S Wales waste management sites warned: "If you haven’t been inspected yet, you will be soon."
11 June 2015
Owners of waste recycling businesses across South Wales are being advised to pay attention to their legal obligations to keep staff, customers and premises safe from fire after a Cwmbran company was fined a total of £45,000 for flouting fire safety laws in relation to a recycling factory.
As well as the substantial fine, MDS Recycling which operated the unit in Cwmbran was ordered to pay costs to the Fire Authority of £3207.34 by Cwmbran Magistrates Court at a court hearing on 8th June 2015.
The Cwmbran premises were visited by Business Fire Safety officers from South Wales Fire and Rescue Service as part of their risk based inspection programme. One of the current priorities is on waste recycling sites following a number of high profile and large fires in such facilities across the South Wales area, the most recent being last weekend in Bridgend.
The officers discovered fire safety deficiencies within the factory unit and the compound area of the site operated by MDS Recycling. The seriousness of the fire safety contraventions discovered would have placed one or more persons at risk of death or serious injury should a fire have started. In fact, the fire safety standards were said to be so poor that an enforcement notice to remedy the problems was served on the premises.
A thorough investigation was then undertaken by specialist officers from South Wales Fire and Rescue Service which led to MDS Recycling being summonsed to appear before Cwmbran Magistrates Court on nine offences under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. The offences included storing waste materials and LPG Cylinders inappropriately at the site.
In presenting the case to the court, South Wales Fire and Rescue Service outlined how a visit in July 2014 also found that one fire exit was completely blocked by stacked recycled material, and the only other fire exit available had LPG cylinders and combustibles stored by it. A fire within these materials had the potential of trapping the employees within the building. Additionally, it was also discovered that the premises was not fitted with an appropriate working fire alarm system or any emergency lighting.
The prosecution also outlined how a suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment, which is also a legal requirement and would have identified the general fire precautions within the premises, had not been undertaken by the company.
In summing up, the magistrates referred to the serious nature and imposed the maximum fines available for each offence.
Gary Johnson, head of business fire safety for South Wales Fire and Rescue Service (SWFRS), welcomed the sentence handed down by the Court and said: "There is no satisfaction in seeing MDS Recycling punished for their failure to make these premises safe, but I am glad that as a result of our actions the tragedy of what could so easily have been multiple fire deaths was prevented. With increasing regularity fire and rescue services across the country are called to fight fires in waste management centres – this clearly demonstrates the level of risk that exists in these types of premises.
" To reduce this risk I have established a dedicated team of officers who, working together with Natural Resources Wales, are working through a list of all the waste management sites in South Wales. My message to the operators of these sites is that if you haven’t been inspected yet, you will be soon. If we identify the same or similar contraventions during these inspections we will prosecute you.
"It is worthy of noting that £5000 was the maximum fine for each offence when these offences occurred; due to recent changes fines are now unlimited. I am pleased to note that the courts consider these matters as seriously as this Service; consequently fines may be significantly more in the future.
"SWFRS works closely with businesses to ensure they comply with the regulations and we are available to offer practical advice and assistance. I urge business owners to contact us if they require advice on how to comply with fire safety legislation and consequently reduce the risk to the communities of South Wales.
"Members of the public who have visited any building in the South Wales area and have concerns about the fire safety in that building can complete a simple form on line via our website, or contact us by e-mail or telephone to report the problem.”Information relating to the duties required by the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 is available at www.southwales-fire.gov.uk or by contacting the Business Fire Safety Department on 01443 232523.