Failure to implement fire risk assessment findings leads to prosecution by London Fire Brigade

Sunday, February 16th, 2020 - London Fire Brigade

A resident unable to reach an emergency escape route during a fire was found standing on a third-floor windowsill and had to be rescued by firefighters.

Management company Harper Stone Properties Ltd from East Sussex has been fined after pleading guilty to a series of fire safety failings following the 2016 blaze at the block of flats on Green Lanes in Palmers Green, London.

The company was fined £20,000 and ordered to pay £10,000 costs at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on 5 February after London Fire Brigade inspected the property following the fire and discovered breaches of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

The fire broke out in the common stairwell in the ground floor of the four-storey block on 14 August 2016. It spread through the stairwell to the third floor, preventing residents from leaving via the main stairs.

London Fire Brigade managing agent prosecution 2020

The building had an external metal staircase to the rear, but not all the flats had access to this emergency means of escape. When firefighters arrived, they found a resident of one of the third-floor flats standing on the windowsill of his property and hanging on to the rain water guttering above the window.

He was rescued by firefighters and another 20 residents were able to leave the building. Fortunately, no one was hurt.

Inspectors found that the company had not assessed what aspects of the premises might pose a threat to the safety of tenants. They also discovered there were no emergency lights in the stairwell or common hallways.

Except in one instance, the entrance door to each flat was not fitted with fire doors, which would help prevent a fire from spreading. The doors did not have self-closing devices and glass panels in the doors were not fire-resistant.

Windows facing into a light well adjacent to the staircase were not fitted with fire-resistant glass and, in some cases, could be opened which would allow the spread of flames and smoke in the event of a fire.

London Fire Brigade’s Assistant Commissioner for Fire Safety, Dan Daly, said:

This was a serious fire which could have had far worse consequences.

Fortunately our crews were quickly on scene and were able to rescue the man who was hanging on for his life in what must have been a terrifying situation for him.

There was a fire risk assessment carried out for this premises but those responsible for the building’s management had failed to act on its findings.

There’s no excuse for leaving people’s safety to chance, especially when information is so readily available to those with responsibility for safety in buildings to understand what their duties are and ensure they comply with the law.

List of charges and penalties

  • The Fire Risk Assessment had highlighted aspects of the structure, condition or use of the premises that might pose a threat to the safety of occupants of the premises. These had not been addressed by the responsible person (Article 9).
  • Save for one instance, individual flats had not been fitted with fire doors (Article 14).
  • The escape route was not adequately maintained in that windows facing a light well adjacent to the staircase were not fitted with fire-resisting glass (Article 17).

In his judgement, the District Judge noted that the breaches relating to Articles 14 and 17 flowed from the failure to act on the findings of the risk assessment and accordingly, fined Harper Stone Properties Ltd £20,000 for the Article 9 offence. The company was also ordered to pay £10,000 in prosecution costs.

London Fire Brigade have published information to help landlords and building owners understand their responsibilities under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order, available here.

For all the latest news and events, you can sign up for the free London Property Licensing newsletter here.