Dame Hackitt urged to introduce ‘duty holder’ role to increase accountability

The National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) has called for a duty holder with responsibility for fire safety to be introduced through the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety headed up by Dame Judith Hackitt.

According to Inside Housing, the call from the fire chief membership body came in response to the prosecution of a property managing agent following the death of a woman in a tower block fire in August 2012.

 

Prosecution

Sophie Rosser, 23, died following the fire in Meridian Place in London’s Docklands where she lived on the fifth floor. She was found unconscious by firefighters and treated at the scene by London’s Helicopter Emergency Medical Service before being taken to hospital, where she later died.

London Fire Brigade (LFB) carried out an inspection of the building following the fire and discovered several serious fire safety failures, including:

  • Failure to take general fire precautions to ensure the premises are safe
  • Failure to have a suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment
  • Failure to monitor and review the preventative and protective measures
  • Failure to equip and maintain the building with firefighting equipment
  • Failure to properly maintain the fire detection system.

 

Sentences

Parc Properties Management Limited (PPML), the managing agent for Meridian Place Management, was ordered to pay £40,000 at Southwark Crown Court on 19 March after pleading guilty to two offences under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order (RRO) 2005.

Vance Miller, who conducted a fire risk assessment for PPML at Meridian Place in 2008, also pleaded guilty to one offence under the RRO, and was fined £2,000 with £5,000 costs.

 

Duty holder

According to Inside Housing, the Hackitt review, set up post-Grenfell, is considering a recommendation to introduce a duty holder who would have ultimate responsibility for fire safety in a building, in order to ensure that fire safety responsibilities are taken seriously.

This could be the building owner, but in situations where the ownership of the building is complex, it would be someone based in the UK. The duty holder would need to work with residents, including leaseholders, and a regulator would oversee their work to ensure they are meeting their responsibilities.

Fire safety experts have reported significant confusion about who the responsible person required in law for fire safety is in privately-owned buildings where there may be a freeholder and owner(s) as well as a property management company.