Company fined for ‘serious’ fire breaches
BUILDING OVERSEERS VPS (UK) Ltd was prosecuted after serious fire safety breaches at a former hotel in Chesterfield.
Derbyshire Times reported on the prosecution of VPS over the Chesterfield Hotel building, which it was contracted to oversee. The property had been empty ‘for some time’, with Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service (DFRS) undertaking an inspection during which they found that VPS had ‘failed to ensure’ fire doors were checked regularly, as well as that the fire alarm was tested weekly ‘on and before’ 27 October 2017.
At that point, several members of the public had been renting rooms in the 73 room property, said DFRS deputy chief officer Gavin Tomlinson. He added: ‘On October 27 2017, during a routine risk awareness inspection of their local area, firefighters from Chesterfield noted activity at the Chesterfield Hotel, a property that had been empty for some time.
‘Their enquiries resulted in fire safety inspecting officers attending to find that a number of people, referred to as property guardians, were occupying rooms on the premises. Due to fire safety concerns identified, a prohibition notice was served immediately meaning the occupants were not allowed to sleep at the premises until remedial work had been carried out to rectify the officers’ concerns.
He also stated: ‘Such was the serious nature of the breaches of fire safety, the fire authority commenced legal action against VPS (UK) Ltd. If a fire had occurred, as there was only one escape route in such a large building, the occupants would have been at serious risk. The blocking of escape routes by locks or boarding cannot be tolerated unless robust alternative provisions have been put in place to ensure the safety of all occupants.
‘Owners and companies overseeing the security of vacant buildings should recognise that they have a legal responsibility to ensure that any sleeping accommodation they provide for guests, employees, guardians or any other person has a suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment in place, which is reviewed regularly, and also ensure that facilities provided for safety from fire are maintained to a suitable standard.
‘DFRS is able to offer advice and guidance to enable businesses to comply with the requirements of the fire safety law. However, if a business does not follow the advice or the breaches are significant, then the service can use formal enforcement powers to ensure compliance.’
The news outlet noted that during a hearing at Chesterfield Magistrates’ Court, VPS pleaded guilty to three breaches of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, and was fined £70,000.