‘It was only good fortune that there was not a death or serious injury’ said a Crown Court judge as he handed down a 12 month suspended jail sentence to a Hull business owner.
The sentence consisting of a £10,000 fine, 35 rehabilitation days and 150 hours of community service was passed on a Hull business owner who showed little regard for the safety of his workers who were illegally sleeping at his factory.
Business owners are being advised by Humberside Fire and Rescue Service (HFRS) to ensure that fire safety measures, within their premises, are satisfactory after the successful prosecution under the Regulatory Reform (Fire) Safety Order 2005.
Mr Peng Fei Wang, also known by the names David Wang and David Wong, appeared at Hull Crown Court on 6 October 2022 and pleaded guilty to breaching two separate Prohibition Notices served to him in 2019 and 2020 at a premises on Stockholm Road in Hull.
The company, TD Polymer Ltd, formally known as Sun Polymer UK Ltd, was a large single storey plastics factory on Sutton Fields Industrial Estate. The factory was in full production 24 hours a day converting waste plastic into plastic moulding pellets. Beds and bedding and other evidence of living and sleeping in the adjoining main factory office and separate office block were found when Humberside Fire and Rescue Service inspectors visited the premises on 26 June 2019.
A Prohibition Notice was served to Mr Wang stating that “the premises must not be used for living and / or sleeping accommodation”. There was a serious risk to anyone sleeping on the premises should a fire have broken out.
When HFRS staff returned a month later, they saw numerous rooms and offices still with beds made up with bedding and duvets as well as suitcases, clothes and other evidence of living and sleeping.
Another notice was served on the same site on 22 January 2020 to Mr Wang, who once again was found to have blatantly ignored its terms when Humberside Police officers and HFRS Protection staff visited three months later.
HFRS employed the services of barrister Sailesh Mehta of Red Lion Chambers in London who made the court aware of the failings. Judge John Thackray KC was grateful for the in-depth case notes put together by Mr Mehta and considered all of the prosecution documents before delivering his sentence.
The judge said that Mr Wang ‘could consider himself very fortunate’ to have avoided a custodial sentence after two such blatant breaches and also ordered costs of £21,000 to be paid within two months.
HFRS urges business owners and those with responsibility for any premises where the fire safety order applies to ensure that they have conducted their fire risk assessment and that the fire precautions in place are adequate and maintained.
Niall McKiniry, HFRS Executive Director of Service Delivery, praised the work of the Protection staff in bringing the case to a successful conclusion:
‘Our staff have worked tirelessly for over two years to bring this successful prosecution. As a service, our main priority will always be fire prevention, but the flagrant disregard for the safety of staff in this case and the wilful breach of a Prohibition Notice on two separate occasions left us no option but to apply the full force of the law.
‘The consequences of a fire at this factory would have been catastrophic with inadequate smoke detection and the close proximity of those illegally sleeping in the adjoining buildings.
‘We will not hesitate to do the same again and we hope that this sends a clear signal to other business owners that the safety of those in their factories or places of work has to be the number one priority.
‘However, I would urge those owners to seek advice from us if they are unsure as to their responsibilities and our experienced team can help them comply with current fire safety legislation.’
HFRS are keen to help business owners understand the legislation and meet the necessary safety standards for businesses and factories. A large majority of business owners are happy to work with the Fire Service, however, those who decide to ignore the advice and flout the law must understand that they may be subject to investigation and, when necessary, prosecution.