Care home owners admit fire safety breaches

The owners, and indeed the manager of a residential care home in Newcastle have been fined more than £22,000 for breaching fire safety regulations.

Tirsul Ltd, the owners of Bowland Lodge, pleaded guilty at Newcastle Magistrates Court on Monday, February 21, to five charges relating to serious contraventions of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

The Manager of Bowland Lodge, Linda Parkin, was also fined £2,000 plus £400 costs after pleading guilty to one charge relating to a locked fire exit.

The charges were brought by Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service following a fire at the care home on August 18, 2009. Fire crews found one of the fire exits had been chocked and nailed shut and a padlock had been fitted!!

The charges against the owners related to the locked fire exit, failure to have a suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment, lack of compartmentation to prevent smoke spread, inadequately maintained floors, walls and ceilings to prevent fire spreading and an unsafe external escape route due to building work. Magistrates imposed a total fine of £18,750 and ordered payment of costs totalling £1,600.

Group Manager Darren Boddy of Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, said “We try to work with organisations to create the safest community, and our enforcement programme is proportionate to the risk involved. However, where there are serious or regular breaches of fire regulations which endanger lives we will take legal action.

“In this case the breaches placed the residents, staff and visitors at Bowland Lodge in serious danger of death or injury in the event of a fire or other emergency, and we were left with no alternative but to pursue the matter in court.”

Interestingly, many new care homes are now installing fire sprinkler systems and will soon be required to do so by law. A sprinkler system for this particular care home in Newcastle would probably have cost less than the fines incurred, and certainly less than the repair work that is needed to bring it up to scratch.