Hundreds of Shropshire businesses are risking prosecution because they are failing to comply with fire safety legislation, according to an industry expert.
Exactly how many of Shropshire’s 18,000 businesses are in breach of the law is not precisely known but “it is certainly many hundreds and possibly many more” according to Martin Timmis, one of the country’s most respected fire safety experts and Principal Consultant with Shropshire Fire Risk Management Services, a subsidiary of the Shropshire & Wrekin Fire and Rescue Authority.
He says countless businesses in the county are in breach of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order that demands that all businesses must have a “suitable and sufficient” fire risk assessment carried out by a qualified specialist.
“We know that there are hundreds of businesses in Shropshire that are failing to comply but we suspect that that is just the tip of the iceberg,” Martin Timmis said.
Business owners who fail to comply risk criminal prosecution and tough penalties including hefty fines and, in the worst cases, jail sentences. Some businesses have closed after being served with prohibition notices by fire safety officers…
Checks to see that businesses are complying with the law – known as audits – are carried out by fire safety officers from Shropshire Fire & Rescue. This year SFRS officers visited more than 1,700 premises which resulted in further action, including prohibition and prosecution, being taken against a number of them.
Several businesses in Shropshire, including pubs and food outlets where employees were living on the premises, have had restrictions placed on them after fire safety officers decided it was unsafe for people to live on the premises.
Failure to comply with the regulations could bring other problems for companies hoping to win contracts with bigger businesses.
“Most of the biggest and best known businesses in the UK simply will not award contracts to any business that can’t show that it is complying with the fire safety regulations,” Martin Timmis added.
A spokesman for Shropshire Fire & Rescue’s business fire safety inspection team said: “It is our job to make sure that businesses are not putting the lives of employees, customers or themselves at risk and are complying with fire safety regulations.
“If we inspect a business and find that it’s falling short of the required fire safety standards we try to do all we can to help before we move onto further action. Prohibition and prosecution is a last resort but we do use those powers if necessary because, in the end, we are talking about people’s lives.”