The news that Shell International that pillar of the industry and one of the world’s largest companies was fined a record £300,000 over deficiencies in fire safety at the Shell Centre in central London should strike a warning bell to all businesses large and small.
I raised this issue here some months ago to warn that the enforcement of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (RRO) was moving up the agenda with our Fire and Rescue Services.
London Fire Brigade (LFB) brought the prosecution following two small fires in three weeks at the Shell Centre on York Road, Waterloo following which Fire Officers found extensive breaches of the new legislation, including blocked escape routes and fire exits, defective fire doors and excessive fire loading. Shell pleaded guilty at the Inner London Crown court to three breaches of the RRO. It was the largest fine imposed thus far under the measure. The company was also ordered to pay £45,000 in costs.
If you are unlucky enough to have a fire incident on your premises that requires the attendance of the Fire Services you can expect them to put out the fire, but also be prepared for them to scrutinise your fire safety provisions with a fine tooth comb for non conformance with the RRO. And at just the moment when you think things can’t get worse!!
If any of you out there are saying to yourself “what the blazes is the RRO” (pun intended) take a look at http://www.opsi.gov.uk/si/si2005/20051541.htm It’s a great URL and a great read.
Of course the prospect of exacting juicy fines is bound to encourage the enforcers and those that enforce the enforcers, however I think more central investment in communicating the key RRO provisions to the mass of small business owners out there without a degree in Government speak would be an appropriate quid pro quo. If only.