A Pontypool company was fined and ordered to pay costs totalling £30,835 for ignoring fire safety laws after a fire at a factory in Pontypool.
Operational fire crews from across South Wales attended a fire at Brick Fabrication Limited, located at Gemini Works, Pontypool. At the height of the incident 14 fire appliances were in attendance with a total of 58 fire service personnel deployed. Due to the size of the incident the main road into the Industrial Estate was closed for safety reasons which caused disruption to a number of other businesses.
The post fire investigation in July 2014 found that the fire started in a production area where flammable products were being sprayed in the vicinity of a power tool. The power tool that was being used produced sparks and the sparks hit the residue of the flammable products which ignited. A worker raised the alarm by shouting fire and the majority of the factory quickly evacuated.
However, due to an inappropriate fire alarm system for the size and layout of the factory two members of staff, on break in the canteen area, were totally oblivious to the rapidly developing fire and on its discovery had to run under smoke and flames to escape.
Due to the size and scale of the incident, South Wales Fire and Rescue Service (SWFRS) instigated a thorough investigation, undertaken by specialist Fire Safety officers, which led to Brick Fabrication Limited being summonsed to appear before Cwmbran Magistrates Court. The hearing took place on 23rd May 2016 and the company pleaded guilty to all eight charges.
The investigation discovered that a fire risk assessment had been completed approximately two years prior to the fire and yet some of the significant findings were not acted upon. One of the major findings was to fit an automatic fire detection system. An automatic fire detection system would have given an earlier warning to the two employees in the canteen allowing them to escape much more quickly and not placing them at serious risk.
The prosecution also outlined how Brick Fabrication Limited had not reviewed their fire risk assessment, which is also a legal requirement. It highlighted the company’s failure in not having appropriate fire safety arrangements in place which would have identified that all the significant findings of the risk assessment had not been acted upon. The company also pleaded guilty to not providing adequate fire safety training for employees.
After a long and careful deliberation the Magistrates summed up the serious nature of the offences and therefore imposed close to the maximum fines available for each offence, this totalled a sum of £22,350.00.
As well as the substantial fine, Brick Fabrication Limited where ordered to pay costs to the Fire Authority of £8365.78 and a further £120 victim surcharge to the court.
Steve Rossiter Head of Business Fire Safety at South Wales Fire and Rescue Service said,
“A fire risk assessment is at the heart of the fire safety legislation, it provides information that enable business owners and persons’ with responsibility to maintain a safe premises. In this case there was a total disregard for what are critical fire safety provisions, such as providing a basic fire alarm. When employees have to run under smoke and flames to escape from a building there is something seriously wrong”.
He went on to use the analogy;
“if you took your car to the garage for an MOT and the mechanic said it’s failed because you have four bald tyres, and subsequently you don’t buy new tyres, it shouldn’t be a shock to you, that if caught, the police will fine you. More importantly you run the risk of having a road traffic collision putting you, your passengers and the public at serious risk. This case and Brick Fabrication’s neglect for fire safety is no different. It is pleasing that the Courts acknowledge such failures as significant and they have imposed fines to reflect this. This enables the Fire and Rescue Service to pass a strong message to its business community. Our approach is to support businesses to protect themselves, so they continue operating whilst supporting the local economy; however we cannot and will not turn a blind eye when faced with such poor fire safety provisions”.
If you require any information on your responsibilities under the fire safety legislation, don’t hesitate to contact our Business Fire Safety Department on 01443 232523 or on our website www.southwales-fire.gov.uk
Tel: 01443 232000 Fax: 01443 232165
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