On the 9th December 2016, an anonymous complaint was received regarding the fire safety provisions at Marine Residence (a hotel), at 6-7 Belmont Road, Scarborough.
Fire Safety Officers from North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service visited the building and found multiple serious deficiencies, namely:
• A suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment had not been undertaken. The one they had failed to identify the areas of deficiency.
• The existing fire alarm was inappropriate for the type and use of premises and did not sound above the lower ground floor, meaning anyone sleeping in the rooms above ground floor would not have been alerted in the event of fire.
• Numerous fire doors were not fitted with self-closers. Strips and seals would allow smoke and fire to enter the means of escape, impeding anyone’s evacuation from the building.
• Fire doors on automatic hold open devices were not connected to the fire alarm system and would remain open in the event of a fire.
• There were fire separation issues in storage rooms onto means of escape and they contained ignition sources.
• There was inadequate routine maintenance or testing of the fire alarm, emergency lighting and firefighting equipment.
• No training of staff including the manager.
Prohibition notice for poor safety
Owing to the poor safety conditions at the building, a prohibition notice, prohibiting the use of upper floors and an enforcement notice for remedial work to be completed were served with a deadline date of 23rd January 2017. The remedial work was completed on 30th March 2017.
Further investigation by the Fire Safety Officers resulted in charges against the building’s owners, Daniel Johns Ltd and the Management Company, Silver Hopkins ltd.
On 20th February 2018, at Scarborough Magistrates Court, Daniel Johns Ltd and Silver Hopkins Ltd pleaded guilty to 3 and 4 offences, respectively.
In summing up, the Magistrate stated, “This was a very serious case,” and commented that they considered raising the harm level that would result in a higher fine. They said, “the parties’ conduct was not naïve, but reckless” and “the companies were very slow to react to the concerns of the Fire Authority”.
The number of offences involved resulted in the totality principle being applied, and fines awarded.
Daniel Johns Ltd was fined £23,000.00 plus £2,485 cost and victim surcharge of £120 and Silver Hopkins Ltd were fined £25,000.00 plus £2,485 costs and £120 victim surcharge.
Station Manager, Eddie Head of North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service said; “North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service makes visits to a premise when reports of poor fire safety standards are made to us. Depending on what is found appropriate advice will be given to the business, informal action may be taken or in some cases such as this the necessary enforcement action will be implemented.”
Thorough Fire Risk Assessment of all buildings mandatory
“In this case following the inspection, prohibition and enforcement notices were served. An investigation was conducted because the fire safety problems were numerous and serious. Neither of the responsible persons had not given sufficient thought to what might happen if a fire had occurred. Conducting or commissioning a fire risk assessment is the starting point for beginning to ensure that a building is or can be made safe for people in the event of a fire.”
“North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service will, in most cases, give responsible persons chance to comply with the legislation before taking legal proceedings. However, where there is risk to life, of death or serious injury in the event of fire, prosecution will be considered and where appropriate taken. In this case, immediate action was followed by months of delay to put things right, and the seriousness of the failings meant that a prosecution was appropriate.”
Improving fire safety standards
“Across the North Yorkshire and the City of York, North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service find that many businesses and sole traders are proactive in managing their fire safety well. Sadly, there are still too many occasions, like this case, where businesses are unaware or ignoring what they should be doing. As a service, we provide free fire safety advice to businesses and the public."
"We engage with various trade organisations and individual businesses to raise awareness of best practice around fire safety. I would welcome ideas from anyone and especially businesses and sole traders as to how we, as a service, can best reach out and deliver our important fire safety messages. Improving the standards of fire safety and fire safety management will reduce the risk of fire and help to keep individuals and businesses safer.”