All posts by Paul King

London Fire Brigade urges high rise landlords to do more to protect their vulnerable residents from fire

6 months on from the horrific fire at Grenfell Tower London Fire Brigade is calling for landlords to retrofit sprinklers in all high rise blocks and other buildings with vulnerable residents.

Fire Chiefs are also calling for all new high rise buildings to be fitted with sprinklers as standard.

The Brigade’s Assistant Commissioner for Fire Safety, Dan Daly, said: “Sprinklers are the only system which detects a fire, suppresses a fire and raises the alarm and we believe they are vitally important as part of a package of fire safety measures, particularly in buildings where there are vulnerable people such as care-homes and schools.

“We have long been campaigning about the benefits of sprinklers, which save lives and property and also improve firefighter safety.

What the Brigade is calling for:

• All new residential developments over 18m in height to be fitted with sprinklers
• Existing residential blocks over 18m in height should be retrofitted with sprinklers
• Sprinklers to be mandatory in all new school builds and major refurbishments
• All new residential care homes and sheltered accommodation to be fitted with sprinklers
• Existing residential care homes and sheltered accommodation to be retrofitted with sprinklers

The Brigade also strongly advocates the use of sprinklers in:

• All homes occupied by the most vulnerable in our communities
• All other residential properties including hotels, hostels and student accommodation, over 18m in height
• All new London Fire Brigade buildings

The Brigade will continue to promote the installation in the following types of properties throughout London:

• Heritage buildings
• Basements
• Large warehouses

The Brigade address myths around costs

Assistant Commissioner Daly added: “There has long been a myth that sprinkler systems are very expensive and of course costs vary depending on the type of system, but for example in schools if they are incorporated from the design stage, sprinklers are around 1% of the total build cost.

“There are also self-contained watermist systems which are designed to provide protection to vulnerable individuals who may be at increased risk of fire and have mobility issues which affect their ability to escape. These Personal Protection Systems (PPS) can be installed in one room of a property where a vulnerable person spends most of their time.”

The work being done by Waltham Forest Council includes fitting sprinklers in three of its sheltered housing buildings. The work is being partly funded by a one-off grant from the Brigade’s Community Safety Investment Fund and existing council budgets.

The Community Investment Fund was set up to help protect individuals and communities across London that most need it. More than £2million in fire prevention grants have been awarded from the fund for a variety of projects from smoke alarms and fire retardant bedding to arson proof letter boxes and ashtrays.

 

£200,000 fine for work at height breaches

A London based construction company, Pride Way Development Ltd, has today been fined for repeatedly failing to manage and control fall from height risks.

Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard how, after concerns were raised by both workers and members of the public, HSE inspectors made a number of visits during 2016/17 to sites where Pride Way Development Limited had been appointed the principal contractor. On these visits, inspectors identified a number of serious health and safety failings, including unsafe work at height.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that Pride Way had repeatedly breached health and safety legislation which gave rise to significant risk of harm, with four notices served for unsafe work at height in the past five years. A HSE intervention in 2013 resulted in the company drawing up a comprehensive work at height policy which subsequent inspections showed was being ignored.

Pride Way Development Ltd of Harrow Road, Wembley, Middlesex, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 13(1) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015. The company has been fined £200,000 and ordered to pay costs of £1,499.40

Speaking after the case, HSE Inspector Gabriella Dimitrov said: “Falls from height remain one of the most common causes of work fatalities in this country, and the risks associated with working at height are well-known.

“Pride Way has been repeatedly warned by HSE about the need to manage risks, and have today been held to account for failing to take adequate action to protect the health and safety of its workers.”

Local authority fined after social workers assaulted

A local authority has been fined after two of its social workers were assaulted on a home visit by the mother of a vulnerable child they were visiting.

Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard how, on 21 July 2015, two social workers employed by London Borough of Brent visited the home of a vulnerable child to carry out a child safety plan assessment. While note-taking, both social workers were struck over the head with a metal object by the mother, resulting in one of them being knocked temporarily unconscious. While both received serious wounds to the head, the social worker knocked unconscious was later diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
The investigation by the Health and Safety Executive found the local authority failed to follow its corporate lone working policy or violence and aggression guidance. No risk assessment was completed and staff were not trained accordingly. London Borough of Brent also failed to add an aggression marker to make the social workers aware of the hazards posed by the mother who was known to have a history of violence.

London Borough of Brent of Brent Civic Centre, Wembley pleaded guilty of breaching the Health & Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, section 2(1) and were fined £100,000 and ordered to pay costs of £10,918.88

After the hearing, HSE inspector Neil Fry commented: “Violent and aggressive incidents are the third biggest cause of injuries reported to HSE from the health and social care sector.

“The local authority in this case failed to adhere to and implement its own systems and procedure for the management of lone working and violence and aggression against social workers. This risk could have been reduced in a number of ways including carrying out the visit in a controlled environment, such as the local social workers’ office.”

 

Suspended Prison Sentence for Fire Safety Breaches

A Bethnal Green guest house owner who removed the staircase from his property has been hit with a £250,000 fine and a six month suspended prison sentence after being successfully prosecuted by London Fire Brigade.

Fire officers described the ‘City View Guest House’ on Cambridge Heath Road E2 as a ‘potential death trap.’

Mehmood Butt (55) of Mile End was sentenced at Southwark Crown Court on Friday (17 November) after pleading guilty to four offences under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.  In addition to the fine and suspended prison sentence he was ordered to pay full prosecution costs of £14,200 and given a nightly curfew of 21:00 – 06:00.

Mr Butt was converting the building into guest house accommodation from a house of multiple occupation. This involved removing the internal staircase to put in a lift and fitting an open external staircase to the rear of the property which would provide the only emergency means of escape.

The work went ahead despite a Building Regulations application for the refurbishment being turned down due to safety concerns by the London Borough of Tower Hamlets.

Following a visit to the site by building inspectors in March 2014 the Brigade was alerted and fire safety officers visited the premises and issued an Enforcement Notice requiring the inadequate emergency stairs and other fire safety defects to be addressed

2 Serious Fires Caused by Portable Electric Heaters in Less Than 2 Weeks

London Fire Brigade have made renewed and repeated warnings about the risks associated with portable electric heaters, following 2 serious fires in less than 2 weeks in London.  Regular subscribers to this blog will recall a similar warning issued by LFB back in January this year.  electric-heater-warning-after-shop-blaze

In one, four fire engines and around 21 firefighters and officers were called to a fire at a block of flats on Sunbeam Crescent in North Kensington.

Five people left the building via an internal staircase before the Brigade arrived. They were treated on the scene for smoke inhalation by London Ambulance Service before being taken to hospital. Around 15 people evacuated from the rest of the building before the Brigade arrived.

The fire is believed to have been caused by a portable heater being left on overnight.   The flat had no working smoke alarms and so fire was able to develop for some time.

A spokesperson for the Brigade said: “Always unplug unused heaters and other electrical items and don’t leave them on overnight. It’s also crucial to have working smoke alarms in your home. Never leave it to chance that you will discover a fire.

“Everyone should have at least one working smoke alarm on every level of their home and test them regularly. This will give the earliest warning if there is a fire in your home.”

Less than 2 weeks earlier in another part of London, three people had a lucky escape after a heater, which was being kept in a storage room, was accidently switched on causing a fire on George Lane in Hither Green.

Fire investigators believe that something accidently switched on the heater’s isolator switch and then items which were being stored on top of the heater began to smoulder and eventually burst into flames.

Worse still, it is reported that the house had no working smoke alarms and so fire was able to develop for some time before one of the occupants thankfully smelt smoke. All three people were able to escape without injury.

A London Fire Brigade spokesperson is reported to have said:

“Always unplug unused heaters and other electrical items, it’s surprisingly easy to accidently knock a switch on. It’s also crucial to have working smoke alarms in your home. Never leave it to chance that you will discover a fire.

“Everyone should have at least one working smoke alarm on every level of their home and test them regularly. This will give the earliest warning if there is a fire in your home.

Shockingly over two thirds of fatal fires involving heaters are caused by clothing or furniture being too close.  People need to ensure all heaters are standing upright and kept well away from clothes, curtains or furniture.”

The Brigade’s advice for portable heaters

  • Secure heaters against a wall to stop them falling over, or fit wall-mounted heaters
  • Keep heaters away from clothes, curtain and furniture
  • Sit at least one metre away from a heater as it could set light to your clothes or chair, especially if you fall asleep
  • Always turn off your heater and allow it to cool before moving it

30th Anniversary of Kings Cross Fire that Claimed 31 Lives

The early evening of 18th November 1987.  The height of rush hour for thousands of commuters and tourists travelling through London.  a fire broke out and ripped through the station concourse, having taken hold in an escalator plant room.

31 people lost their lives that evening, including one of the firefighters who battled to save them, Station Officer Colin Townsley who had entered the station with colleagues to assess the situation.  100 were left injured by the fire and many many more left traumatised.

This weekend and the coming few days will see  numerous news reports and retrospectives looking back and highlighting some of the lessons that could have, should have been learnt from this tragic and horrific event.

Who would have imagined that 30 years on, no more than a few miles across London, another huge fire would break out and cause enormous loss of life once again.

As a direct result of the fire and loss of life that evening in 1987 and following a public enquiry, important changes were made in fire precautions especially on the underground. Wooden escalators were removed and underground staff were trained in recognising what they should do in the event of fire.

Members of the fire brigade, emergency services, victims families and others affected by the blaze will attend a special service on Saturday 18th November 2017 – 30 years on.

Firework safety

Were you aware that:

It is an offence for anyone under the age of 18 to possess fireworks in public places and an offence for anyone, other than a firework professional, to possess professional display fireworks.

Police have the power to issue fixed penalty notices to those under the age of 18 caught with fireworks in a public place.

It is illegal to set off fireworks between 11pm and 7am. On 5 November, displays can continue until midnight and on certain occasions, such as New Year’s Eve, Diwali and Chinese New Year, fireworks can be set off until 1am.

With the 5th November fast approaching thoughts turn to fire work and bonfire safety.  Most Fire Brigades in the UK provide advice via their websites.  We have summarised below the key points.

  •   Only buy fireworks marked with the British Standard Kitemark BS7114
  • Don’t drink alcohol if setting off fireworks
  • Keep fireworks in a closed box and always follow the instructions carefully when using them
  • Light them at arms length using a taper and stand well back
  • Never go back to them once they are lit. Even if a firework hasn’t gone off, it could still explode
  • Never throw fireworks and never put them in your pocket
  • Respect your neighbours – don’t let off fireworks late at night and remember there are laws to follow
  • Take care with sparklers – never give them to children under five. Even when they have gone out they are still hot so put sparklers in a bucket of water after use
  • Keep your pets indoors throughout the evening

Attending well organised events you will often have the chance to see better, more spectacular displays than anything you could put on yourself.

 

 

Brigade warns: Avoid Halloween horror and take care with candles

London Fire Brigade are urging party goers to avoid getting an unnecessary fright this Halloween by ensuring their costumes are kept well away from candles and naked flames.

Candles are one of the biggest causes of fires in the home and can be particularly dangerous if you are wearing clothing or fancy dress.

Keep costumes away from candles

Fancy dress costumes often have tassels, capes and other adornments which trail and can easily catch light if they accidentally brush against a naked flame. That is why it is absolutely crucial candles are kept well away from flammable items to minimise the risk of serious fire and injury.

125 candle related fires and 47 injuries

In the last six years during the period between 22 October to 13 November London firefighters have attended 143 fires involving candles, incense and oil burners. During the same period 47 people have been injured in candle related fires.

In a high profile incident in 2015 TV Presenter Claudia Winkleman championed the cause for safer Halloween costumes after her then eight-year-old daughter was hurt when the costume she was wearing caught fire.

Following Claudia’s high-profile campaign, several retailers agreed to increase fire safety standards on all their children’s dressing-up ranges.

LFB top candle and costume safety tips

• Keep candles well away from items that could catch fire like fancy dress costumes
• Only buy children’s Halloween costumes from reputable outlets
• Look for the CE safety mark on outfits
• Place candles on a heat resistant surface, like a ceramic plate
• Never leave a candle unattended
• Always fully extinguish a candle before going to sleep or going out

Unsecured swing barrier causes severe injuries and leads to fine and costs

A West Yorkshire sports club has been fined after a postal worker sustained severe injuries when a swing barrier shattered the windscreen of his van and struck him in the face.

According to information entered in the court hearing, on the morning of the incident a member of the club had not secured the barrier to its latch after opening it and that the failure had been an isolated occurrence. It was told this was an unusual case involving a “one-off individual failure” .

The court also heard that since the incident a notice about locking the barrier in position had been put on the gate and a metal column had been welded to the barrier to stop it penetrating the windscreen of any other vehicle.

The club admitted breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act etc 1974 and after considering the legal submissions and sentencing guidelines Judge Burn fined the club £140 for the offence.
The Judge commented that it was clear that on all other occasions the barrier had been secured and it was not a case involving an unsafe system.

“It seems to me that a fine in those circumstances is unavoidable as a disposal in this case,” he concluded.

The judge had been asked to order investigation and legal costs totalling about £4,000, but after hearing about the club’s financial position he decided to make them pay just £146 with a victim surcharge of £14.

“This a not for profit club which is an essential part of the fabric of the community in which it operates, run by volunteers for people of all ages,” he pointed out.

A Bradford Council spokesperson said: “This was a very unfortunate incident that caused serious injury and could have had potentially fatal consequences. We would urge any business that has a similar swing gate on their premises to check and ensure it is being operated safely.”

Fire Door Safety Week is Here

The campaign to raise awareness of the importance of properly specified, installed and maintained fire doors is underway this week.

A door’s a door’s a door, right? No, a fire door is an engineered safety device.

Fire doors are a crucial part of the passive fire protection of every commercial, public and multiple occupancy building.  They save lives and property.

According to the trade bodies, there are about 3 million new fire doors bought and installed every year in the UK, the vast majority made from timber. Fire doors are often the first line of defence in a fire and their correct specification, maintenance and management can be the difference between life and death for building occupants. However, they remain a significant area of neglect, often the first thing to be downgraded on a specification and mismanaged throughout their service life, propped open, damaged and badly maintained. Consequently, Fire Door Safety Week has been created:

  • To raise awareness of the critical role of fire doors, drawing attention to specific issues such as poor installation and maintenance.
  • To encourage building owners and users to check the operation and condition of their fire doors and to report those that aren’t satisfactory.
  • To link together the initiatives of many organisations with common interests in the fire door and passive fire protection industries.
  • To engage and educate people, helping the whole building industry and every property owner to understand the correct specification, supply, installation, operation, inspection and maintenance of fire doors.

Fire doors save lives. Help us raise awareness about the importance of fire doors.  #FireDoorSafetyWeek

What the video here http://firedoorsafetyweek.co.uk/video-specification-installation/