Company and its former director fined for insufficient fire risk assessment

November 22, 2022

Building safety managers have been urged to make sure they have a thorough fire risk assessment in place after a company and its former director were ordered to pay more than £100,000 by a crown court judge.

Hampshire and Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service has highlighted the issue after vital fire risks went unflagged at a Hampshire block of flats.

The fire risk assessment at Forbes Court, in Hilsea, Portsmouth, failed to take a thorough look at every aspect of the building, meaning residents’ lives could have been put at risk if a fire broke out.

Risk assessor, Adrian Watson, and the company he was a director of, Watson, Wild and Baker Ltd, were found guilty of failing to make a suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment by a jury at Portsmouth Crown Court in July.

Judge Timothy Mousley sentenced the defendants to pay fines and costs totalling just over £100,000 and said the risk assessment “fell far short of the appropriate standards”.

Sailesh Mehta, prosecuting on behalf of Hampshire and Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Authority, said: “It was the duty of these defendants to ensure that they got it right. Others depended on them doing their duty and the jury found that they fell so far below the duty that the risk was death or serious injury.”

HIWFRS’ Enforcement Support Team first became involved at the London Road, block of flats in 2017.

Following a thorough investigation and work carried out by the property management company responsible for the premises, the building was deemed safe after a new risk assessor carried out a comprehensive fire risk assessment.

But the company and Watson had refused to accept that by failing to look at all the risks present including the potential for escape routes to be compromised and people living in the three-storey block of flats could have been placed at risk of death or serious injury in the event of a fire.

HIWFRS Area Manager, Jason Avery, said: “We will never shy away from taking action if fire safety risks are ignored. By failing to consider every aspect of this building’s safety, the defendants had no idea if Forbes Court was a safe place for those who lived there, or not. Fire risk assessments are at the very heart of fire safety for any building and must be carried out properly to protect residents.”

Avery added: “Under the Fire Safety Order, all those responsible for buildings must make sure a thorough fire risk assessment has been carried out. If you are responsible for a building, whether it’s residential or commercial, make sure you are satisfied that the fire risk assessor you are employing is a competent person and carries out a thorough job”.

“I want to pay tribute to our Enforcement Support Team for their dedicated work in bringing this to court. Our guiding principle will always be to work with people to address fire safety issues, but in this case, those offers were ignored.”

 

This is valid as of 22nd November 2022.

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