Over the last few years we have given regular reminders about the importance of complying with fire safety legislation. In the latest landmark case the owner of the Chumleigh Lodge Hotel, in North London, was fined £210,000 when he was found guilty of breaches of the fire safety legislation. This was the first case to be heard by a Crown Court jury under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety ) Order 2005. It is another example of the fact that courts take breaches of fire safety legislation seriously and will impose fines and even prison sentences in serious cases.
Following a fire at the Chumleigh Lodge Hotel in 2008, fire safety inspectors found that there were no smoke alarms in some of the bedrooms, blocked escape routes and defective fire doors at the premises. There was also a failure to provide staff with fire safety training. The hotel was a limited company and was found guilty of a number of offences and fined £30,000. Its sole director was also found guilty of “consent or connivance in the commission” of the same offences and fined £180,000.
Another case which emerged last year was covered in a previous article.
Hoteliers and publicans must take fire safety seriously or risk large fines or even a custodial sentence.
What are your obligations
In essence the Order places a statutory duty on the “Responsible Person” to protect his employees and anyone else lawfully on his premises – so this includes all customers, subcontractors, deliverymen etc. The duty also extends to those not on the premises but those in or around the premises e.g. neighbours who may be affected by a fire. The Responsible Person may engage a “Competent Person” to assist in complying with his duties under the Order.
The Responsible Person must:
- Carry out a Fire Risk Assessment (which must be formally recorded where there are 5 or more employees). This will identify specific fire risks and appropriate fire precautions. The Responsible Person must act on the findings of the Risk Assessment and review it regularly
- Produce a Policy which must minimise risk, reduce the risk of fire breaking out or spreading, provide means of escape and demonstrate preventative action
- Develop Procedures for dealing with fire, including fire drills and evacuation and re-admittance
- Provide staff training
- Carry out fire drills
- Provide and maintain clear means of escape, signs, notices, emergency lighting, fire detection and alarm and extinguishers.
Communities and Government sets policy on fire and rescue. Their website contains useful explanations of the regulations and guidance to help businesses comply with their obligations. See http://www.communities.gov.uk/fire/firesafety/firesafetylaw/
They also publish a series of guides to assist those preparing fire risk assessments. The guides which are most relevant to the pub, hotel and restaurant industry are:
Small and Medium Places of Assembly which specifically covers public house and clubs
Sleeping Accommodation which also covers staff who are required to “sleep in” e.g. live in bar managers etc
The content of this page is a summary of the law in force at the present time and is not exhaustive, nor does it contain definitive advice. Specialist legal advice should be sought in relation to any queries that may arise.