Technocracy

Many processors will be taking a fresh look at their fire safety in the light of the recent disaster at Wessex Foods, in Lowestoft, and a Court of Appeal upholding a 400,000 fine imposed on retail giant New Look. In the latter case, the fact that the risks could have been removed at relatively little cost or inconvenience showed that the company displayed a dismissive attitude towards its fire safety obligations, according to the Court. This penalty was imposed because of a failure to control risk, rather than as a result of injury.

This hefty fine removes any doubt that organisations responsible for fire safety cannot be complacent when it comes to complying with the regulations. The court did acknowledge that the 400,000 was severe, but this is little comfort.

So those in control of premises subject to the regulations should review current policies to ensure compliance, as well as considering the structure and layout of premises and, more importantly, what goes on in them.

Those responsible for fire safety must not overlook the location of buildings or their immediate landscape, because there may be a higher level of obligation in a highly populated location or due to the features of neighbouring structures. Outside areas and vacant premises must also be considered when risk assessments are carried out. So training must be thorough and up to date.

Whatever your view of the level of fine, or indeed recent events, firms ignoring or failing to address fire safety risk obligations, do so at their peril. Seek independent advice from relevant trade federations, such as the Association of Independent Meat Suppliers (AIMS) and the British Meat Processors Association (BMPA).

John Roberts can be contacted on reaphltd@yahoo.co.uk

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