A court ruling in Hull will serve as a warning to other businesses to bring their fire safety up to scratch. In his ruling against the owner of the Gilson Hotel in Hull, Judge Jeremy Richardson QC said that the ‘paramount concern of anyone who runs this type of business must be the safety of staff and guests’.
After four months of court proceedings, the nine month suspended prison sentence, £50,000 fine and £15,000 costs against the owner of the Gilson Hotel for six breaches of the Fire Safety Order was a satisfactory outcome for Director of Safety Keith Evans:
‘I want to pay tribute to all the hard work done by our Technical Fire Safety team and Warren Spencer and the legal team from Blackhurst Budd for ensuring that we got a successful conviction. The custodial sentence and massive fine sends a very clear message not just to other hotels, but any type of business, who have a reckless disregard for the safety of their staff or visitors.’
Pictured is the missing smoke alarm from the main bar area at the Gilson Hotel
Humberside Fire and Rescue Service (HFRS) first visited the city centre Gilson Hotel in September 2012 and found numerous breaches of the Fire Safety Order. These breaches were so serious that HFRS issued a Prohibition Notice to close the hotel until improvements were made. Further Enforcement Notices were issued to improve the fire safety standards of the whole premises.
Although these notices were complied with, it was apparent that the hotel had been operating without a fully functioning fire alarm system. This meant that, had a fire broken out, it would not have been discovered until its later stages, delaying the evacuation of anyone in the hotel.
More worryingly, any fire at the premises would not have been registered by the fire alarm system and would not have sounded an alarm until found by a person, whose escape would then have been compromised due to the severity of a fire. This was so serious in nature that, without a working fire alarm system, all persons sleeping at the premises were in grave danger of serious injury or losing their life.
It has been good fortune that the hotel did not have an incident during the time that the fire alarm system was inoperative. However, during this time all staff and residents were at risk. Humberside Fire and Rescue Service would urge all businesses to review their Fire Risk Assessments and their fire safety measures, ensuring that they are maintaining these systems and recording them.
The judge in the case referred to the ‘lamentable lapses’ in fire safety over a long period of time by the owner and a ‘dereliction of responsibility’ when it came to bringing the hotel up to an acceptable standard.
In his closing sentencing statement, the judge said ‘the breaches can only be categorised as very serious’ and as any ‘fire could not have been contained’, he classed the Gilson Hotel as a ‘potential death-trap.’
Station Manager Martin Peers of the HFRS Technical Fire Safety team, who were praised by the judge for their ‘exceptional job’ throughout the process, was equally shocked by the danger facing those staying at the hotel:
‘During this investigation, it is estimated that between 7,000 and 14,000 lives were put at risk at the Gilson Hotel. It is chilling to imagine the outcome of any serious fire which may have broken out in this building.’
Martin went on to encourage dialogue at an early stage:
‘Humberside Fire and Rescue is urging any business owners who have any doubts as to whether they are operating within fire safety regulations to contact us first before we knock on their door. We prefer to work with owners to help them operate best practices within their businesses for the safety of their staff, visitors and the wider community.’
For more information, please visit http://www.humbersidefire.gov.uk/your-safety/business-safety or call the Technical Fire Safety team on (01482) 327000.