High street retailer New Look has been fined £400,000 and ordered to pay £136,052 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching fire safety legislation, following a serious fire at its Oxford Street store in London.
Around 450 people from the store and surrounding premises had to be evacuated and 35 fire engines and around 150 fire-fighters attended the fire in April 2007. The delay in contacting the emergency services meant that the fire had already broken through the second floor windows when fire-fighters arrived. Despite the building’s fire alarm sounding, the alarm was reset on at least one occasion, said London Fire Brigade.
Fire crews remained on the scene for the next three days and a section of Oxford Street was closed to traffic and the public for two days. The cause of the fire was never established and the store was subsequently demolished.
New Look pleaded guilty to having an inadequate fire risk assessment, no record of the appropriate procedures to be taken during a fire alarm. Another breach was insufficient staff training, which led to a delayed evacuation of the premises. In addition, green emergency door release units were fitted on the wrong side of the basement doors.
Sentencing of New Look took place at Southwark Crown Court on 25 November 2009.
Total Fire Services Managing Director, Darren Baird, commented on the prosecution of New Look for fire safety breaches, “Only a small proportion of businesses manage to survive a major fire, plus there is the tragic loss of life to both staff and customers that may occur due to inadequate fire safety regulations. In addition to the loss of premises and revenue for New Look the closure of this section of Oxford Street meant that many other businesses suffered.”
“New Look failed to provide adequate fire risk assessments and was fined appropriately – with the largest fine ever for breaching UK fire safety regulations. “
“Any company that employs more than 5 persons is required by law to carry out a thorough fire risk assessment and act appropriately on the assessment findings. Ignorance of Fire Safety Law is no defence and failure to take appropriate action when required may lead to a large financial penalty from which many businesses may not recover.”