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Scotland’s Shocking Fire Safety Record, How Safe are You?

Devastating fires are becoming ever more prevalent in our news stories and statistics show that fires in Scotland are on the rise. Between 2014 and 2015 there were 25,002 fires attended by the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service resulting in 41 fatalities. During 2015 to 2016 there were 26,613 fires attended which resulted in 45 fatalities and 1,256 non-fatal fire casualties. During 2016 – 2017 there were 27,240 resulting in 44 fatalities and 1,189 non-fatal casualties. These figures show a staggering 9% increase in fires between 2014 and 2017.

Glasgow School of Art imageDominating the news recently is the extensive damage caused by a huge fire at Glasgow School of Art’s famed Mackintosh Building. The fire has destroyed the refurbishment work that had been carried out just four years earlier after another smaller blaze gutted the upper floors.

The cause of the 2014 fire was an old fashioned projector that was being used as part of a student’s art exhibition. Presently there is only speculation as to the cause of the latest fire, but what we do know is that the fire started in the structure’s east wing at about 11.15 pm engulfing the Mackintosh building and spreading to the nearby O2 ABC building.

Following the 2014 fire, Kier Construction was awarded the main contract for the multimillion-pound refurbishment project of Glasgow School of Art which was backed by celebrity’s including the likes of Brad Pitt and Peter Capaldi. It has now emerged that Kier Construction was condemned for previous extensive fire safety failings relating to the construction of DG One leisure centre in Dumfries.

It has recently transpired that the sprinkler system had not yet been fully installed; it was lacking water pumps which ironically were delivered the day before the fire took hold of the building. 

Looking forward, what is being done to prevent future harm and destruction? 

In Scotland it is compulsory for sprinklers to be fitted in all high rise buildings above 18 metres, all schools, care homes, sheltered accommodation and all covered shopping areas.

The Scottish Government have set up the Ministerial Working Group on Building and Fire Safety who are working to keep up to date on any changes happening in England and Wales and to advice on any necessary changes to the Scottish system. This may prove difficult as there are significant differences between planning and building control procedure in England, Wales and Scotland. For example, contrary to the situation in England and Wales the common areas in a flat in Scotland are not regulated, however, what is classified as the relevant premises is now under review in Scotland.

The Ministerial Working Group on Building and Fire Safety are having particular regard to the Hackitt Review, which is the UK Governments review on Building Regulations and Fire Safety in the aftermath of the harrowing fire at Grenfell Tower last year. In order to do this, three subgroups have been created including, the Fire Safety Regime Review Advisory Group, the Building Standards (Compliance and Enforcement) Review Panel and the Building Standards (Fire Safety) Review Panel International to keep abreast of developments.

Presently, the Scottish Government have a proposal to amend the Housing Scotland Act 1987 to bring all homes, including owner occupied homes, to the same standard in terms of mains wired smoke alarms, heat alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. That being said, enforcement of fire safety in Scotland has an incredibly poor record meaning that in practical terms, the required changes to home owner occupied homes to bring them up to standard will likely only happen when home owners come to sell their property.

Section 72 of the Fire (Scotland) Act 2005 sets out fire safety offences as being two part offences. In order to be convicted there needs to be a failure to comply, and that failure has to put a relevant person at risk of death or serious injury.

Looking to England they have a much higher conviction rate for fire safety offences. JD Sports were convicted of 6 offences including blocking escape routes with stock and being fined £60,000. Poundstretcher, who were prosecuted for 24 offences under the Health and Safety at Work 1974 were fined a staggering £1,000,000.

How safe are you? For further information on fire safety at home and for businesses please visit https://www.firescotland.gov.uk/your-safety.aspx

Blog by Tara Davison

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