25 February, 2021
Fire safety considerations might not be at the top of your risk register priority list at the moment, in the middle of a pandemic, but this case reminds us of the importance of complying with fire safety regulations at all times, and of the potentially devastating consequences of not having proper procedures and training in place. Whilst this is a Scottish case, the fire safety issues that arise are just as relevant in England and Wales under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.
The porter had placed a plastic bag of ash in a cupboard containing kindling and newspapers and this caused the catastrophic fire that resulted in the death of 2 hotel guests and devastation of much of the main hotel building.
The hotel pleaded guilty to the charges of failing to take appropriate fire safety measures including not having a safe system of removal of ashes, not adequately training staff members in removal of ashes and not keeping cupboards containing potential ignition sources free of combustibles.
Without the proper training the porter improvised on what to do, leading to the fire. There had been a fire safety report carried out prior to the fire that had recommended a written policy covering the emptying of fires which was not actioned. Storage of combustibles had been flagged by the Fire and Rescue Service, and again not actioned.
The hotel owners have unreservedly apologised to the families of those who lost their lives and have stated that they have since implemented a full range of fire safety measures in advance of the hotel's expected reopening later this year.
The fine imposed was reduced from a starting point of £750,000 due to an early guilty plea being entered.
Basic training on the principles of fire prevention for employees is an absolute must to understand and prevent these tragic incidents from occurring in a retail or non-domestic commercial organisation. The storing of combustible material with a source of ignition is one of the three principles within the fire triangle which was clearly not adequately controlled or monitored.
The inadequacy of training, information and instruction to employees and ensuring this was adequately controlled even with a fire risk assessment are other failings which this tragic case highlights. In a hotel setting, good housekeeping is fundamental to fire safety and ensuring that the workplace is safe. Having trained fire marshals within the workplace is also key to ensure that in the event of a fire, that a safe evacuation can take place and users can use extinguishers safely, if its safe and effective to do so in the circumstances. Do you undertake regular fire drills?
When a fire starts in a building, there must be an appropriate system to detect the fire early and raise the alarm with building occupants. Are your fire safety measures adequate in terms of alarm systems and fire suppression systems?