Breach of fire regulations

Following last week’s article regarding “who is the responsible person”, we thought it a good idea to remind you of what can happen when the authorities establish that a breach of fire regulations has occurred.
 

News courtesy of The Star

In May 2017, Amandeep Sandhu was sentenced to eight months behind bars on Monday after pleading guilty to five breaches of fire safety laws.

Sandhu used to own Cutlers Hotel in Sheffield.

In September 2014, inspectors from South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue found that the hotel at that time did not have a working fire alarm and ordered the closure of the 45-bedroom hotel while safety improvements were made.

A catalogue of breach of fire regulations was discovered, including failure to carry out a suitable fire risk assessment, not equipping the hotel with appropriate fire detection systems, inadequate emergency lighting and lack of staff training.

This example is a stark reminder of what can happen. Here’s a breakdown of what The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 says about the enforcement of the Order.

In short

Someone who is proven to have failed to comply with the Fire Safety Order is guilty of a criminal offence and may be charged accordingly.

In this brief article we have included information about which organisations have the power to enforce
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and what you could expect if your fire safety duties have been neglected.

Enforcing Authorities

There are a number of organisations listed as having the power to enforce the order, including:
• the fire and rescue authority for the area,
• the Health and Safety Executive in relation to:
– any premises for which a licence is required in accordance with section 1 of the Nuclear Installations Act 1965
– a ship which is in the course of construction, reconstruction or conversion or repair
– any workplace which is or is on a construction site
• the fire service,
• the relevant local authority in relation to:
– a sports ground designated as requiring a safety certificate
– a regulated stand
• a fire inspector in relation to:
– premises owned or occupied by the Crown
– premises in relation to which the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority is the responsible person

Power of the Inspectors

An inspector may do anything necessary for the purpose of carrying out the Order. They have the power to:
• enter any premises they believe is necessary to enter in order to inspect the building
• establish who the responsible person is on the premises and ask questions to ascertain whether the Order has been complied with
• request the production of information that is required to be kept under the Order (for example fire risk assessment records) and take copies
• ask for assistance from the people on site and for them to provide necessary facilities
• take samples of any articles or substances for the purpose of ascertaining their fire resistance or flammability
• request that any dangerous articles or substances be removed or dismantled

Notices

There are varying scales of “notice” given to the responsible person when a breach has been identified, including:

Alteration Notice

This will be issued to the responsible person, placing a legal requirement on them to notify the enforcing authority before they make certain changes to the premises. It will be issued where there is a serious risk to people to prevent any significant changes being made that will impact on their safety.

Enforcement Notice

An enforcement notice notifies the responsible person of a breach of the Order and gives them a certain period of time to rectify the breach.

Prohibition Notice

Where the enforcing authority is of the opinion that use of the premises will involve serious risk or death to the people in the premises, they can prohibit or restrict the use of the building via a prohibition notice. The notice usually includes details of the work required to make the building safe.

Failure to comply with a prohibition notice is a criminal offence and can result in prosecution.

It’s an offence

It is an offence for any responsible person to fail to comply with any requirements of their fire safety duties outlined in The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, where that failure could put people at serious risk of injury or death.

It is also an offence to fail to comply with an alteration, enforcement or prohibition notice.

But did you also know that it is an offence to:
• make a false entry (of a material nature) in any documentation required to be kept in order to adhere to the Order (for example, the risk assessment register)
• blatantly lie to the inspector
• intentionally obstruct an inspector who attends site
• fail to comply with the inspector’s requirements
• pretend to be an inspector (with intention to deceive)

And if you’re found guilty? Then what can you expect?

Depending on the severity of the breach you can receive a fine and up to two years’ imprisonment. The aforementioned case is testament to how serious it can become.

Need advice?

If you ever need any advice or would like to make sure your fire alarm system or safety procedures are adequate, please get in touch.

To read the actual section in the regulations, click here.

Mikhail Pavstyuk

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