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A CONSULTANT fire risk assessor and a hotel operator have been jailed for eight months after admitting multiple breaches of the Fire Safety Order.
David Liu, who runs The Dial Hotel and Market Inn in Mansfield, and John O´Rourke of Mansfield Fire Protection Services, who was contracted to carry out fire risk assessments at both premises appeared for sentencing at Nottingham Crown Court on 8 July 2011.
Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service discovered the problems while inspecting the public house part of one of the premises in July 2010. When the officer enquired about sleeping accommodation above the pub, he found there was accommodation on the upper floors without adequate fire precautions to protect staff and residents. The service then issued Prohibition Notices preventing any further use of both hotels for accommodation until improvements had been made.
Officers found that the fire risk assessments at both premises were not sufficient. Both hotels also had inadequate fire detection, firefighting equipment and emergency lighting, and equipment provided was not properly maintained or tested.
In the Dial Hotel, a fire exit door at the bottom of a staircase was locked, both staircases from upper levels terminated in the same ground floor area without alternative escape routes or separation, exit routes were blocked with combustible materials, and doors on corridors were not fire resistant.
At the Market Inn, the means of escape were not protected, separating doors were not fire resistant, some did not have self-closing devices, and one fire door was missing.
As the responsible person under Article 3 of the Fire Safety Order at
both premises, Liu pleaded guilty to 15 offences under the Order, including failing to ensure there was a
proper risk assessment. O´Rourke admitted two offences, in that under duties imposed by Article 5(3)of the Order, he breached Article 9(1) by failing to carry out a suitable risk assessment.
Article 5(3) places a duty to comply with the Order on people other than the "responsible persons" if they have control of premises.
Law firm Browne Jacobson,which advised the fire authority, said it believes this is the first successful prosecution of a fire risk assessor. Lawyers said O´Rourke had produced the risk assessments in return for payment and there was a clear contract between him and the premises operator Liu.
The risk assessments failed to identify deficiencies with means of escape, fire separation and warning systems. Sentencing the two men, Judge Andrew Hamilton said it was time to send a message to those who conduct fire risk assessments and to hoteliers who are prepared to put profit before safety. He jailed the pair for eight months, and ordered Liu to pay £15,000 and O´Rourke £5862 in prosecution costs.
Judge Hamilton also referred to the need to ensure the competence of people who offer fire safety services, saying: "It seems to me an example has to be set about risk assessors, who are not with qualifications."
Thanks to Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service, and News Magazine for this article.
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