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.
December 4, 2013

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The Latest UK Fire Prosecutions: Roundup

The large number of UK fire prosecutions in November shows that some small businesses and landlords are still failing to get the message – or choosing to ignore the message – on fire safety.

This month, the culprits range from landlords, takeaways and pubs to a car salvage business.

Salvage Firm Fined GB pound 40k

A car salvage business was fined GB pound 40,000 plus GB pound 25,000 costs after a mechanic suffered severe burns to his hands, legs, and face when the vehicle inspection pit he was working in burst into flames.

Lee Roberts had been walking into the pit at Douglas Valley Breakers in Chorley, Lancashire, to remove fuel from underneath a van when the explosion occurred. Preston Crown Court was told it was common practice at the firm to remove engine and gearbox oil, coolant, air conditioning liquid, and fuel from old vehicles for use as scrap by puncturing the fuel tanks, often with an electric drill, to allow fuel to drain into an open container on the floor of the pit.

An investigation concluded that the most likely cause of the fire was that the drained fuel was set alight by a spark from the electric drill or an extension lead in the pit. Fueled by petrol and plastic car body parts and upholstery, the fire spread rapidly throughout the workshop. Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service also found the company did not have suitable fire detectors and alarms, failed to provide adequate fire safety training to staff, and failed to have appropriate procedures in place for dealing with fires. The blaze was treated as a major incident.

Shops and Pubs

Fast food retailer LFF was fined almost GB pound 15,000 by Nottingham magistrates after pleading guilty to six fire safety offences under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (RRO) at Maryland Chicken in the city. LFF failed to:

  • Create a suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment. Fine GB pound 1,334
  • Install a fire detection and warning system. Fine GB pound 2,667
  • Keep emergency escape routes clear. Fine GB pound 1,667
  • Ensure that escape routes led to a place of safety. Fine GB pound 1,334
  • Ensure that escape routes were sufficiently protected from smoke or fire. Fine GB pound 2,000
  • Install appropriate emergency lighting on escape routes. Fine GB pound 1,667.

Meanwhile, Punch Taverns and the licensee of the Rams Head Inn near Warrington, Cheshire were up before Warrington magistrates after a tumble dryer that caught fire at the pub alerted Cheshire FRS to contraventions of the RRO.

Punch was fined GB pound 2,000 with GB pound 8,000 costs for failing to provide a safe fire exit route from first floor staff accommodation. Former licensee Graham Dennett pleaded guilty to failing to provide sufficient firefighting equipment, insufficient testing of smoke alarms and emergency lighting, failure to pass on fire risk and emergency information to staff and lack of a fire risk assessment review. He was fined a total of GB pound 400 plus GB pound 269 costs.

Interestingly, the person who carried out a fire risk assessment on the property in 2008 was also given a caution for his part in the failings.

Landlords

A Watford landlord was fined more than GB pound 30,000 after a fire at one of his properties led council officials to investigate the safety of two other properties he owned, none of which was licensed as a house in multiple occupation (HMO). They found:

  • Fire alarms not working properly
  • Faulty fire doors
  • Broken landing lights
  • A fridge freezer and mattress obstructing landings. The court heard that the lack of action by Alex de Gabriele was due to financial motives, despite the fact properties generated an annual income of more than GB pound 72,000.

A Hertfordshire landlord was told to pay a total of GB pound 24,250 in fines and costs after pleading guilty to seven offenses of failing to provide safe accommodation for his tenants in a house in Hatfield.

Watford magistrates heard that Kevin Taylor did not hold an HMO license, had not obtained gas and electrical safety certificates, and had failed to maintain fire escapes or have an adequate fire detection system. The case is the third successful prosecution of a landlord or letting agent brought by Welwyn Borough Council within the last six months.

In Newcastle, four university students’ lives were put in danger by their landlord who taped over a smoke detector, failed to properly seal a fire door, and failed to install fire-proof glazing in the stairwell in their rented flat above Butler’s Bistro, run by Passion Leisure. Tyne and Wear FRS also discovered inadequate fire compartmentalization that would not have stopped the spread of a fire.

Passion Leisure had failed to carry out up-to-date fire assessments or regular testing of smoke detectors, fire doors, and extinguishers and was fined GB pound 7,500, plus GB pound 4,890 costs.

A north London landlord, Harpal Singh, was jailed for 26 weeks for illegally installing a boiler without a Gas Safe registered engineer and then trying to fix it himself when it went wrong. He pleaded guilty to three breaches of the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 in a prosecution brought by the HSE and was also ordered to pay GB pound 1,852 in costs.

Another north London landlord, Wayne Chodosh, was fined GB pound 12,350 for having poorly maintained and fitted fire doors, no working fire alarm system, no emergency lighting and no fire risk assessment in a house he owned in Muswell Hill that was being used illegally as a HMO divided into nine flats.

Finally, two landlords in Liverpool were fined for breaching fire safety regulations, as well as running unlicensed and unsafe houses. Azim Kibria pleaded guilty at Liverpool Magistrates’ Court to five fire safety breaches in an illegally run 10-bedroom HMO. He was fined GB pound 1,200 with GB pound 1,240 council costs. A second man, Owen Gwynfor Hughes, was fined GB pound 200 and ordered to pay GB pound 1,150 costs for running an unlicensed HMO without a fire alarm.

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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ITs_Hazel
ITs_Hazel
December 9, 2013 7:48 am

So it’s nice to see that fines are being doled out for irresponsible people who don’t have the necessary fire safety precautions installed. Lives are at stake. What more can be done to push for stricter enforcement and compliance?

ITs_Hazel
ITs_Hazel
December 9, 2013 7:49 am

As for the one who tried to install a boiler illegally.. At the end of the day, even his own life at stake. I find it crazy what people would do to save a buck. Add in the fines, and that’s an even bigger “fee” that you end up paying than just having the pros do it.

Trade Certificates
May 18, 2015 2:55 pm

Most HMO’S do not following current standards for gas and electrical certificates, let alone fire alarms and emergency light testing so to dee this is no surprise