25 February 2015

The owners of a care home for mentally ill and vulnerable people have been found guilty of breaching several fire safety regulations following a blaze at the premises in May 2013.

Midshires Healthcare Ltd, which owns the care home in Riddings, a village in Derbyshire, was sentenced for four breaches of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 at Derby Magistrates’ Court on 19 February and fined £4000 per offence plus costs of £11,477 and a victim surcharge of £120.

The fire had started in one of the resident’s bedrooms on the first floor, and upon inspection afterwards, firefighters discovered that fire doors were wedged open, self-closing door devices had been removed or were ineffective, some fire doors were ill-fitting and combustible furnishings were blocking escape routes.

All residents were safely taken from the building and no one was hurt, but Derbyshire Fire & Rescue Service area manager Steve McLernon said: “If the fire had occurred a few hours later when the residents were asleep, the outcome could have been much worse. 

“The means of escape were obstructed with furniture, some fire doors were damaged or ineffective and the escape lighting and fire alarm were not maintained.”

Investigations also revealed that the care homes’ fire risk assessment had not been reviewed since 5 May 2012, action “which would have probably identified the deficiencies and the measures required to make the premises safe from fire,” said Mr McLernon.

Derbyshire Fire & Rescue Service inspects care homes in the county for fire safety compliance in conjunction with the Care Quality Commission and Mr McLernon added: “Derbyshire Fire & Rescue Service would like to remind all care providers of their legal responsibility to protect their residents against the risk of fire. 

“This case serves as a stark warning that the fire service will consider action against anyone found to be in breach of fire safety regulations and where they fail to comply with any statutory notices issued.

“The service will advise and give support to both local and national businesses and are always willing to help make sure they comply with fire safety legislation. 

“However, the public should continue to be reassured that legal action will be used when necessary, where any serious breaches of fire safety regulations are identified.”

Original sources

Derbyshire Fire & Rescue Service 

Derbyshire Times 

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.