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VIEWPOINT: The burning issue 27 September 2013

A fire risk assessment may not be the number one priority for any administrator taking on a struggling hotel, but letting it slip can have disastrous consequences, writes Ian Smith, the principal health and safety officer at Convivial Management Services.

Many hotels enter insolvency after a long period of being run as cash cows with little or no investment into the business. When taking on such a company with a view to returning it to health, it is obviously in an insolvency practitioner’s best interest to conduct an asset review in order to protect and enhance the value of the business.

Nevertheless, while a hotel’s current operations, physical condition and human resources are important assets to consider in such a review, its adherence to legislation is a more subtle asset that should nonetheless not be overlooked.

For any new hotel operator there will inevitably be a host of distractions and problems to deal with. Maybe a mattress in room 207 has an unpleasant stain on it. Perhaps the showers on the first floor aren’t working. Or perhaps the building is burning down because nobody thought to carry out a proper fire risk assessment.

Fire risk is always present and is exacerbated by ignorance of, or failure to adhere to, fire safety regulations.
We have found that when we take on a new site there are almost always very poor fire arrangements in place, and it’s one of the first issues we see to. After all, if the local fire authority carries out an inspection of the property, the first thing they will ask for is a copy of the fire risk assessment.

The fire risk assessment should be clear, concise, accurate, relevant, factual, and up to date. In short, it should provide staff and management with all the information they require to do their job. This becomes even more important within the hotel industry, with large numbers of guests sleeping in the same building.

Under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, employers or those who have control over a premises – such as insolvency practitioners – are required by law to carry out a fire risk assessment and act on its findings.

Trial by fire

In 2012 a landmark ruling was passed, as a jury – rather than the magistrate – convicted a defendant under Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. Michael Wilson, sole director of Chumleigh Lodge Hotel, pleaded guilty to 12 offences. The total fine of £210,00 was apportioned between the corporate defendant, Chumleigh Lodge Hotel Ltd (£30,000) and the individual defendant Michael Wilson (£180,000).

London Fire Brigade safety inspectors found a number of serious fire safety concerns at the property, including defective fire doors, blocked escape routes and missing smoke alarms, in addition to not having a suitable fire risk assessment.

Hot topic

London Fire Brigade says it carries out around 16,000 fire inspections of premises each year and although the majority of buildings are managed well in regard to fire, there are still too many that do not have an adequate fire risk assessment and as a result have fire exits blocked, inadequate fire alarms or poor staff training in place.

While some differ in the areas of priority, they will all concur that the starting point of effective fire management is a suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment. In order to achieve compliance and fulfil legal and moral obligations, it is essential that the findings are acted on and the assessment is regularly reviewed and remains a live document that needs managing.

In the case of insolvent hotels, fire authorities no longer carry out the necessary work, and therefore the onus to prepare sufficient fire risk assessments falls on the insolvency practitioner or the management company working for them.

This is where expertise in carrying out fire risk assessments – especially in the hospitality industry – is invaluable. As a specialist in the management of hotels for insolvency practitioners and banks, Convivial Management Services has extensive experience undertaking all aspects of assessments, from initial walkthroughs and site inspections, right through to equipment maintenance and staff training.

Convivial also provides bespoke management packages, including complete and comprehensive operational management, accountancy and payroll functions, marketing and PR, and repairs and maintenance, as well as meeting high standards in health and safety, hygiene and fire compliancy regulations.

For further information:

Contact Ian Smith on 01204 600712



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