North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service are again reminding all business owners to make sure that they are providing the correct level of fire safety provisions and are not breaching Fire Safety Legislation, following the prosecution of a business woman operating in Harrogate.
Mrs Yoko Banks has pleaded guilty to total of 15 breaches of articles contained in the Fire Safety Order, relating to 5 properties in Harrogate, which she owns and runs as houses in multiple occupation (HMO), guest houses and hotels.
The Fire Safety Order applies to the common parts of the HMO but entirely to all areas of the other 4 premises.
The offences were committed between November 2012 to March 2014, and relate to the duties of conducting suitable and sufficient risk assessments and providing adequate general fire precautions. Station Manager David Watson said: These matters are arguably the cornerstone for providing adequate fire safety measures within premises and the most serious contained in the Fire Safety Order. For each of the premises, Mrs Yoko Banks failed to comply with an Enforcement Notice requiring her to remedy the fire safety deficiencies. Owing to the failure of the fire alarm and detection system in two of the properties (2a Woodlands Road and Azalia Court Hotel), the Fire Authority served two Prohibition Notices in order to prevent persons from sleeping there. Fire crews have attended two of Mrs Yoko Bank’s properties on four occasions, three times in February 2013 and once in November 2013 in answer to 999 calls.
Despite Mrs Yoko Banks advising the Fire Authority by letter in April 2012 that she intended fully to comply with fire safety requirements, an audit undertaken in February 2013, found that all five properties continued to have serious fire safety deficiencies necessitating in the serving of five Enforcement Notices and two Prohibition Notices.
The dangerous state of the premises resulting in the risk to life or death or injury to persons in event of fire, and continued poor management of fire safety despite the best efforts of NYFRS have led to this prosecution.
On August 27th 2014 at Harrogate Magistrates Court Mrs Yoko Banks pleaded guilty in total to 15 contraventions of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.
In sentencing Mr Recorder Baird said that despite many visits to the premises by the fire service Mrs Banks had failed to protect residents and that she had a duty of care to ensure the premises were safe.

Ms Karen Galloway prosecuting stated that: The Fire and Rescue Service’s decision to prosecute was not taken lightly and this measure is only taken in the most serious cases. Station Manager, David Watson of North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service said: The majority of business premises that we visit are well-managed.
We do, however, continue to find a number of businesses and premises, where the fire safety order applies, which do not have adequate fire risk assessments or fire safety provisions.
Fire safety officers always try to work with businesses and business owners to ensure they are compliant or can achieve compliance with the requirements of the legislation and within an acceptable time scale.
The conviction shows how seriously the Fire Authority and the Courts view those who put the safety of others at risk in the event of a fire. North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Authority urge business owners and those with responsibility for any premises, where the fire safety order applies, to ensure that they have conducted their Fire Risk Assessment or reviewed any existing Fire Risk Assessment when this is required. In order to assist the business community to understand their responsibilities under The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (RRO), North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service organise a series of information seminars throughout the county. The duty to take general fire precautions are necessary to ensure the safety of both employees and persons living or visiting the property.
Prohibition Notices are the highest sanction available to a Fire Authority and are used sparingly because of the significant impact on a business. On one occasion, when crews attended they found a fire alarm sounding but no staff members were on site or responded to the alarm. Mrs Yoko Banks has on more than one occasion been urged to obtain the assistance of a competent professional specialising in matters of fire safety but has stated that this is too expensive.
These offences were committed across 5 premises: four guest houses and one house of multiple occupation.

The Responsible Person is always in a position of authority, their lack of actions should have been foreseeable to prevent, in the event of fire, persons being put at risk of death or injury. When fire alarm and detection systems are not provided or not maintained in full working order those people who are sleeping in a building may well have their lives put at risk of death or serious injury in the event of a fire. It is important that they are aware of the legislative obligations they need to comply with including having an up to date fire risk assessment. It relates to taking measure to reduce the risk of fire, prevent the spread of fire, securing, at all times, the means of escape from premises, along with the ability to fight fires, detect fires, give appropriate warnings and ensuring that employees are trained to deal with fire related incidents. The subsequent Fire Risk Assessments were insufficient as they failed to identify deficiencies in the premises concerned. They are only served when standards of general fire precautions have fallen so far below the expected standards that people are placed at immediate risk of death or serious injury. The contraventions in this case were serious and would have continued had the Fire Authority not continued to insist that Enforcement Notices, that they had served on the Responsible Person, was complied with. In this instance Fire Officers believe that the breaches of the general fire precautions were such as to result in the risk of death or serious injury.
In addition, she had not taken the necessary general fire precautions to ensure the safety of her residents, and for one of the premises (Ashley House) she had also failed to ensure the safety of her employees. When this discovery was made the fire alarm detection system was not functioning correctly, causing significant risk of fire and serious injury or death to those within the building.

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