Contractors potentially liable for fire doors errors after landmark legal case

Contractors potentially liable for fire doors errors after landmark legal case

Monday 9 May
A maintenance contractor was prosecuted last year under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 for failing to maintain a fire detection and fire alarm system at a care home in Manchester, after one resident died in a fire. According to Building.co.uk, this action has underlined the importance of contractors and manufacturers ensuring that all fire doors are properly configured and certified.

Fire doors separate buildings into discrete compartments when fires break out, and they are of vital importance in defending a building against the spread of conflagration. They also permit people to escape from fires and can protect fire fighters. The design and configuration of fire doors is important to a building’s passive fire protection system and the law relating to them is complex.

Christopher Morris, 56, of Llandudno, who was previously a retained fire fighter, was prosecuted last December at Manchester Crown Court and was fined £5,000 and ordered to pay £6,000 costs. The prosecution stated that Morris, who had taken responsibility for maintenance in 2006, issued numerous certificates of worthiness to the owner of the care home. He pleaded guilty to failing to maintain a fire detection and fire alarm system and failure to inform the owners of deficiencies in the system.

Jim Owen, deputy county fire officer, said that “… this may be the first time a fire and rescue authority has prosecuted someone contracted by the owner of a property to maintain a fire alarm. Taking on such a contract extends the requirements of the Order to the fire alarm engineer. Anyone we find who doesn’t carry out their work to recognised standards is a danger, and we won’t hesitate to take action.”

In the past, building managers have been held liable in prosecutions if they are found to be negligent in their duties to carry out maintenance and fire risks assessments. The case in December saw the maintenance contractor being prosecuted, which sets a precedent for contractors being held liable in future.

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