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Furniture firm given biggest fine yet for flouting fire safety laws

A FURNITURE firm has been fined £14,000 for flouting fire safety laws - in the biggest fine secured in Greater Manchester under fire safety laws.

CFS Furniture was fined £14,000 for seven offences that put workers at risk.

The fine was handed out at Oldham Magistrates' Court on Thursday, May 31, after the case was adjourned twice because the company failed to send anyone to the previous hearings.

CFS was fined £2,000 for each offence and ordered to pay the Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service Costs of £3,500.

Fire safety officers discovered a raft of dangers at their units - an inadequate alarm system, inadequate fire escapes, a lack of emergency lighting, the failure to train staff in how to act in a fire and the storage of items that were a high fire risk.

CFS Furniture Ltd of Laurel House, Laurel Trading Estate, Royton, was found guilty and Martin Muldowney of Stubley Mill Road, Littleborough pleaded guilty to seven breaches of the Regulatory Reform Fire Safety Order 2005 that put workers at risk.

They admitted the offences at Oldham Magistrates' Court on Tuesday, February 28, 2012.

At sentencing on Friday, March 30, 2012, Muldowney had provided proof of his bankruptcy and income the court treated him as having an income of £100 per week and fined him £100 for each offence and ordered him to pay £700 towards the Fire Service's costs.

A collection order was made - meaning if Muldowney does not pay he will face further action by the courts.

On October 5, 2010, a fire safety officer inspected units CFS was using at Laurel Trading Estate, which were being used to manufacture and store furniture.

The officer found large amounts of wood, foam and fabrics were being stored which created a high risk of fire.

However, there was no adequate alarm system in place and when the alarm that was present in part of the building was tested workers could not hear it.

There was no safe emergency escape route from the first and second floors that had been installed without Building Regulations approval from the local council.

Further investigations identified that there was no emergency lighting and staff had not received suitable training about what to do in the event of a fire.

The court heard that CFS Furniture was responsible, as the employer, and that Martin Muldowney, as director of the company - and in day-to-day control of the firm, was also responsible for fire safety.

Martin Muldowney had previous dealings with the fire service in other places of work and had received Enforcement Notices in 2003, 2005 and 2006.

The court heard that had a fire occurred at CFS it would have spread rapidly, without any warning to workers on the upper floors.

Assistant Chief Fire Officer Peter O'Reilly, Director of Prevention and Protection at Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service, said: "This fine reflects the serious failings of the company to take their responsibilities seriously.

"These units were being used to make furniture and were full of items that would burn quickly in a fire.

"The company employed more than 40 people and, by failing to take basic fire safety measures, put their lives at risks.

"Martin Muldowney was no stranger to us and should have known what was expected of him.

"The lack of an adequate fire alarm system and escape routes for workers was unacceptable and as staff were using the upper floors, the outbreak of any fire in these premises undoubtedly posed a serious threat to life.

"Following the inspection by Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service officers, a prohibition notice was immediately issued preventing the use of the upper floors. Within a week, the company to took action to make the premises safe which raises the question why they had failed to do so in the first place.

"Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service and Authority takes these cases seriously and will prosecute where businesses put profit over safety."

THE CHARGES IN FULL:

CFS Furniture Ltd and Martin Muldowney pleaded guilty to the following offences under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005

32(1)(a) Failing to make a suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment
32(1)(a) Failing to provide adequate means of giving warning in event of fire
32(1)(a) Failing to provide adequate means of escape due to extended travel distances
32(1)(a) Failing to provide adequate means of escape due to lack of fire resistance between first and second floor
32(1)(a) Failing to provide emergency lighting on emergency routes and exits
32(1)(a) Failing to provide employees with suitable and sufficient fire safety training

 

Last update: 01/06/2012 08:20:13
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