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 7, 2013

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The Latest UK Fire Prosecutions: Roundup

The last few weeks have seen the familiar wayward landlords and shopkeepers up before the courts for fire safety offences, plus a couple of more unusual cases.

Landlords

A multi-property owner was sentenced to nine months in prison after a seven-year-old boy died for lack of a working smoke alarm in Kettering, East Midlands.

Northampton Crown Court heard that Ajit Singh had disconnected the battery in the only smoke alarm in the house of multiple occupancy (HMO) where Mateusz Wlodarczyk lived. The boy succumbed to smoke inhalation after a fire was sparked in a downstairs bedroom by an electrical fault in May last year.

According to the Northants Telegraph the forensic investigator told the inquest into the boy’s death that the fire had started in a lodger’s bedroom downstairs while he was at work. Although the lodger had only one plug socket in his bedroom, he had 11 appliances connected to it, using a network of connected multi-adapters. The most likely cause of the fire was a faulty wire.

According to the Daily Mail the front door could only be opened from the inside with a key, preventing the occupants from escaping quickly.

HMOs should by law have mains-powered smoke alarm systems, heat detectors, and fitted fire doors, and the responsible person should have completed a fire risk assessment.

Shops and clubs

In Croydon, the owner of a chicken takeaway was fined GB pound 17,000 and ordered to pay GB pound 22,752 in costs after he committed a string of fire safety offences in his premises, where people were sleeping on the two floors above the shop.

Munawar Ahmed was also given a 15-month suspended prison sentence and ordered to do 100 hours of unpaid work by Inner London Crown Court after he pleaded guilty to seven breaches of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order (RRO) 2005.

London Fire Brigade found during an inspection that there were:

  • No smoke alarms in the building
  • No fire separation between the kitchen on the first floor and staircase
  • No fire doors to the bedrooms on the first and second floors
  • No emergency lighting on the escape route
  • Mattresses and cooking oil drums stored within the staircase enclosure
  • No fire risk assessment
  • A breach of a previous prohibition notice preventing the upper floors being used for sleeping

The owner of a sex club in Plymouth, Devon, kept the premises open and occupied despite a prohibition notice restricting its use until suitable fire safety standards were met.

John Malcolm Vaughan Morgan pleaded guilty at Plymouth Magistrates’ Court to breaching the RRO by failing to comply with the requirements of a prohibition notice. He was fined GB pound 300 and told to pay GB pound 1,000 in costs.

Other cases

In a less usual case, two companies were fined for attaching illegal standpipes to fire hydrants in East Yorkshire, risking damaging them, which meant that local fire services may have been delayed when trying to access water in an emergency.

The York Press reported that one of the pipes had been spotted by the fire hydrants manager of Humberside FRS, who was concerned that it could damage the hydrant, with potentially serious consequences.

He said: “Water hydrants are critical to the fire service. If people or businesses access them illegally, and it is not reported, there are risks of water contamination. More importantly, if hydrants are tampered with or damaged, we may not be able to access them and this could cause a fire to develop rapidly and even result in fatality.”

Jordan Road Surfacing was fined GB pound 750 plus GB pound 750 costs for attaching an illegal standpipe to a hydrant, while John Rome Ltd. was fined GB pound 1,700 plus GB pound 1,725 costs for a similar offence under the Water Industry Act.

Finally, a yacht company has been fined GB pound 25,000 plus GB pound 65,000 in costs after a worker suffered horrific burns and almost died when a tall ship that was undergoing refurbishment caught fire.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which took the prosecution, described how welder Rolf Kitching was found unconscious after the fire. He suffered 40 percent burns to his upper torso and head and was hospitalised for four months after the blaze in the Malcolm Miller tall ship at Hythe Marina, Southampton, five years ago.

Yacht Project Associates Ltd. (YPAL), from Dorset, which was overseeing the refurbishment, pleaded guilty to two breaches of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 at Southampton Crown Court. The court heard that when the blaze started, the welder had been working in a saloon area on steelwork that had been sprayed with insulation foam, but that no one knew exactly how the fire started or what actually happened. He was rescued by fellow workers, but suffered such extensive burns that he was not expected to survive. He is still too ill to work.

The HSE established that hot work on board the ship was poorly controlled and managed. It found:

  • Inexperienced workers, not given sufficient information
  • A lack of instruction/training on the risks of hot work
  • No fire watch in place
  • Poor emergency arrangements
  • No risk assessment had been conducted on the risks of hot work in confined areas with flammable substances
  • A small fire that had occurred earlier the same morning was not investigated or properly dealt with

2023 Fire Safety eBook – Grab your free copy!

Download the Fire Safety in 2023 eBook, keeping you up to date with the biggest news and prosecution stories from around the industry. Chapters include important updates such as the Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022 and an overview of the new British Standard for the digital management of fire safety information.

Plus, we explore the growing risks of lithium-ion battery fires and hear from experts in disability evacuation and social housing.

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JonathanL
JonathanL
November 20, 2013 9:43 am

Having multiple multi-outlet adapters on the same recepticle can be very dangerous and we have entered the time of year where its common place for all our electric christmas lights and decorations so I would like to take this space and time to ask everyone to remain safety aware this holiday season.  Also I would like to know the reason why that battery was disconnect from the fire alarm in the first place, sounds like they had trouble before to me and that poor boy paid the price for it.

batye
batye
December 12, 2013 5:13 am
Reply to  JonathanL

yes, you are right also this days many item from china do luck quality and firesafety as China Manf. trying to save materials and cut corners creating fire hazard items failty by design… or luck of the right metal/material inside…