Reporting recently on fines imposed for fire risk, health and safety failures, has exposed a question posed as a comment in recent IRPM report. A fine for the Lakanal House Fire amounted to £270 000 whilst FirstPort Limited who took over the portfolio of Peverel Management Services was fined £360 000 including legal costs.
A fire at Gibson Court, Hinchley Wood caused by a faulty TV and spread rapidly across the retirement home’s entire roof and became a devastating blaze which forced firefighters to return several times to rescue residents and sadly lead to the death of one of them.
Both sites were found guilty of failing to make proper fire risk assessments and failure to take general fire precautions. Failings were also cited about properly training staff/protecting employees.
Deaths occurred at both sites. In the case of Lakanal House 3 adults and 3 children; in the case of Gibson Court 1 elderly person died. Although there seems to be a clear case of skewed justice with a £90 000 difference in the fine.
However 2 points need to be made. In the case of Lakanal House the London Fire Brigade brought charges against Southwark council, which means in effect either insurance pays the claim or the resident tax payer pays the fine; and tax payers will pay anyway, if insurance premiums go up and the council tax goes up to cover it. In the case of Gibson Court, Surrey Fire and Rescue Service brought charges against a private company, who will definitely make an insurance claim. There is no tax payer element.
It is true voters are holding the council to account with their vote and this could be the ultimate punishment. But in the case of FirstPort, they could lose customers or clients. Due to the nature in both cases, where failures in basic health and safety were committed, the insurance pay-outs could be reduced as a result and premiums put up.
Second point is that the council had 3 times the amount of court costs to pay. This somewhat mitigates the discrepancy between what one paid over the other. In the end Southwark Council paid £570 000 including court costs, whilst FirstPort paid £460 000. This is £110 000 difference. Each case has it’s twists and turns; each fire is a tragedy.
The comment posed in the report still amounts to the same thing. Do the fire risk assessments! Take the necessary action when you find weaknesses and train staff to maintain fire precautions and procedures.