Care home prosecuted over ‘string’ of fire safety issues
STAPELY CARE Home in Liverpool was prosecuted after it broke a series of fire safety regulations, and put its residents ‘at risk’.
Liverpool Echo reported on the prosecution of the home, run by a charitable trust, after it was inspected in April 2018 by Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service (MFRS). The inspection found a ‘number of significant breaches’ of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 [FSO], with the seriousness of the breaches such that they put the lives of both staff and residents ‘at significant risk’, and spurred MFRS to prosecute the home.
Failures identified included: failing to maintain fire separation in cupboard ceilings, corridors walls, the ground floor store room and the basement; failing to provide ‘appropriate’ fire detectors and alarms; a failure to remove combustible materials from a means of escape; a failure to provide an ‘adequate’ fire door with ‘appropriate’ safety strips and seals; and a failure to ensure the facility was ‘subject to a suitable system of maintenance, in efficient working order and good state of repair’.
Brian Massie, MFRS’ senior fire protection officer, commented that any fire could have spread very quickly as there were ‘insufficient means’ of raising the alarm as well as preventing smoke and fire spread throughout the building, and ‘insufficient’ procedures in place to carry out ‘effective’ evacuation of elderly residents, some of whom ‘would require significant help’.
He added: ‘This is a care home with approximately 70 residents, some suffering dementia and needing significant support. From 2011 onwards, several inspections of the premises have been conducted and it is clear Stapely Care Home were aware of their duties under the fire safety order.
‘An authorised inspector visited the premises on 26 April to evaluate the fire safety provided – MFRA was of the opinion that they failed to comply with a number of provisions set out in the regulatory reform order – leaving people in the building at significant risk. Due to the severity of the offences, prosecution was deemed a suitable path to take.’
At Liverpool Magistrates’ Court, District Judge Shaw acknowledged the ‘severity’ of the offences, and noted in turn that there was a ‘risk of harm, including death, and a large number of vulnerable people were exposed to the risk’. Despite this and the home’s guilty plea, due to ‘concerns about a very large fine having a detrimental impact on service users’ the fine was set at £6,000 plus costs.
MFRS said that following this case, it will undertake a fire safety campaign targeting all of the region’s care homes, with a spokesperson stating: ‘MFRS target inspections on premises that represent the greatest risk in the event of fire. Inspections are carried out on Very High Risk premises every 12 months and on High Risk premises every 24 months.
‘MFRS will continue to target premises in response to complaints, fires and referrals from partner agencies and resulting from other local or national intelligence, and within the public interest. Breaches that have the potential to cause death or injury could also result in prosecution.’