Fire Safety has always been a hot topic for local authorities due to the devastation and loss of life that fire can cause. The Lakanal House tragedy in 2009 resulted in the death of 6 people, 3 women and 3 children and could have been prevented from spreading, the court has heard.
The court case began yesterday morning with Southwark Council pleading guilty to all 4 counts brought against it by the London Fire Brigade which include:
• Failure to carry out risk assessments
• Failure to take precautions to prevent fire spreading and protect escape means
• Failure to take fire precautions to protect employees and non-employees, and
• Failure to ensure the building had a suitable system of maintenance.
Initially the London Fire Brigade brought 22 charges, which were reduced to 4 by agreement of the parties.
The fire was started by a piece of electrical equipment and quickly spread up the outside of the building into a flat, and subsequently onto the corridor where burning debris fell onto several floors below causing separate fires to start.
The building underwent a major refurbishment during 2006/7 with the councils legal representative expressing “sincere regret for the failures that were present in the building" which included:
· Absence of strips or seals on doors in the building
· Suspended ceilings which lacked cavity barriers which could have reduced the risk of fire spreading, and
· Inadequate fire-resisting boxing-in (or fire protection) to the timber stairs where they cut across the common corridor
Since 2009 Southwark Council has invested £62 million on its fire risk assessment programme and associated fire safety works for all social housing in the borough. This case has highlighted the importance of having fire risk assessments as without one no one can “categorically decide on the fire safety of the building”.
The council has offered to pay the £300,000 legal fees incurred by the London Fire Brigade and will face a fine of £270,000 reduced from £400,000 as the authority pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity.
DASH urges you to heed this case and make fire safety a top priority, we offer training relating to fire safety so please do not hesitate to contact us to ensure you know what your responsibilities are.