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A grammar school foundation has been fined £10,000 at Leeds Crown Court after admitting shortfalls in fire safety precautions at a girls’ high school and a grammar School. The school’s former fire risk assessor was also fined £10,000 for failing to make suitable and sufficient fire risk assessments at the two sites as well as at a nursery school.

The failings came to light after a routine inspection by the Fire Service in February 2017, because the foundation was planning to carry out works on an extension. The court heard that the foundation has a total of 500 employees and the schools cater for 2,100 children in total, ranging in age from three to 18-years-old.

Concerns were raised by Fire Service inspectors, initially at the high school, that coat hooks lined escape routes and there was also a partially obstructed fire exit door. Cloakrooms are deemed ‘high risk’ areas under national guidance issued by the government due to the potential for rapid fire spread and so should not be open to circulation spaces or a means of escape.
Essential fire doors had been removed from cloakrooms on the first and second floors affecting the means of escape from these areas and putting pupils at risk should a fire occur. Further inspections found issues with fire doors which did not close properly. At the nursery school, again coats and bags were stored in an open area, which would have affected the means of escape in the event of a fire. In a staff/reprographics room a final exit door was also blocked. Subsequent inspections of the boy’s school found five areas where coats and bags were stored inappropriately. A final exit door in the main hall was also completely blocked by chairs.

The fire risk assessor started working for the foundation as a Health and Safety Risk Assessor in 2007. He carried out fire risk assessments as part of his role but has since stopped working in this field and was described as deeply remorseful to appear before the court.

The foundation has since upgraded its fire precautions and instructed a new fire risk assessment company. The court heard that once the concerns were raised the foundation acted quickly to rectify them.

At a previous hearing at Leeds Magistrates’ Court guilty pleas were entered to the following charges, all relating to the period February 16th 2017 to 11th March 2017.

The fire risk assessor pleaded guilty to failing to make a suitable and sufficient risk assessment – for the High School, Grammar School and Nursery School.

The Grammar School Foundation pleaded guilty to failing to make a suitable and sufficient risk assessment – High School and Grammar School. The foundation also pleaded guilty to failing to take general fire precautions – High School and Grammar School.

Judge Mairs fined the e Grammar School Foundation £10,000 for failing to take general fire precautions and awarded no further penalty for failing to make a suitable and sufficient risk assessment. The foundation was ordered to pay £14,533 in costs.

The fire risk assessor was fined £10,000 for failing to make a suitable and sufficient risk assessment and was ordered to pay £5,000 costs.

Following the sentencing Chris Kemp, Senior Fire Protection Manager for West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service, said: “This case highlights the importance of not only the duty placed on those responsible for the building, but also those contracted to carry out specialist services such as the Fire Risk Assessment. It is a fundamental pillar in the principles of Fire Safety and anyone appointing someone to carrying out such an assessment or other specialist service needs to ensure they hold the relevant competence.”

Source – FSM

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