A former retained firefighter from Wales who failed to maintain a fire alarm in a care home will face sentence next week after being the first fire alarm engineer to be prosecuted as a responsible person under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.
Trafford Magistrates Court heard Christopher Morris, 56, of Llandudno, North Wales, plead guilty to two charges of failing to maintain a fire alarm system at a care home in Trafford, Manchester, to a recognised standard and failing to inform the owners of the home of the deficiencies in the system.
Morris will be sentenced at Manchester Crown Court on December 23, after the bench decided it did not have sufficient powers to deal with the case and what they described as 'culpable neglect' by the defendant.
The case was brought to court by Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Authority in what is believed to be the first of its kind under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. The law allows the fire and rescue authority to prosecute a person who has responsibility for a particular area of premises or, as in this case, maintaining fire equipment that requires specialist knowledge or skills to carry out repairs.
Deputy County Fire Officer Jim Owen said it would send a strong message throughout the fire industry that fire and rescue authorities in England and Wales will not hesitate in taking firm action against anyone that falls short of their obligations under fire legislation.
Mr Owen said: "Whilst many owners have been prosecuted under the Fire Safety Order, this may be the first time a fire and rescue authority has prosecuted someone contracted by the owner of a property to maintain a fire alarm. Taking on such a contract extends the requirements of the order to the fire alarm engineer. Anyone we find who doesn't carry out their work to recognised standards is a danger and we won't hesitate to take action."
The court heard how Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service attended a fire incident at a care home in Trafford in May 2009 in which an elderly woman died. During subsequent investigations into the fire safety arrangements at the premises, fire safety enforcement officers commissioned an examination of the fire alarm system by a specialist consultant who sits on the British Standard committee for fire alarm systems.
The examination report revealed that the system was estimated to have been installed during the late 1980s or early 1990s and that a number of issues were discovered within the panel that demonstrated poor practice remedial work had been carried out at some time during its lifetime. This included:
- A blown fuse over-ridden with a piece of wire
- An electronic component had been suspended between two terminal bocks instead of being attached to the circuit board
- An alarm silence/fault warning buzzer was missing from the circuit board
- The fault warning light on the front face of the panel had been almost covered by paint.
Christopher Morris, an electrician who had taken over the maintenance of the system in 2006, had issued several annual certificates of worthiness to the owner of the home, stating the system was 100 per cent.
During an interview under caution, Morris initially claimed that although the system was old it was compliant with the relevant British Standard. However, when he was challenged about the poor repair issues and shown the specialists photographs he admitted that he was not aware of them.
Morris will appear at Manchester Crown Court for sentencing on Thursday, December 23, 2010.
Posted December 15th.