Fire Safety Investigations
Our expert regulatory lawyers have experience in advising clients on investigations by the Fire Authorities and defending criminal allegations in court.
Post-Grenfell these have greater significance and are viewed seriously by the courts with heavy fines (£500k fine/costs in the New Look case) and prison sentences (two separate medium sized hotel cases).
The Fire Safety Order
The ‘Fire Safety Order’ (ie. the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005) puts legal duties on the ‘responsible person’ (under Article 8) who can be a workplace employer, the owner, managing agent, occupier, or other person in control of the premises.
The Responsible Person must put in place fire precautions to reduce the risk of fire and ensure safe escape in the event of a fire, etc.
Under Article 9 the Responsible Person must also ensure a fire Risk Assessment is carried out, by a suitably qualified person, which in many cases also has to be in writing, and needs to be regularly reviewed.
Plus the Responsible Person can have specific duties (under Articles 12-22) re Dangerous Substances, Emergency Routes and Exists, and Detection Devices.
Some of these duties are to do what is ‘Reasonably Practicable’ which is not explained in the Fire Safety Order but has a legal meaning.
There is a legal defence (except for the safety of employees, and dangerous substances) of ‘Due Diligence’ which also is not explained in the Fire Safety Order but is a technical concept that often arises in health & safety cases.
The Fire Authority and other authorised bodies
Fire Authorities have powers to inspect properties. If they find there is a serious risk to life – they can issue formal Enforcement Notices (setting out specific improvements that must be made) and Prohibition Notices (restricting the use of premises until improvements have been made).
Most enforcement work is carried out by the Fire Authority, but in some situations the Local Authority or Health & Safety Executive undertake the enforcement action.
In higher risk cases, a Fire Authority can issue an Alterations Notice (compels notification of any changes that are planned to the premises that would affect the risk).
Sanctions for a breach of duties
A breach of any of these duties by the Responsible Person or the Risk Assessor is a criminal offence. There are formal Sentencing Guidelines which mean that courts will regard these at least as seriously as other regulatory crimes, such as high risk health & safety cases – and could result in £000,000 fines and prison sentences.
How Richard Nelson LLP can help
We can advise and represent you if you have had an inspection, been served with any formal notice, are subject to an investigation, or are being prosecuted in court.
Get in touch
Contact us if you have a problem in relation to Fire Safety, or if you would simply like to discuss these issues with one of our solicitors in strict confidence and without obligation:
- Request a free call back using the form on the right
- Phone us during office hours on 0333 888 4040
- Email us at email@example.com.
Who Can Help You?
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What we do...
We can provide advice or representation if you are subject to a Fire Safety investigation, have been served with a formal notice or are subject to any other form of enforcement action such as an Alterations Notice or are defending criminal allegations in court.