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NO ESCAPE! Firm fined for blocking fire exit with shutters.

Byline: EXAMINER

A BED manufacturer based in Huddersfield has been fined pounds 18,000 for fire safety breaches.

And a judge branded conditions at the Bradley premises a potential "death-trap".

Judge Jonathan Rose was yesterday shown an eight-minute DVD recording of conditions inside the Joseph International Limited factory at Station Road, Bradley, when inspectors visited the premises in August 2010.

The recording showed fire doors blocked by locked roller shutters and a newly-constructed first-floor mezzanine area which could only be evacuated via a movable metal ladder.

Although employees should have been within about 12 metres of a fire exit the escape routes in the factory were between four and six times longer.

Prosecutor Tom Gent told Bradford Crown Court that the company, which employs about 25 people on the site, had failed to review its risk assessment after the mezzanine was constructed in February 2010.

The company, which is owned and run by managing director Tahir Zaman, also admitted failing to ensure that emergency exits were not locked and that escape routes were kept clear at all times.

The court heard that one escape route which involved going down two flights of stairs ended with a locked roller shutter covering the fire door.

Another fire door had a locked roller shutter behind it.

After the inspection in August 2010 the company was served with a prohibition notice stating that the mezzanine area should only be used for storage, but on another visit in September 2010 staff were seen working in the area.

Barrister Caroline Haughey, for the company, said Zaman was an upstanding member of the community with an impeccable character and he was deeply She said her client accepted that he had not acted quickly enough to rectify matters after the prohibition notice was served, but the court was told that a new mezzanine area had now been constructed and further inspections had not shown any other failings.

Miss Haughey said Zaman was gravely sorry for the offending, but she stressed that it was "one-off" which had now been remedied.

Judge Rose said the breaches were not fleeting and the situation at the premises had not occurred overnight.

"This was, I'm afraid to say, potentially a death trap and a death-trap not just for those people on the mezzanine floor but for others as well", said the judge.

Judge Rose said it was a "happy accident" that there had been no fire, but he stressed that the safety of his employees should have been Zaman's first responsibility.

In addition to the fine for the five breaches of the regulations Judge Rose also ordered the company to pay costs of pounds 3,129.59.

The firm will have to pay the fine and costs within a year.

CAPTION(S):

* NO WAY OUT: a closed shutter blocks an emergency exit
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Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Date:Mar 10, 2012
Words:469
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