KHEN CHOOI Koay was taken to court by North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service (NYFRS) over the ‘poor fire safety conditions’ at his shop in York.
NYFRS noted that on 25 May 2017 its fire safety inspectors visited Mr Koay’s takeaway shop Mr Happy Oriental Restaurant, at which they found that people were ‘living and sleeping on the first and second floors’, with no working fire alarm in the building and no ‘fire protected escape route’, while Mr Koay had ‘failed to carry out’ a fire risk assessment.
It added that should there have been a fire, the residents ‘would not have received an early warning that a fire had started and they would not have had a fire protected route to make an escape’, so they ‘could very easily have become trapped’. Due to these conditions, NYFRS served Mr Koay with a prohibition notice that forbid him from allowing anyone to sleep in the building. In NYFRS’ opinion, there was a ‘risk to life of death or serious injury in the event of fire’.
Prosecution was ‘considered the appropriate action to take’, and on 31 July 2018 at York Magistrates’ Court, Mr Koay pleaded guilty to three breaches of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, including breaching the prohibition notice NYFRS had served him with. He was fined £5,000 and ordered to pay £1,989 in costs with a surcharge of £170, for a total of £7,159, with magistrates stating that ‘these were very serious offences’.
Kevin Caulfield, watch manager of NYFRS, commented: ‘North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service will always make a visit to a property when reports of poor fire safety standards are made to us. Depending on what is found appropriate advice will be given to the business, informal action may be taken or in some cases, such as this, the necessary enforcement action will be implemented.
‘In this case following the inspection, Notices were served. An investigation was conducted because the fire safety problems were so serious. The responsible person had not given any real thought to what might happen to the people sleeping in the building if a fire had occurred. Conducting or commissioning a fire risk assessment is the starting point for beginning to ensure that a building is or can be made safe for people in the event of a fire.
‘North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service will in most cases give responsible persons chance to comply with the legislation before taking legal proceedings. However, where cases are found where there is risk to life of death or serious injury in the event of fire, prosecution will be considered and where appropriate taken.’
He added: ‘North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service find that many businesses and sole traders are proactive in managing their fire safety well. Sadly there are still too many occasions, like this case, where businesses are unaware or ignoring what they should be doing. As a service we provide free fire safety advice to businesses and the public. We engage with various trade organisation and individual businesses to raise awareness of best practice around fire safety.
‘I would welcome ideas from anyone and especially businesses and sole traders as to how we as a Service could best reach out and deliver our important fire safety messages. Improving the standards of fire safety and fire safety management will reduce the risk of fire and help to keep individuals and businesses safer.’
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