More than half the public buildings inspected in South Yorkshire fail fire safety check

More than half of public buildings inspected in South Yorkshire last year were found in breach of fire safety regulations, figures reveal.

By Lloyd Bent
Thursday, 23rd September 2021, 2:25 pm

Home Office data shows 405 buildings inspected by the South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service in the year to March did not comply with fire safety laws – 53 per cent of those inspected.

They included 76 blocks of flats and 54 shops.

However, the fire service has urged the public not to worry, and pointed out that the range of seriousness in terms of safety concerns is ‘vast’ and some of the buildings failed for minor reasons that have not alarmed firefighters.

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South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue

Fire services conduct audits on most public buildings and the shared areas of residential properties such as flats to make sure they meet safety regulations.

When inspections are unsatisfactory, auditors may issue an informal notification – for example to agree an action plan – or formal ones such as enforcement notices, warning that a building breaches the law.

In the most serious cases, inspectors may issue a prohibition notice to restrict or ban access to a building or they may prosecute those responsible for the property’s safety.

In the year to March, the South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service issued 16 formal notifications, including seven enforcement notices, five prohibition notices and one prosecution.

A spokesperson for South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue said: “Our inspectors have worked hard over the last year to audit so many buildings in South Yorkshire, with the key aim being to prevent fires and make our county a safer place to work, live and visit.

“We would urge people not to be too concerned by these figures. Indeed, residents can be reassured that when we do find issues, we will always work with building owners and management to support them in getting things rectified.”

However, with the number of inspections plummeting nationally due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Fire Brigades Union warned catching up will be made difficult by a drop in the number of inspectors.

Matt Wrack, the FBU's general secretary, said: "It is understandable that audit figures have dipped during the pandemic, given the reduction in non-emergency contact with the public.

"Any shortfall in inspections needs to be made up, however.

"This may be difficult, though, with steep falls in the number of fire inspectors in recent years.

“This fall in inspectors is also concerning due to the building safety issues that have come to light since Grenfell and the increased number of buildings fire inspectors are responsible for."

The Government said it was committed to learning lessons from the Grenfell Tower tragedy in 2017 – the fire at a London tower block, which killed more than 70 people.

Fire Minister Lord Stephen Greenhalgh said: “Stopping fires before they start is the best way to keep the places where we work and live safe, which is our number one priority.

"Where any issues are identified in initial desktop audits our fire and rescue services will follow up with full audits conducted in person.”