Firms fined over student hall fire safety failings
Twenty seven students had been at serious risk, Leeds Crown Court was told. They had moved into the upper ground floor of Trinity Hall, Woodhouse Street, while other floors were still under construction.
The only available fire escape was compromised by combustible materials.
Judge Robin Mairs described the situation as having the “potential for catastrophe.”
Other fire safety failings contributed to the significant risk, including:
- Lack of appropriate fire alarms and detection
- Exposed timber framing
- Storage of flammable items on stairwells
- No markings indicating fire escape routes.
The lack of fire alarms meant that students would not have had early warning to evacuate. Some would have been 35 metres from the nearest fire escape, almost double the recommended limit.
The failings came to light in September 2016 after a concerned father called West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service to report the building. He became concerned by the state of the premises and would not let his daughter stay.
Inspectors from West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service issued a prohibition order and students had to leave for their own safety.
Trinity Developments Ltd, the owners of the building and Niche Homes Ltd, contracted to manage and let the property, admitted:
- Failing to make a suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment.
- Failing to take precautions to make sure the premises were safe from risk of fire.
- Failing to provide appropriate fire detection and alarm system.
- Failing to provide an adequate number of fire escape routes and exits.
APP Construction Ltd, which was contracted to design and build the property, admitted one charge of failing to provide an adequate number of fire escape routes and exits.
Acceptable safety measures are now in place at the building.
Judge Mairs said that all the companies had “high culpability” and that “the risks were so obvious that a member of the public spotted them – so they should have been obvious to the companies involved.”
He fined APP Construction Ltd £450,000, Trinity Developments Ltd £160,000 and Niche Homes Ltd £60,000.
After sentencing, fire service spokesman Chris Kemp said site conditions were such that some senior officers had not seen such blatant disregard for the law and the safety of residents in 28 years.
EP Risk Health and Safety Manager, Mick Brennan, says: “This incident shows that from the design stage the risk of fire must be considered. Students are vulnerable as they are unfamiliar with the surroundings and landlords/letting agents should know their of their responsibilities in the Regulatory Reform Fire Safety Order 2005.
“Fire and Rescue Services are the enforcing authority to ensure student accommodation is legally compliant. It is essential a suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment is completed by a competent person.
“EP Risk Consultancy have former fire officers who are vastly experienced and are MIFireE qualified.”