European union directive – man jailed for fire safety breaches

European union directive – man jailed for fire safety breaches

If you have a processing, engineering or manufacturing business you will, or should, be well aware of your legal responsibilities under the Regulatory Reform (fire safety) Order. Prosecutions of these types of businesses, and also others in Retail and Commerce sectors for non compliance with the RRO have risen exponentially since it reached the Statute Book in 2005. The prosecutions have raised billions of Pounds in fines most notable being the £300k for Shell International and the £537K including costs paid out by New Look for its RRO transgressions.

Automatic Fire ExtinguisherThese mind boggling figures are intended to “encourage” (read terrorise) small businesses into taking the RRO seriously although when it comes to fines the Courts appear to me to apply an entirely arbitrary ability to pay approach based on what your business is worth rather than what you have done. As a result two fines for the identical offence can vary by at least a factor of 20 depending on the name on your letterhead and the bottom line of your P&L.

The RRO apart a recent Court case should also make you take a fresh look at the EU Machinery Directive a piece of legislation devised in Brussels but now adopted and legal in the UK as from 29th Dec 2009. In particular take a look at clause 3.5.2. This 5 liner requires machinery to be designed so as to “allow easily accessible fire extinguishers to be fitted” and or “be provided with a built in extinguisher system” which I read as a fixed automatic fire extinguisher. Automatic Fire Extinguishers can be easily retrofitted above process machinery as standalone units and are often seen protecting plant generators and engines within boats.

Why is this important? Well last week, in the first use of the EU Machinery Directive to prosecute a company for fire safety failings a court in Turin, Italy sentenced the manager of the Italian branch of the steelmaker ThyssenKrupp to sixteen and a half years in prison. He was found guilty of murder over charges relating to the deaths of seven workers in a fire at the plant in 2007. Five other senior managers at the works were found guilty of manslaughter and received at least 10 years apiece.
ThyssenKrupp was also fined 1 million Euros but intends to appeal. Like I say this legislation applies in the UK so like the RRO those that fall under its umbrella should take it seriously.

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