Posted December 4, 2023

Companies Fined For Safety Failures At Apartments Fire

A judge has credited pure luck and the swift response of firefighters for preventing a potentially fatal disaster at a block of flats plagued by fire safety deficiencies. In February 2021, a fire at Tower Chambers in Hartlepool necessitated the rescue of seventeen individuals.

Following their admission of multiple offenses in Teesside Crown Court, two companies received fines, and a fire risk assessor was handed a suspended prison sentence. Judge Jonathan Carroll emphasized that their actions had endangered lives.

The court was informed that the fire ignited in one of the 18 flats in the building at approximately 05:15 on February 2, 2021. Smoke and flames rapidly engulfed the structure, leading to the rescue of two individuals from upper windows and the evacuation of three others by firefighters through the smoke-filled and burning building, as stated by Joseph Hart, representing the Cleveland Fire Brigade, which initiated the legal proceedings.

The investigation into the apartment block fire found multiple serious failings, including:

  • A malfunctioning fire alarm system that did not activate
  • A lack of training for residents regarding the significance of keeping doors closed
  • Absence of an evacuation plan or fire drills for residents
  • Faulty fire doors without adequate seals and self-closing mechanisms
  • Inadequate building compartmentalisation

During the court proceedings held in October 2023, it was revealed that the contracted fire risk assessment was undertaken by an unqualified and inexperienced organisation with no accreditations. It was also pointed out that significant flaws and numerous errors in the fire risk assessment highlighted a fundamental misunderstanding of the building, such as failing to acknowledge the presence of a basement.

The prosecutor stated that the fire risk assessors assumptions could have jeopardised the lives and safety of the occupants, particularly given that Tower Chambers provided accommodation. It was also stated that while the initial fire risk assessment did point out certain issues that required attention, the property management company failed to take any corrective action to address these concerns.

The judge expressed strong condemnation of the property management companies’ post-fire actions, stating, “Even at this point, minimal efforts have been made to rectify the shortcomings, and the work completed so far is inadequate.” It was also pointed out that fire inspectors continue to harbor concerns about the building’s safety. Following an inspection conducted after the fire, they discovered that some issues seemed to have been concealed through the use of subpar plasterboard and the hasty application of foam to fill holes.

This case shows that a fire risk assessment by a qualified and experienced company is vital in the prevention of fires, loss of life and damage to property and harm to the environment. SS Systems is qualified and experienced to provide you with your fire risk assessment. Please use the contact form below or call one of our team for a discussion.

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