention Act 1997: The charges were:

  • Intentionally disabling a smoke alarm;
  • Failing to ensure annual inspection of standpipe systems;
  • Not conducting annual testing of fire extinguishers;
  • Not ensuring doors in fire separations remained closed at all times.

The offenses took place in a two-storey building in Alliston that had commercial units on the main floor and residential apartments above.

A logging company was fined more than US$600,000 for causing the largest forest fire in the state of Wisconsin in 33 years to start. The fire spread to an area 10 miles long and 1.5 miles wide before it was contained.

The fire was started by the cutting head of a feller buncher, a type of harvesting machine used in logging. Workers at Ray Duerr Logging had futilely attempted to contain the fire using the fire extinguisher and pressurized water system on the machine, but the company was found negligent for failing to maintain, and have ready, equipment at the logging site that could have prevented or contained the fire.

Aerosol paint manufacturer Fox Valley Systems was fined US$262,000 for 26 safety violations at its Cary, Ill., plant after an explosion and ensuing fire that seriously injured three employees last March.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) placed the company into its severe violation enforcement program, which focuses on recalcitrant employers who endanger workers by committing willful or repeat violations.

Some doors at the factory had been locked, while others were blocked with snow, so that workers could not exit the premises quickly after the explosion, which occurred when flammable vapors ignited. The resulting fire and explosion extensively damaged the building and forced around 20 businesses nearby to be evacuated.

The OSHA also found:

  • Workers were operating propane-powered industrial trucks in the production area;
  • Materials were partially blocking exits;
  • There was inadequate storage of flammable liquids;
  • Electrical equipment was defective;
  • Employees had not been given safety training.

After five years of lobbying by fire experts, a National Fire Safety Code has been given the go-ahead for implementation across Nigeria. Under the code, construction professionals, including architects, engineers, and developers who fail to give due consideration to fire safety before the construction process, will now be prosecuted and fined or sent to jail. In future, the fire service will have to approve safety measures undertaken before construction.

According to the Premium Times, 185 people died in 470 fire incidents in Nigeria in 2012, fewer deaths but more incidents than in 2011 (262 and 368 respectively). Ninety percent of the deaths occurred in the oil and gas industries, so it will be interesting to see if the new code will apply to these industries as well as construction.

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November 5, 2013 9:56 am

It is good to see Fire Safety taken seriously across the globe, International standards are good for all of us so I hope they meet with continued success.  It was interesting to see that the incorrect labeling of clothing could lead to fines that is something that has never crossed my mind.

Rob Ratcliff
Rob Ratcliff
November 7, 2013 7:24 am
Reply to  JonathanL

Seems a silly one to me that one does. The information was on the top but in the wrong place. Honestly, did you know there was a ‘right place’ for that information? You look around until you find it — I know I do whenever I go to wash my clothes. Takes me ages usually…

November 10, 2013 9:07 am
Reply to  JonathanL

I agree, Jonathan. I, for one, would like to see more countries follow international standards on top of their own local regulations. This way, there’s always a set of rules being followed, for when the latter doesn’t exist.

December 12, 2013 5:07 am
Reply to  ITs_Hazel

it would be interesting to see… Global World creates Global economy and at the end set of the Global international standards…

December 12, 2013 5:08 am
Reply to  Rob Ratcliff

Rob interesting point… but this days is not an easy task to find right information as we do have information overload…