Unsupervised pool death costs hotel £135k

Liverpool’s largest hotel must pay a £135,000 penalty after a visitor drowned in its swimming pool.
Madhav Cherukuri, who had borrowed a friend’s pass to go for a swim, was discovered unconscious at the bottom of the Adelphi Hotel’s Spindles health club pool on 30 August 2006. The lifeguard had been in another room.
Cherukuri was dragged from the pool and two nurses who were visiting the health club attempted to revive him using mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, but it was too late to save him.
Though there were no witnesses to the drowning, other swimmers said Cherukuri had been holding his breath under water and he may have been at the bottom of the pool for up to 20 minutes before he was found.
A Liverpool City Council investigation revealed the hotel, which has more than 400 rooms, had carried out a risk assessment in 2003 that identified the danger of drowning in the swimming pool, but failed to flag up the need for a lifeguard to supervise the pool constantly.
Liverpool Crown Court heard that in the months leading up to the incident there had been no lifeguard on duty on at least 14 occasions and lifeguards at the health club received no refresher training.
Britannia Adelphi Hotel admitted breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act, for failing to ensure a customer’s safety.
The hotel was fined £65,000 and ordered to pay £70,000 in costs.

Restaurant owner fined for ten breaches of Fire Safety Order

A restaurant owner has been fined £15,000 for ten breaches of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 following a serious fire.
When crews arrived at the China Wok restaurant in Stokesley, north Yorkshire they found a fire on the ground floor of the premises. Two people who were trapped on the upper floors were rescued by firefighters and taken to hospital.
Following the fire, investigations found that the owner, Mr Shun Lin Lam, had failed to address a number of fire safety deficiencies and allowed people to sleep in the premises, despite not having an adequate means of escape, a fire alarm, a fire detection system, any emergency lighting or fire extinguishers.
Mr Lan pleaded guilty to the breaches at Northallerton Magistrates Court on Monday 2 August.
Ms Karen Galloway, prosecuting, said the decision to prosecute was not taken lightly. “The responsible person is always in a position of authority; their lack of actions should have been foreseeable to prevent, in the event of fire, persons being put at risk of death or injury. The contraventions in this case were serious and would have continued had the fire authority not acted immediately by serving a prohibition notice on the responsible person.”
North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service said that in imposing the fine, the magistrates stated there was a balance to make. On the one hand, two lives could have been lost inside a property which was a fire hazard and where little money had been spent for a very long time. On the other hand, the defendant had not wilfully refused to do the upgrade works required and had fully co-operated with the courts and fire authority, but had been ignorant of fire safety regulations.

Landlords warned of duties after ‘spate’ of residential block fires

Managers of purpose-built blocks of flats in Brighton have been urged to ensure their buildings meet fire safety legislation and standards, following a “spate” of fires in the city since April.
In a joint initiative by East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service and Brighton & Hove City Council, a letter has been sent out to managing agents setting out their responsibilities. Housing associations have also been contacted.
In a two-pronged campaign, fire crews are also visiting residents of blocks of more than six storeys, advising them on what steps they can take to ensure buildings meet basic fire standards and urging them to contact their landlords if they have any concerns.
The letter to landlords contains a 21-point checklist for fire safety in purpose-built flats. These include carrying out and implementing fire risk assessments, ensuring residents know what to do in the event of a fire and maintaining systems such as smoke vents/detection and alarm systems?
Owners and managers are also reminded to keep adequate records about maintenance and testing of fire safety systems.
“There has been a spate of fires in purpose-built blocks and although these are not council owned, together with our fire and rescue service partners, we have powers to ensure property managers abide by fire safety rules,” said councillor Maria Caulfield, cabinet member for housing.
The six-page letter ends with a stark warning to private landlords:
“The city council and the fire and rescue service work in partnership and share information. Should unsatisfactory conditions come to their attention (for example following a fire or other incident or from information provided by a resident or other organisation) either authority, or both, would take whatever action is considered appropriate in the circumstances; this could include legal action. Both authorities have legal powers to inspect premises and to require the provision of information if they deem it necessary.
“We have written to you and other managers now to give you the chance to consider the matter and, if necessary, to start taking action but we will shortly be seeking wider publicity in the media. This may result in your being contacted by concerned residents with queries. In the meantime, please contact us if you have any questions and we will do our best to help.”

Teenager pleads guilty to Tesco fire

A teenager has admitted starting a fire which destroyed a Tesco Express store in Hampshire last month.
Daniel Eastley, a 19-year old from Havant, pleaded guilty to two counts of arson, by setting fire to bread crates at the rear of the store in Waterlooville. He is due to be sentenced at Portsmouth Crown Court on 20 August.
When crews arrived at the store on 7 July they found the single story brick building well alight. The roof of the building eventually collapsed and the fire was extinguished using seven jets, an aerial ladder platform monitor and six breathing apparatus.
A 37-year-old man who worked at the store was taken to hospital suffering from the effects of smoke inhalation.

Detective constable Mark Leonard from Hampshire’s arson task force said: “Witness accounts and timely phone calls from the public to the emergency services have helped greatly with this investigation. Arson is the largest single cause of fire in the UK, leading to the loss of life, serious injury, and financial hardship in our communities. This case should send out a clear message to arsonists and the public that arson is a serious problem and arsonists will be caught and face the legal consequences.”

Repeal of schools-building programme raises asbestos alarm

The cancellation of the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) Programme could increase the risk of children, teachers and support staff being exposed to asbestos, TUC union officials have warned.

Many existing school buildings are likely to contain asbestos, as they were built before 1970, when the material was in common use. As these buildings fall into disrepair, the risk of asbestos exposure increases significantly.

The number of teachers who have died from the asbestos-related cancer mesothelioma has increased by more than 300 per cent in the last 20 years, according to the TUC campaigners. More worryingly, they point out that children exposed to asbestos are five times more likely to develop mesothelioma than adult teachers in the same environment.

The TUC Asbestos Support and Campaign Group is further alarmed by the fact that many schools have spent little on maintenance, on the promise that they would be part of the previous Labour government’s BSF programme, which aimed to rebuild or renew nearly every secondary school in England.

The Group claims that new Education Secretary Michael Gove’s decision to halt the BSF scheme has scuppered the plans of nearly 100 schools in the north of England (6 in Cumbria and 93 in the North East) to move forward with a new-build programme.

As public spending is being squeezed, the Northern TUC Asbestos Campaign Group is calling for continued investment in school buildings to prevent asbestos exposure.

Kevin Rowan, regional secretary of the Northern TUC, said: “Many schools in the region are in a terrible state of disrepair. Teachers, governing bodies, pupils and parents have been waiting desperately for new building work to take place, to allow them to enjoy working and learning in a decent, safe and healthy environment.

“Now they continue to face risks of serious and potentially fatal hazards due to the lack of investment in the maintenance and improvement of their schools. The Government must make funds available now to all schools who need it, to secure a better and safer environment for children, teachers and school staff alike.”

Mick Lyons, national executive member of teachers’ union NASUWT for the North East, described the presence of asbestos in schools as “a ticking time bomb”.

He added: “Over 190 colleagues have died through asbestos exposure across the country so far, with the unfortunate spectre of many more to come. Scrapping the BSF programme has left older schools – and those who have to spend time in them – extremely vulnerable.”

Paul Rowen MP, who served as the Liberal Democrats’ spokesperson on health and safety prior to the formation of the coalition government, told SHP that he feels the BSF programme is “an expensive way to remodel and refurbish schools” but stressed that the removal of asbestos in schools should be “an immediate priority”.

He went on: “The Government needs to stop brushing it under the carpet, which has been done by successive governments in the past, and accept that removal of asbestos has to be done. You either do it as part of the Building Schools for the Future programme, or you do it as part of another programme – but it needs to be done.”

Country pub evacuated as fire destroys building

Half of a historical pub in Wiltshire has been completely gutted following a fierce fire in the early hours.
Around 40 firefighters attended the blaze at The Beckford Arms, in Fonthill Gifford.
Seventeen people staying at the hotel were led to safety and put up in B&Bs nearby.
The fire started in a bin store next to the building but it is not yet known how it was set alight. It took around 11 hours for crews to tackle the blaze and dampen down hot spots, with a stop message declared just before 2pm.
“It is an old building so there were lots of hotspots,” the fire service’s spokesman said. “Half of the building has been destroyed, with the right hand side completely gutted. The first floor has collapsed and the roof gone.” Around half of the property had smoke and water damage only, due to the structure of the building.
A car left in front of The Beckford Arms was destroyed and the porch of a nearby house suffered fire damage.

‘Embarrassment’ as enforcement action taken on four more government buildings

At least four more government buildings have been found in breach of fire safety legislation, a BBC investigation has revealed.
There was no suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment carried out at central government offices in Newcastle on Tyne and in Nottingham until April and May this year – almost four years after the Fire Safety Order came into force – while an assessment at offices in Cambridge had not been reviewed for two years, according to a BBC Radio 4 programme called Fire Safety Disorder.
The revelations come just six weeks after info4fire broke the news that CLG’s London headquarters at Eland House was the subject of a Crown enforcement notice detailing numerous and serious breaches of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.
The current fire minister, Bob Neill, had previously sought to shift the blame on the last government. But theFace the Facts programme also revealed breaches of the Fire Safety Order during an inspection last month – well after the general election – at the London headquarters of the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs. In that case, the inspector found that “the fire risk assessment is not suitable nor sufficient” and that “no emergency plan specific to the premises was available”. The inspector went on to note that the building’s facilities manager demonstrated very little experience, training or knowledge that would enable him to undertake his fire safety duties.
Fire safety consultant , Colin Todd, who made the initial Freedom of Information request which exposed the enforcement action at CLG’s Eland House, said: “It simply seemed just and proper that government should be complying with their own legislation, and I was interested to know whether that was the case or not.”
Speaking to the government’s chief fire and rescue adviser, Sir Ken Knight, Face the Facts also revealed that level of breaches requiring enforcement action on Crown premises was as high as that on non-government buildings – at around 4% of all audits.
Commenting on the enforcement notice on Eland House, Sir Ken said: “That shows that without fear or favour, we apply consistently the fire safety legislation that applies, even in the building in which we happen to be working and have our offices. I’m disappointed that they would happen here as anywhere else, and I am sure that those responsible for fire safety administration and the law would be equally disappointed – and somewhat embarrassed.”
The programme also discovered that in addition to Eland House there have been 19 other occasions when Crown premises have been subject to enforcement notices since the Fire Safety Order came into being in 2006.
The programme’s presenter, John Waite, concluded: “Central government departments which we might expect to set the highest fire safety standards are, in some cases, actually breaching them. Yet because of Crown immunity, those in government escape the full force of the law, while those in the private sector face ever higher fines and even imprisonment.”

Church council fined for volunteer’s fall

Officers from Gravesham Borough Council discovered that the most recent checks on the structure of St Botolph’s Church in Northfleet in 2007 had identified that beetles were attacking part of the tower’s wooden floor.
The subsequent report recommended further investigation into the infestation’s spread.
But despite the inclusion of this advice in a list of works requiring immediate attention, the Parochial Church Council (PCC) failed to act.
When the floor later gave way in July last year, volunteer Tony Cresswell broke two bones in his back, and suffered a broken leg and shattered heel.
Gravesham Council’s regulatory services department prosecuted the PCC for breaching Section 4 of the Health and Safety at Work Act by failing to maintain the structure of the church safely so that it did not put people at risk.
Dartford magistrates fined the PCC £3000 with £685 costs after it admitted the charge.

Robot almost paralysed maintenance worker

An automotive firm that developed a “culture of violation” must pay £50,000 in penalties after an industrial robot struck a worker in the throat, damaging his voice box and almost paralysing him down one side of his body.
The HSE prosecuted Dura Automotive Body and Glass Systems UK for failing to ensure employees’ safety and not carrying out a suitable risk assessment after Michael Brewer was hurt in May 2008 while repairing the full-automated robot at its Midlands site.
Dura admitted charges under Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act, and Regulation 3(1) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations. At Birmingham Crown Court on 21 July, the judge fined it £30,000 plus £20,000 costs.
The court heard that as part of the repairs, Brewer needed to watch the machine’s operating cycle but his view was blocked by the solid guard that enclosed the robot. To see better he decided to enter the guarded danger zone, where the robot hit him.
Dura had a system of work for going inside the machine that required workers to put the machine into manual mode before entering, but this did not account for the need to see the operating cycle from outside, and the firm did not adequately supervise its own system.
HSE inspectors discovered that viewing the cycle from inside the guarded area was common practice. The company’s risk assessment did not address the risks from maintenance operations or those posed by the robots inside the guarding.
“Maintenance personnel often have to work within the guarded area of machinery, sometimes in the face of significant production pressure,” said the HSE’s investigating inspector.
“Safe access arrangements must be provided and these should be written into maintenance procedures and have full management commitment.”
The inspector warned that if workers see supervisors and managers violate procedures, as happened in this case, they start to think their company condones this.
“There was a culture of violation in this factory and it is very sad that it took an almost fatal accident for the company to identify this.”
Dura has now installed large viewing panels in the guarding, providing a clear view from the outside and improving access arrangements.