Fire Safety For Equestrian Business In Focus
In a recent legal development, a proprietor of a Bicester equestrian yard, has been fined £5,000 for significant violations of fire safety regulations that endangered lives. The case unfolded at Oxford Magistrates court on January 2, 2024, revealing a series of breaches that resulted in legal consequences for the business owner.
In October 2020, the Oxfordshire County Council’s Fire and Rescue Service conducted a fire safety inspection at the premises, exposing several critical lapses in safety protocols. The business owner was found to have neglected to conduct a proper risk assessment for fire, failed to secure escape routes in case of a fire, and did not maintain a functional fire alarm and detection system.
The equestrian yard, situated on the ground floor, included two flats on the first floor designated for staff accommodation. Following a fire at the site, a fire safety audit was carried out under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. Inspectors determined that the premises were dangerously unsafe, leading to the issuance of a prohibition notice, restricting the use of the building for sleeping until safety measures were improved.
As a direct result of the prohibition notice, occupants of the living accommodation were immediately evacuated on safety grounds. However, a follow-up inspection in December 2022 revealed that the proprietor was in breach of the prohibition notice, as staff continued to sleep in the building.
After investigations, the business owner appeared in court on January 2, 2024, facing charges under fire safety legislation, being found guilty on four counts, receiving a conditional discharge for three charges and a fine of £5,000 for the remaining offense. Additionally, they were ordered to cover total costs of approximately £5,000.
Councillor Dr. Nathan Ley, Cabinet Member for Community Safety at Oxfordshire County Council, emphasised the importance of enforcing fire safety measures, stating, “Our fire safety inspectors are discovering an increasing number of businesses with sleeping accommodation above, where no fire safety measures have been implemented. Business owners have a legal duty to put fire safety measures in place, and as this case shows, we will not hesitate to take action to ensure the safety of occupants, residents, and customers.“
The issuance of a prohibition notice highlights the need for responsible individuals, such as business owners or employers, to fulfill their duty of care in ensuring that provided accommodations meet accepted standards of fire safety. This case serves as a reminder of the legal consequences for neglecting fire safety measures on premises with sleeping accommodation.
Horse racing attracts over five million people visiting the 59 racecourses in the UK each year. Equestrian businesses as an industry sector has a gross output estimated at £3.4 billion and includes equestrian businesses such as tack/feed shops, livery yards and riding schools amongst others. Fire risk assessments around all commercial and non commercial aspects should be considered to ensure that fire safety regulations are adhered to and lives are not endangered. If you operate an equestrian business please contact us to speak to one of our advisory teams about all aspects of fire safety within your operation.
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