Warning after New Look fined
23 January 2013
JLT Business Insurance Services is urging organisations to check their fire risk assessment systems in the wake of a major fashion retailer's record fine. On the 25th of November 2009 high street retailer New Look was
On the 25th of November 2009 high street retailer New Look was fined £400,000 and ordered to pay costs of £136,052 after pleading guilty to serious breaches of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (RRO). This is currently the largest fine handed out under the order.
London Fire Brigade prosecuted New Look following a blaze at their Oxford Street store in 2007. Thirty fire engines and around 150 firefighters were needed to tackle the blaze and crews remained at the scene for three days. The first call to the Brigade was not from a member of staff but from an office worker in a nearby building. This delay meant that the fire had already developed and had broken through the second floor windows when crews arrived. Despite the building's fire alarm sounding, it was reset on at least one occasion.
Following the fire, the Brigade carried out several fire safety inspections and found a substantial number of breaches of fire legislation. The most serious of these was a fire risk assessment with numerous failures, including no record of the correct procedure to adopt when the fire alarm is activated.
The RRO requires the responsible person (in a workplace it is the employer) to carry out a suitable fire risk assessment and act on its findings.
Another significant breach was the insufficient training of staff, which led to a delayed evacuation of the premises and staff being ill-prepared to respond to a fire or fire alarm signal. Staff did not use the appropriate fire exits to evacuate the public, which meant that approximately 150 people were evacuated through the main entrance - directly underneath the fire.
Mandy Perry, (pictured)divisional managing director of JLT Business Insurance Services, said: "Ask yourself how robust your fire safety arrangements are and if they are being adhered to. There are many areas you may not be aware of, for example, do your fire safety arrangements include emergency procedures for leaving the building? "Even with stringent and far-reaching safety procedures your business may still be at risk from fire-related damage.
"Check the cover you have in place and ensure your insurance broker is giving you advice on all the issues surrounding fire and other types of damage." The RRO requires the responsible person to ensure their employees are provided with adequate fire safety training.
Other serious deficiencies included: All of the basement fire exits were unavailable to members of staff and the public because the swipe card system, which should have linked to the fire alarm system and opened the doors in an emergency, was not properly connected Not all members of staff were issued with swipe cards The green emergency break glass, designed to override the door locks, was fitted on the wrong side of the doors in the basement The premises was also found to have items blocking escape routes on all floors The RRO requires that: Emergency doors must not be so locked or fastened that they cannot be easily and immediately opened by any person in an emergency Routes to emergency exits from premises and the exits themselves must be kept clear at all times And most importantly: The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 applies to virtually all premises and covers nearly every type of building, structure and open space. It does not, however, apply to people's private homes.