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  • Writer's pictureRichard Nichols

Enhancing Fire Safety in High-Risk Environments: Lessons from a Devastating Incident

Fire in Belfast

Ensuring fire safety in hot work environments is paramount. One often overlooked aspect is the need for a continuous fire watch period, extending throughout the task and beyond completion. A recent incident involving three roofers on a tea break highlights the urgency of this practice. Thanks to the vigilance of a crane driver who spotted a fire, we are reminded of the critical role played by an unwavering fire watch. In this article, we delve into the implications of this incident and the lessons it offers to enhance safety measures in high-risk settings.

A catastrophic fire which occurred nearly five years ago, engulfed the iconic Bank Buildings in Belfast's city centre, housing the Primark shop. The tragic occurrence has finally resulted in fines totalling £160,000 for two companies held responsible for the incident. The Grade B1-listed, five-story building's destruction prompted a staggering £100m reconstruction, with its doors reopening to the public just last year.

In a recent ruling at Belfast Crown Court, Bennett Management Contractors (GB) Ltd and AF Roofing were found guilty of health and safety breaches and were each fined £80,000. The companies had previously admitted to failing in their duty to ensure the health and safety of their employees and other workers not under their direct employment.

The gravity of the situation prompted the judge to impose a payment deadline of four weeks on Bennett Management Contractors (GB) Ltd, considering its substantial annual turnover exceeding £30m. On the other hand, Irish firm AF Roofing, based in County Waterford, was granted an extended timeframe to fulfil the fine due to its relatively smaller annual turnover.

Fire in Belfast gutted building

For business owners, the fines in which the two companies at fault received serve as a reminder that negligence in upholding health and safety standards will not be tolerated. There are severe consequences when companies are at fault, emphasizing the importance of having the correct health and safety measures in place.

Additionally, the devastating fire, which occurred on 28 August 2018, persisted for days, causing immense damage to the historic structure and necessitating months of closure in part of the city centre. The alarm was raised by a vigilant crane driver who spotted smoke on the roof of the Primark shop, where three AF Roofing employees had been working before stepping away for a tea break.

Though efforts were made on-site with extinguishers to contain the fire, until the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service eventually took control of the situation.

In light of the tragic incident at the Bank Buildings in Belfast, it becomes evident that fire safety is of utmost importance, particularly in high-risk settings. The devastating consequences of negligence in upholding health and safety standards are apparent in the fines imposed on the companies responsible for the incident. Such occurrences serve as a stark reminder of the need for comprehensive fire awareness courses and the implementation of continuous fire watch periods.

At Base Solutions Ltd, we are committed to enhancing fire safety practices across all industries. Our comprehensive Basic Fire Safety Awareness course ensures that participants gain a thorough understanding of fire safety protocols, risk assessment, and the importance of vigilance in fire-prone environments. If you are interested in how Base Solutions can assist you and your business, please contact our team for further information.


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