sentence has been handed out to a landlord
for breaches of the new fire safety
regulations. This is the first custodial
sentence of its kind to be given in London.
The director of the company involved was
sentenced to 4 months imprisonment and his
company, Watchacre Properties Limited, was
fined £21,000 for serious breaches of the
Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.
The prosecution was instigated
following a fatal fire at a building owned
by the company.
There were numerous charges related to
failures in making sufficient assessment of
risk, making and giving effect to
appropriate fire safety arrangements,
providing appropriate fire lighting
equipment, providing appropriate fire
detection measures including smoke alarms in
the common parts, ensuring that there were
adequate evacuation procedures and
protecting escape routes, allowing
combustible materials to be stored in the
exit routes, installing adequate emergency
signage and establishing appropriate
procedures to be followed in the event of a
serious or imminent fire.
So what can be learned from this?
(a) There is a willingness on the part of
the authorities to prosecute for breaches of
the Regulatory Reform Order and a
willingness on the part of the courts to
hand out custodial sentences and heavy fines
where the court considers such breaches are
(b) Directors cannot hide behind the
“corporate veil” for breaches of the
Regulatory Reform Order.
What do you need to do?
If you have not already carried out a fire
risk assessment of your business premises
then you need to do so now.
If your organisation is large enough,
appoint a person competent to carry out the
fire risk assessment and if necessary have
someone trained to fill that role and make
staff aware of what they have to do in the
event of a fire.
Ensure that you have adequate fire detection
measures and fire fighting equipment and
that you have the necessary emergency exits,
which must be kept clear at all times.
If you are the tenant of business premises,
you will be responsible for complying with
the Regulatory Reform Order. Make sure that
any alterations you have to carry out to
comply with the Order do not breach the
terms of your lease.
If you have made a fire risk assessment,
ensure that it is regularly reviewed to take
into account any changed circumstances or
alterations to the premises.
For those reading this who are fortunate
enough to own apartment blocks, if there are
parts of the building which your tenants
share e.g. halls, staircases, landing etc,
note that this will be classed as business
premises for the purposes of the Order, so
you must have carried out a fire risk
assessment and taken any action which is
If you are an occupant of business premises
in a building which is also shared with
other businesses, you are responsible for
your own fire risk assessment, which would
need to be assimilated into the fire risk
assessment of your landlord. If your
landlord has not carried out its own fire
risk assessment then you should remind him
(or his agents) of his health and safety
responsibilities and the consequences that
might flow from his failure in putting a
fire risk assessment in place.
If an insurer has to meet a claim which has
arisen as a result of your failure to comply
with the Order it may well take proceedings
against you for recovery of the compensation
paid under the claim.
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