Former factory owner receives fire safety fine
CHRISTOPHER BLACK owned a factory that received a prohibition notice, and which was later breached leading to his prosecution.
Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service (DSFRS) reported on its prosecution of Mr Black, who was both owner and responsible person for Zigzag on Morlands Site, Glastonbury. In September 2014, DSRFS officers inspected the site, which was a ‘large former three-storey factory’, with all three floors in use ‘providing various functions’.
There was a large kitchen area and LPG gas cooker as well as a wood burning oven on the ground floor, and a cinema and art gallery on the first floor, while the second floor had a yurt ‘used for a place of contemplation’. The investigation identified a range of ‘serious deficiencies’ in fire safety, including the lack of a suitable automatic fire detection and warning system and an external staircase ‘in such a poor state it was not safe to use’.
Next, an internal wooden staircase was ‘open to all levels offering no protection in the event of a fire’, while there were ‘excessive travel distances and lack of fire exit signs’ in addition to a ‘lack of emergency lighting’. The ‘dangerous’ conditions meant that a prohibition notice was served, with follow up inspections made while the notice remained in force.
During these follow up visits ‘it was recognised that the extent of work and funds available to Mr Black would mean it may take considerable time to bring the premises up to the required standard’, though Mr Black was ‘reminded of the requirements of the notice’. A year later, in July 2015, officers carried out another inspection and found evidence ‘that the requirements of the notice had been breached on a number of occasions’.
On being interviewed, Mr Black admitted he had allowed for use of the upper floors ‘even though he knew the prohibition notice remained in force’, and pleaded guilty at Taunton Crown Court to breaching its requirements. While the judge took account of his limited finances, he stated that ‘a failure to comply with a prohibition notice is a breach of the law and must be punished’, fining Mr Black £500 as well as a £500 contribution towards costs incurred by the fire authority.
Paul Bray, group manager and business safety manager for DSFRS, stated: ‘Mr Black is the owner of the premises and had full control. The decision to serve a prohibition notice is not taken lightly and is only issued where there is a serious and imminent risk of death or serious injury in the event of a fire.
‘Mr Black was fully aware of the notice and the restrictions imposed on his premises. Without implementing any suitable measures or obtaining advice he allowed the upper floors to be used knowingly putting people at risk. His actions demonstrate a complete disregard to the safety of himself and others.’