Over 600 prosecutions have taken place since the Regulatory (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (The FSO) came into force in 2006. The Order dictates that where premises exist as a workplace, the Employer is usually the person, or organization with responsibilities for fire safety. Every employer should be mindful of their fire risk management responsibilities, but here are 10 situations which employers may not be aware of: Employers can still be liable in law for any wrongful acts of their employees under the fire safety order. An employer may believe that the very best fire safety policies and procedures are in place. Staff may have been well trained and provided with all the necessary information as to what to do in the event of a fire. But if a staff member puts the lives of others at risk, even if he has not done what he was told or trained to do, the employer can still be liable. Article 32 (11) states “nothing in this order operates so as to afford an employer a defence in any criminal proceedings for a contravention of those provisions (contained in the Fire Safety Order) by reason of any act or default of-an employee of his;” hence, an employer is ultimately responsible for the actions of his staff, if they do not follow the appropriate procedures. There is no due diligence defence available to...Read More
There are a number of potential offences contained within the Fire Safety Order (FSO), but there is only one prescribed defence available, and that is the defence of due diligence contained within article 33. The due diligence defence is common throughout regulatory law, such as health and safety and food safety, but the relevant legislation does not usually detail what precautions, procedures and safety measures will be required to satisfy the defence. In the area of health and safety there is a raft of case law, which can guide defendants as to the way in which the courts have approached due diligence in past cases, but I am not aware of any helpful case law in relation to due diligence in fire safety cases. Article 33 states: “… It is a defence for the person charged to prove that he took all reasonable precautions and exercised all due diligence to avoid the commission of such an offence.” (ie under the FSO) Significantly, article 33 does not provide a defence of due diligence to employers in relation to the failure to take general fire precautions to ensure the safety of employees (article 8 (1) (a)), due to the strict liability nature of that article; or in relation to the elimination or reduction of risks from dangerous substances (article 12). In all of the cases I have conducted under the FSO,...Read More
I appreciate that investigating fire officers are not police officers, and that the investigation of potential criminal offences is not the reason why people join the fire service. Nevertheless, once a role in a fire safety or fire protection Department is accepted, the enforcement of the Fire Safety Order, and the investigation of potential criminal offences is likely to be part of the job at some stage. I have trained fire officers for over 10 years in the investigation of criminal offences, and part of that training often involves the PACE interview process. One of the biggest training issues that arises, is that investigating fire officers are usually “too nice” during mock interviews. They have a tendency to believe everything that the suspect tells them, or at least they do not wish to challenge the suspect as vigorously as is sometimes needed. There is also a fear of falling foul of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act requirements when going through the interview process. I always tell fire officers that if they can cover 5 main areas, then they won’t go far wrong. First of all, they must master the caution and be able to explain its significance. Then (Secondly) they must notify the suspect that they are not under arrest, and (thirdly) can leave at any time. The suspect must also be told that he can (fourthly), consult...Read More
A company which operates The Wizard pub in Nether Alderley has been prosecuted for failing to put in place adequate fire safety measures. The case against the Bispham Green Brewery Company Ltd began shortly after midnight on Wednesday 16 August 2016, when a member of staff reported a fire at the Macclesfield Road pub. Fire crews quickly attended the scene and on arrival they discovered a fire in the kitchen area. Thankfully, the member of staff who reported the incident had managed to exit the building, but they had difficulty in doing so, having to return to the first floor on two occasions to retrieve the keys to locked fire exits. Warren Spencer, Prosecuting, told the Court that fire crews that attended the incident and extinguished the fire noted a number of fire safety issues at the pub and a prohibition notice was issued by fire safety enforcement officers to prevent anyone from living or sleeping at the premises until health and safety controls had been put in place. A post fire inspection carried out by Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service (CFRS) at the premises established the severity of the shortfalls, including locked fire escapes, inadequate fire separation between floors and the absence of a fire alarm system within the staff living quarters. Bisphan Green Brewery Company Ltd admitted failing to comply with the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order...Read More
Warren Spencer has surprisingly been named in the IFSEC Global “Top Influencers in Fire and Security” list for 2018, being ranked number one in the Fire industry professionals or thought leaders category. Warren is one of the country’s leading fire safety lawyers having prosecuted and defended fire safety cases for over 12 years, working for a number of Fire and Rescue Services in England and Wales. His website www.firesafetylaw.co.uk has become the go-to portal for news, expert opinion and training relating to the Fire Safety Order. “I’m surprised and delighted to have been ranked so highly by IFSEC and named alongside so many well respected people within the fire safety industry. The law around fire safety is particularly niche, but has received far more media coverage in the last twelve months as businesses and housing providers realise what their exposure could be under the Fire Safety Order” said Warren. Warren has become a regular speaker at industry events and training courses around the country, providing both legal insight and practical advice. “I’m planning to develop the website further, particularly on the training side as there’s an increased demand within both the public and private sector for training on where responsibility lies for fire safety and what organisations need to do ensure they are complying with relevant legislation.” The top ten list and details of Warren’s nomination can be found...Read More
Warren Spencer is one of the country’s leading fire safety lawyers. He has now prosecuted and defended fire safety cases for over 12 years and has also conducted numerous Enforcement and Prohibition Notice Appeals brought under the Fire Safety Order. He is able to offer impartial professional expert legal advice in all aspects of fire safety enforcement.
Warren is a Higher Courts Advocate, an accreditation which enables him to work as an advocate in the Crown Court. Warren has conducted prosecutions for Lancashire, Greater Manchester, Humberside, Cumbria, Cheshire, Merseyside, Hereford & Worcester, Shropshire and Wrekin Fire & Rescue Services, as well as advising businesses and professionals on various aspects of Fire Safety Law including its effect upon PFI contracts.
Warren is a part-time Tribunal Judge and in 2015 he was appointed as a 'Legally Qualified Chair' for Police Disciplinary proceedings in the North West. He is also a former Assistant Deputy Coroner for Blackpool and Fylde.
Tel: 01253 629300