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Fire Risk Businesses 'Gambling With Their Future'
Steve James, News Editor
Almost half the businesses inspected by North Yorkshire fire chiefs over a recent 12-month period failed their safety audit, a new report has revealed.

The study, by fire-risk assessors Safety Management (UK) reveals that of the 2,969 audits carried out between April 2011 and March 2012, 1,416 were found to be unsatisfactory by the fire service's safety experts. In 38 of the cases the failings were so severe an enforcement notice was served on the business.

'The figures suggest that business is still not getting it right when it comes to managing their own fire safety,' said Brian Gregory, Managing Director of Safety Management (UK).

A false sense of security among business owners lies at the heart of the problem, Mr Gregory believes. 'Businesses and organisations are still gambling with their future by cutting back on vital safety work,' he said.

'...putting fire safety to the bottom of their priorities is a false economy.'
False Economy

Putting off fire-risk assessments and cutting back on vital maintenance and investment in safety measures are significant problems in the commercial sector in Yorkshire and beyond, he believes.

'Small businesses are feeling the pressure of the recession and they are looking to save money where they can, but putting fire safety to the bottom of their priorities is a false economy,' he said.

And simply reacting to the threat from fire is not enough, Mr Gregory believes. 'Often business owners and managers feel that by having fire extinguishers in place and a fire detection system in their building they are covered.'

Mr Gregory's words support those from fire chiefs nationwide, who've been calling for a far more proactive approach to the hazards of fire, including regular and complete fire-risk assessments, competently done and acted upon.

'Managing your own fire safety stems from completing a fire risk assessment,' he said. 'Once you have completed your fire risk assessment it is critical that you work on significant findings that the assessment identifies.

'But unless the assessment is completed by a competent person there is no guarantee that the fire detection is the right system for the building - does it need extending? Is the emergency lighting in place adequate?

'The simple fact is that without an understanding of the rules and regulations and fire safety management, how can a risk assessment be deemed suitable and sufficient by the enforcing authorities?'

Our Dangerous Houses

The fire safety message comes as the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) announced shock figures showing a steep rise in the numbers of accidental deaths in the home.

While road deaths in the UK have declined by about a third since the 1990s, the survey found, with just over 2,000 people dying each year in traffic accidents, accidental deaths in the home have leapt by 50 per cent to 5,000 per year. This means that that two-and-half times more people die through accident in the home than on the roads, which used to be the more dangerous of the two.

'Slips, trips and falls' account for most of the fatalities, while another significant cause is carbon monoxide poisoning. As reported here by The Yorkshire Times up to 3.5 million people in Yorkshire are still needlessly putting themselves at risk from this deadly gas, often because they mistakenly believe smoke alarms will warn them of its presence.

Commenting on the sharply widening death rates between the homes and our roads, Tom Mullarkey, RoSPA Chief Executive, said: 'Deaths on Britain's road have thankfully come down markedly in recent decades, but that hasn't happened by chance.

'It has been due to a systematic road safety strategy led by the Department for Transport, with the support of many partners such as RoSPA. The DfT has done a great job.

'Sadly, there have been no equivalent approach to safety in the home for over 20 years.'


Fire Risk Businesses 'Gambling With Their Future', 7th January 2013, 9:28 AM