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London Fire Brigade has joined forces with the Gangmasters Licensing Authority to help drive down fires in ‘beds in sheds’ and other unsafe sleeping accommodation.
The Gangmasters Licensing Authority regulates labour providers, also known as ‘Gangmasters’, such as employment and recruitment agencies, many of which, whether they are licensed with the Authority or not, offer or provide workers with accommodation.
The issue of ‘beds in sheds’ and other unsuitable buildings such as garages, derelict office blocks and industrial units, being rented out as sleeping accommodation is a growing concern for the Brigade. The lack of built-in fire safety precautions such as fire safety doors and smoke alarms and the fact that the people living in them rely on far riskier ways of cooking, heating and lighting make them potential fire traps.
Brigade statistics show that over the last four years there have been 341 fires in buildings that appeared to have people living in them when they should not have been, with these blazes causing nine fire deaths and 58 serious injuries.
The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed on Wednesday (16 October) between the Brigade and the Gangmasters Licensing Authority will encourage information sharing which will help identify any unsuitable buildings being used as sleeping accommodation.
Improving the information available to local fire crews will help increase the speed and effectiveness with which firefighters can deal with incidents in these sorts of premises.
The Memorandum of Understanding will also help the Gangmasters Licensing Authority identify unregistered labour providers and ensure those that are registered are housing their workers in safe and appropriate accommodation.
Chairman of London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority James Cleverly said:
“London Fire Brigade has been at the forefront of work to tackle the problem of “beds in sheds” and working with the Gangmasters Licensing Authority will help us to identify where these shoddy developments are in the capital.
“Not only are these buildings unsafe and potential fire traps for the people living in them, there is also an increased risk to our firefighters if they need to carry out life-saving rescues in buildings that are in a state of dereliction and that were never intended to be used as sleeping accommodation.”
In 2012 the Government announced a new task force to tackle the problem of ‘beds in sheds’ and London Fire Brigade was appointed to provide professional advice based on its experience of the issue in the capital.