Blaze prompts plug-in air freshener warning

Twenty firefighters tackled a fire in a bungalow that is believed to have been caused by a plug-in air freshener. Four fire engines attended the property in Stanmore in Middlesex on Thursday 8 September at around 9.30pm.

London Fire Brigade believes the fire was caused by a plug-in air freshener that overheated because it was covered by clothing. The fire was under control shortly after 10pm.

Stanmore watch manager, said: “When we arrived we were faced with an intense fire and crews did extremely well to stop it from spreading to the roof and adjacent properties. Thankfully nobody was in the bungalow at the time of the fire.

“If people use plug-in air fresheners, they need to be careful to follow the instructions and never place materials next to or on top of them, as they can overheat and cause a fire.”

Teenagers charged over M1 motorway blaze

Six teenagers have been charged in connection with the fire that closed a stretch of the M1 motorway in April.

They are among ten teenagers who have been charged with conspiracy to commit acts of arson across the London borough of Barnet.

The fire, which started in a recycling yard under a raised section of the motorway, led to the M1 being closed between junctions 1 and 4 in north London, and caused days of traffic chaos.

All the alleged offences took place between 12 April and 16 April.

The ten have been bailed to appear at Hendon magistrates’ court on Monday 20 September.

Suspended prison sentence for building owner’s fire safety breaches

A London building owner has been given a six month suspended prison sentence after being convicted of seven offences under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

Saif Ahmed was sentenced on 14 September after being found guilty of four offences at a trial at Tower Bridge magistrates’ court on 1 June 2011. Mr Ahmed had already admitted three other offences at an earlier hearing. He was also sentenced to 150 hours of community service and told to pay over £13,000 in costs.

Fire safety officers visited his property in Camberwell Church Street on 9 December 2009. The basement and ground floors of the building are used as a takeaway restaurant, while the first, second and third floors were being used as sleeping accommodation with five bedrooms.

Officers found a range of fire safety breaches on the upper floors of the building. These included having no fire alarm or emergency lighting; the bedroom doors were not fire resistant or self closing; the staircase from the ground to second floor was not fire protected; and there was no alternative means of escape from the sleeping accommodation.

The inspectors also found no evidence of an emergency plan and that no fire risk assessment had been carried out. London Fire Brigade works hard to ensure individuals and companies understand their responsibilities under fire safety law and only use prosecution as a last resort, but this verdict sends out a clear message that if they ignore fire safety then they will face serious penalties.”

Safety breach led to teenager’s fairground trauma

A fairground attendant has been in court after a teenage girl plunged head-first onto concrete when a restraint bar opened on the ride she was on at a York carnival.

The 13-year-old girl escaped serious injury despite falling around four metres from the ‘Cliffhanger Miami Trip’ ride as her friends watched helplessly.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), prosecuting, told Selby Magistrates’ Court that attendant Terry Reynolds, 28, of Dewsbury, failed to make sure the safety bar on the young girl’s seat was locked in the closed position, despite being told the same bar had opened two rides earlier.

The teenager, who has asked not to be named, was at the popular Copmanthorpe Carnival with friends last July. She was among a group of 16 people to get on to the Miami Trip ride, brought to the annual event for the first time. The riders sit in a row as the ride takes them up, down and round at speed.

Less than a minute after the ride started, the restraint bar opened and the girl slid underneath, just missing moving steelwork below and hitting the ground. She was taken to hospital but was discharged later suffering bruising and abrasions.

HSE discovered Mr Reynolds had been warned just two rides earlier there had been a similar problem in that seat. Luckily the earlier rider had been able to hold the bar down with help from friends on either side.

An HSE Inspector said: “Mr Reynolds’ job was not difficult, but it was crucial, and had he been doing it properly, this would not have happened. His cavalier approach to safety could have cost the girl untold damage.

“He failed in his prime responsibility of locking the restraint bars securely on every single seat and then checking, with a shake, to be 100 per cent certain. This young girl was immensely lucky not to have been seriously injured.

“What beggars belief is that he failed to act when told of the near-miss experienced by another fair-goer only two rides before. All attendants on fairground rides need to be aware that they are the last link in the safety chain as lives depend on them.”

Terry Reynolds of Showman’s Ground, Wakefield Road, Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, pleaded guilty to a breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act by failing to take reasonable care of those affected by his work activities. He was given a three-year conditional discharge and ordered to pay £750 compensation to the injured girl.

Company fined after scaffolding collapse at wedding

A Surrey-based company has been fined after the floor of a marquee collapsed just as 150 guests sat down to enjoy a wedding breakfast.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted Block Scaffolding Limited over a scaffold collapse that saw the false floor drop more than four feet at the wedding venue in Newbury.

West Berkshire Magistrates’ Court heard the bridal couple had organised for scaffolding to be erected to counteract the slope of the lawn and keep the marquee floor level, at West Woodhay House.

On Saturday 25 September 2010, catering staff were about to serve the first course of the wedding breakfast to guests when the scaffolding beneath the marquee floor collapsed.

Magistrates were told the floor dropped more than four feet in places, causing the bridal couple and 150 guests to fall to the ground along with tables, chairs, cutlery and glassware. Scaffold poles also fell into the marquee, narrowly missing guests.

Speaking after the hearing, an HSE Inspector said: “The scene after the incident was shocking, with broken glass and crockery everywhere. The collapse must have been terrifying for the bride, groom and their guests.

“A couple’s wedding day was ruined and guests unwittingly risked being seriously injured, simply because Block Scaffolding Limited overlooked basic health and safety.

“The fact no one was seriously injured is solely down to good fortune. This prosecution should serve as a warning that HSE will take action against anyone failing to build safe scaffolding.”

Block Scaffolding Limited of Myrtle Drive, Blackwater, Camberley, Surrey, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. It was fined £8,000 and ordered to pay costs of £7,370.

Supermarket giant failed to address slip risks

Morrisons Supermarkets has been fined £17,500 after a worker fractured her elbow when she slipped at a store in Ipswich.

In June 2008, an environmental health officer from Ipswich Borough Council made a routine visit to a Morrisons store in Sproughton Road. She warned the store’s management about a potential slip hazard behind one of the food counters, where smooth terrazzo tiles had been installed.

The tiles are highly polished and smooth and become extremely slippery when oil or grease is split on them. The store’s risk assessment had identified the issue but had failed to introduce any control measures. The EHO recommended that the company either provide workers with protective footwear, or add a resin coating to the floor to increase slip resistance.

On 4 December 2008, an employee at the store slipped on some tiles, which were positioned behind a counter in the oven-fresh area, after there was a spillage of grease. She suffered a serious fracture to her right elbow and had to undergo three operations to repair the damage. She was unable to return to work for seven months and still suffers constant pain in her elbow.

As part of the investigation into the incident the council worked with experts to measure the slip resistance of the tiles. The results showed that there was a high risk of slips when the floor was contaminated with water, or oil. Ipswich Borough Council issued three Improvement Notices to the supermarket for failing to take action to protect workers from slipping on the tiles in three separate areas at the store.

Investigators revealed that the slip risks were present in other Morrisons stores across the country where the same tiles had been installed. She said: “This serious accident could have been easily prevented had the company acted on my previous written warning and reduced the risk of staff slipping in these areas by improving the floor surface and/or providing anti-slip footwear.

The investigation revealed this type of accident continues to occur in food preparation areas in their stores across the UK. I hope this prosecution sends a message to all food businesses that they need to protect their staff from slipping hazards in their kitchens.”

WM Morrison Supermarkets plc appeared at Ipswich Magistrates’ Court on 5 September and pleaded guilty to breaching s2(1) of the HSWA 1974. In addition to the fine it was ordered to pay full costs of £32,482.

Spate of electrical fires after substation break-in

Around 100 homes experienced brief electrical fires and blow-outs after thieves broke into an electricity substation.

Up to 1700 properties in Wisbech were left without power after the attempted theft of valuable metal from the sub-station, according to the Peterborough Evening Telegraph. Initially, just one crew was sent to the substation where they found it had blown but there was no fire. But as local residents started reporting blow outs to their TVs and washing machines, four more appliances were dispatched to the scene. Firefighters then went around the affected area reassuring local residents and making sure their appliances were safe.

“We were called to complaints of smoke from television sets and loud bangs from electrical items such as washing machines, as well as television sets, at about 100 homes,” a fire service spokesperson told the newspaper. “Initially, just one crew from Wisbech was dispatched but as the scale of the incident became clear four more appliances were sent to the scene.

“On arrival, firefighters found the substation had blown, but no sign of fire. Crews attended properties that had reported bangs to make sure there was no danger to occupants.”

A spokesman for UK Power Networks said: “Engineers worked through the night, checking to ensure internal wiring systems at properties are safe. All properties fed by the affected underground cables have to be checked before power can be restored.”

Manager fined for role in fatal ladder fall

A bread company and a site manager have admitted failing to provide a safe method of work after a handyman fell from a stepladder and sustained fatal head injuries.

City of London Magistrates’ court heard that the incident took place at Ovenpride Wholesale Ltd’s bakery in Finchley Road, London on 22 April 2009. The site manager, Amjad Mahmood, had instructed Rocco Carofalo to build shelving in a storeroom.

Mr Carofalo was working alone in the storeroom when his colleagues heard a loud bang. They rushed into the room, and found him lying on the floor, bleeding from a severe head wound, with the stepladder next to him. He was taken to hospital but died several weeks later from his injuries.

Two HSE inspectors visited the bakery the day after the incident and found that the ladder was in a poor condition, as its stiles were bent and damaged. Their investigation also found that no risk assessments had been carried out for any work at the site. They issued a Prohibition Notice, requiring no further work at height to be undertaken at the site until a safe system of work had been created, and suitable equipment had been provided.

HSE inspector said that Amjad Mahmood was prosecuted because he was responsible for safety at the site and had directly instructed Mr Carofalo. Inspector Linfoot said: “The consequences of this tragic incident will be felt by Mr Carofalo’s family for ever, but it was so easily preventable. As the risk of a fall was foreseeable, Ovenpride and its manager should have carried out a full site-specific risk assessment, and planned and organised the work to be carried out in a safe manner.

“Where access to heights is required, even for relatively short-term work, [employers] are ultimately responsible for assessing and planning the work and ensuring that it is carried out in a safe manner using suitable access equipment.”

Ovenpride Wholesale appeared in court on 24 August and pleaded guilty to breaching s2(1) of the HSWA and was fined £1. 

Amjad Mahmood attended the same hearing and also pleaded guilty to breaching s2(1) of the HSWA 1974. He was fined £300 and ordered to pay £200 in costs.

In mitigation, the company, which is now in liquidation, said Mahmood told staff that the ladder was not safe for use and that any work at height should be done by using a pump truck, which was on site. Mahmood told the court that the company had not given him proper support, or training. He entered an early guilty plea and expressed regret for his part in the incident.

A former hotel manager has been ordered to pay £5,000

A former hotel manager has been ordered to pay £5,000 in fines and costs for failing to comply with an enforcement notice issued by Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Authority.

The Authority served an enforcement notice on James Knappette, the former manager of the Kedleston Country House Hotel near Derby, after concerns about the means of escape at the building, which included inadequate emergency lighting and inadequate fire doors. Despite being granted two extensions to complete the work ordered under the Enforcement Notice, fire safety at the hotel remained inadequate.

The fine imposed by Derbyshire Magistrates Court was £3,000 with £2,000 costs.

The hotel is no longer managed by Mr Knappette and is currently closed pending refurbishment and opening by new management.

Fire and Rescue Service, said:”People who own and manage hotels are under a high duty of care to their guests. This is because those staying there are unfamiliar with the layout of the hotel and will be entirely reliant on the fire safety measures provided by the owners and operators to make sure that they can get out safely in the event of a fire.

“Wherever we find that people’s lives are being put at risk from inadequate fire precautions, we will not hesitate to issue Enforcement Notices and, if these are not complied with, take action through the courts. The decision by the magistrates to impose a fine and costs totalling £5,000 demonstrate they also take this issue seriously.”