Fines for fire safety breaches are inconsistant

Two recent cases where big high street names have been successfully prosecuted for breaches of The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order (RRO) appear to show that a postcode lottery applies to the penalties imposed for what seem identical offences.

B and M Retail Ltd that operates a chain of stores throughout the country was fined nearly £33,000 after pleading guilty to six offences under the RRO at their store in Mansfield Nottinghamshire. Revealingly the fines were itemised for each offence.

The fines included £4,000 for failure to create a suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment (You would think by now that all businesses should know they MUST conduct a fire risk assessment). There was also a £4,500 fine for having obstructions at fire exits and along fire exit routes plus a £5,000 fine for having fire doors locked.

In comparison retail giant Asda was also convicted and sentenced at Reading Crown Court for two identical offences at their Chippenham branch i.e. obstructed fire escape routes and combustible items obstructing fire doors plus a separate offence of having fire exit doors chained and locked. Asda received a £20,000 fine for each offence plus another £15,000 costs.

I cannot think of any other area of law where the punishment metered out is so arbitrary. Surely it is time to bring consistency and fairness to RRO enforcement?

On a different tack it never ceases to amaze me how creative some people can be in finding new ways to start fires in the home. Earlier this month 20 fire fighters and four fire engines from the London Fire Brigade attended an emergency call to a maisonette on Wartlersville Road in Upper Holloway. According to Watch manager Adam Barnett “two men had wedged a toaster in the on mode and were cooking a tin of spaghetti on top of it.” Left unattended the toaster obviously caught fire.

It turns out that there were no smoke alarms in the property that would have alerted the men to the danger but thankfully they escaped unharmed – and presumably hungry!!!