25 September 2014
London Fire Brigade (LFB) has reported that one of the country’s biggest care home providers, Anchor Trust, has been ordered to pay £170,622, this week, for contravening fire safety laws following a fire in which a woman died.
Mrs Paula Parle, who suffered from dementia, died following a fire in her room at the home for elderly people in Bermondsey, London, on 26 March 2010. LFB’s investigators determined that the fire was caused by Mrs Parle's nightwear coming into contact with a naked flame.
London Fire Brigade investigators found that Anchor Trust did not have suitable and sufficient risk assessments based on the people in its care and that Rose Court did not take into account the fire hazards its elderly residents might encounter.
Fire risk assessment
“The investigation found that although the general fire risk assessment for the home identified smoking as a risk, further assessment specifically in respect of Mrs Parle had not been carried out as required by Anchor Trust’s own policies. As a result measures to reduce the risk had not been properly considered or put into place,” said LFB.
Anchor Trust staff failed to notice and respond to clear warning signs including cigarette burn marks on the carpet. Mrs Parle's family had previously asked staff to manage the amount she smoked. And Rose Court did put together a policy which would limit Mrs Parle's access to cigarettes and lighters and monitor her smoking, however this wasn't effectively monitored.
Danger signs ignored
Deputy Commissioner Rita Dexter said: "Mrs Parle's death could have been prevented. The danger signs were clear but Rose Court did not regularly update the fire risk assessments of everyone in its care, which would have helped staff to realise that a smoking related fire was likely if Mrs Parle was left to smoke unsupervised.
"It is absolutely shocking that some of the most vulnerable people in our society are still dying from fires in places where they should be safe. Every care home needs to look at their fire risk assessments and tailor them to meet the real needs of the individual residents in their care.
"The care industry needs to work with us to prevent fires by training staff to pick up on the early warning signs that residents could be at risk from fire and then acting quickly to put measures in place to protect them."
Anchor Trust pleaded guilty to two breaches
Article 9(1) – Failure to make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to which relevant persons are exposed (fine £60,000) and
Article 11(1) – Failure by the responsible person to effectively plan, organize, control, monitor and review the preventive and protective measures at the premises (fine £60,000)
The Brigade was awarded costs of £50,622.
Commercial buildings, non-domestic and multi-occupancy premises in England and Wales are already forced to undertake a 'suitable and sufficient' fire risk assessment carried out under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.
While the overwhelming majority of premises do this, if the assessment is thought to have been carried out to an insufficient extent, the Responsible Person can face an unlimited fine or up to two years in prison.