London Fire Brigade is warning London’s business and premises owners that by not paying attention to fire safety laws, they are not only putting lives at risk but could also face heavy fines.
The Brigade has revealed that last year in London the courts ordered individuals and companies to pay over a million pounds in fines and costs, for breaches of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order. Fines have been imposed on both small businesses and landlords, to international companies.
The record figure shows how seriously the courts are taking issues of fire safety and highlights the need for those in charge of premises to find out more about their responsibilities, and act.
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order came into force in October 2006 and replaced over 70 separate pieces of fire safety legislation. The Order applies to virtually all buildings, places and structures, the main exception being private homes, and includes premises like shops, restaurants, offices, nightclubs, care homes, sports venues, houses of multiple occupation (HMOs) and also the communal areas of residential housing blocks and bedsits.
High profile cases last year included Shell International being fined £300,000 and the high street firm New Look paying over £500,000 in fines and costs. New Look’s fine was the largest ever imposed under the RRO and followed a serious fire at their Oxford Street store on 26 April 2007.
The role of the fire service is to enforce fire law, and London Fire Brigade can prosecute companies or individuals if serious or repeated breaches are found. A number of court cases since the introduction of the Fire Safety Order have shown that courts will issue large fines and have even sentenced people to jail on two occasions, for breaches of the Order.
London Fire Brigade carries out around 14,000 fire inspections of premises each year and although the majority of buildings are managed well, there are still too many buildings that do not have an adequate fire risk assessment and as a result have issues like blocked fire exits, inadequate fire alarms or poor training for staff.
London Fire Commissioner Ron Dobson, said: “Over a million pounds in fines shows how serious the courts are taking fire safety, and now its time for the responsible persons at these premises to understand that ensuring buildings are safe for all the people that use them is not an optional task.
"When we are informed about fire safety issues or find them as part of our inspection programme, we will act.”
Notes for editors
For more information on the RRO visit http://www.london-fire.gov.uk/RegulatoryReformOrder2005.asp
The total in fines and costs in 2009 was £1,039,678.53.