Following a high-profile fire there is almost always an investigation and a series of recommendations that seek to prevent reoccurring incidents, ascertain accountability and apportion blame to a potential responsible individual.
This has certainly been the case following the Grenfell Tower incident, and other more recent high-profile fires such as the Echo Arena car park fire in Liverpool and the suspected arson attack at Nottingham Train Station.
Whilst we acknowledge these reviews produce reports that run into hundreds of pages and there are numerous organisations and authorities that come under scrutiny, the person right at the bottom of the food chain is almost always the Responsible Individual (or Individuals if a team of people hold this role). The responsible individual must, therefore, be able to prove total compliance with fire safety regulations to avoid prosecution for negligence or other offences.
This is not to say the responsible individual will ultimately be the one held accountable for the above incidents – however, the recommendations from these reports are a stark reminder of the level of responsibility and potential accountability that could end up falling at the door of the responsible individual.
To help the responsible individual understand, exactly why we believe this should be the case, we’ve taken a look at the news report on recent fires and have compiled a list of some (not all) scenario’s where inadvertently, the Responsible Individual could leave themselves more vulnerable to prosecution.
BUILDING WORK AND RENOVATIONS ON YOUR BULDING
The fire that broke out at Nottingham University happened whilst the Jubilee Campus extension was being built. The fire was due to a fault with a temporary electrical supply to the building, which at the time was only 70% complete. With no windows or fire doors in place, it created voids that enabled the fire to spread.
Fortunately, in this incident, the fire service was satisfied that everything possible was done by the contractor in terms of checking the safety of any electrical appliance used on the construction site.
As the responsible individual, it is your responsibility to ensure all works and the tradespeople working on site are following the correct procedures all the time and that any equipment will pass safety checks.
BUILDING WORK AND RENOVATIONS ON ADJACENT BUILDINGS
As the responsible individual, it is also a good idea to keep abreast of building works which may be taking place on adjacent properties
As was the case in the fire that destroyed the Royal Clarence Hotel, the fire actually started in the building next door. As that building was totally destroyed fire investigators have been unable to pin point the cause. But it highlights the need to take extra precautions and seek assurances that the risks to your property have not changed.
Out of sight is not out of mind. If there is a disused building in the portfolio of properties owned by the company for which you are the responsible individual – it’s still part of your role to ensure they are safe and comply with fire safety regulations.
BUILDINGS OF OLD DESIGN / FABRICS & MATERIALS
initial investigations indicate that an accidental fire within a vehicle caused other cars to ignite, was the cause of the fire at the Echo Arena in Liverpool that destroyed over 1600 cars, fire officers have been widely reported that had water sprinklers been installed the spread of the fire could have been prevented.
A council spokesman is quoted as saying the car park was fully compliant with all appropriate building regulations and met all safety requirements, however if you are the responsible individual of older buildings, you should always be conscious of the impact new technologies and materials can have – either in preventing fire or exacerbating it!
The above scenarios represent only a few examples of changes in circumstance that may leave you exposed to the risk of prosecution. Our advice to all responsible individuals is to always work alongside a BAFE approved fire safety specialists and fully understand the fire risks against which you should safeguard your people, processes and property.