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Breaching Fire Safety Law - Effects, Penalties and Contraventions
Whilst the majority of us are aware that fire safety is a legal requirement, many do not consider what that actually means in reality. The literal translation is relatively obvious, failure to meet with the legal requirements means you are breaking the law! However, who is breaking the law and what are the implications.
This bulletin is not intended as a ‘scaremongering’ tactic, but provides some details on the potential implications of not meeting statutory requirements.
Fire kills. Whilst this sounds harsh, it is a reality. Fire can kill not only the occupants / neighbours of a building but can also kill Fire-Fighters who are sent in to tackle a fire or rescue people. The effects of non compliance when it comes to fire safety can be catastrophic, having a devastating effect on people and potentially communities.
Fires are never considered to be good news and in the main have a negative effect on a businesses reputation. Once more the effect of a fire can adversely effect a number of people.
This aspect has two clear branches. Should a fire occur, this will have a negative effect on a business, the extent of this will depend on factors such as the size of the organisation, the type of organisation etc. Statistics suggest that some business never fully rebuild after a fire.
The second aspect of financial implications is fines for breaches in fire safety. Similar to other arms of the law, fire safety contraventions can bring with them financial penalties. In recent times a major high street retailer was reported to have been fined £400,000 plus costs for failing to comply with fire safety legislation.
Whilst such fines are not common, smaller fines are often encountered, and it’s not just large organisations that are focused on, a Public House was recently fined in the region of £16,000 for breaches.
In some instances, occupants do not understand their responsibilities in terms of fire safety and this leaves them exposed, ignorance is no defence. In terms of responsibility, managers, building owners, Directors, Chief Executives etc must all have an understanding of the responsibilities within their organisation. It is common that an individual in a senior position is ultimately responsible, however, responsibilities as with any work process can be devolved to relevant persons. For example, within a chain of retail outlets the CEO may hold overall responsibility, however each store manager may be liable for their own store. This situation is acceptable as long as the CEO (or appointed person) ensures adequate training, knowledge and experience is in place to assume such responsibilities. It is clear that a Fire Safety Policy / Procedures document is required to document such arrangements and to communicate the systems in place for ensuring compliance.
Whilst the majority of organisations have adequate fire safety management systems and fire precautions in place, this is not true of all. However, it is clear that the enforcing authorities are maintaining vigilance in this area and where appropriate utilising the legislative vehicle to reduce the risk / consequence of fire will be relied upon where necessary.
If you would like to know more – or would like to arrange an appointment with one of our senior fire safety advisers – simply call Peter Gyere, Marketing Director 020 8668 8663.