December 2010 saw the first prosecution of a fire-protection service provider – Christopher Morris who was responsible for the fire-alarm system at Oldfield Bank Residential Care Home - Altringham, was convicted for fire-safety breaches. Mr Morris was fined £5,000 and ordered to pay £6,000 costs. He pleaded guilty to two charges of failing to maintain a fire-alarm system.
The fire at the Care Home resulted in a fatality and as the fallout unfolds an employee of the home has been prosecuted. This is now the first employee to be prosecuted under ‘The Fire Safety Order’ and this one case alone shows the Fire Authorities’ intention to bring all persons involved to justice not just the owner.
Karen Sykes, 41, from Sale, on the 18th of March pleaded guilty to breach of article 23 of the Fire Safety Order - a failure to take care of herself and other relevant persons. The fire alarm sounded around 6pm but was quickly silenced by Ms Sykes who had not carried out search of the site to investigate the reason for the activation.
A fire was later discovered in a resident’s room and an hour and fifteen minutes after the alarm activation a call was finally made to the fire and emergency services. When fire crews arrived they found the fire-alarm to be muted.
Elderly resident Enid West died following the fire and an inquest into her death is scheduled to be heard by the Stockport Coroner this month.
Assistant county fire officer, Peter O'Reilly, said: "This case clearly highlights and enforces the message that employees have a duty to ensure the safety of the people they are looking after. This type of behaviour simply isn't acceptable and we should not forget that an elderly resident in Sykes’ care died that night. "This is the first time an employee has been prosecuted under this legislation, as opposed to the employer, and I am proud of Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue for bringing this about."
The fallout continues and the message surely is the ‘responsible person’ carries the ultimate can but responsibility is devolved along the way. If you think 'I’m just an employee it’s not my responsibility' - then you’re wrong!