AF&RS caution UHB over Oncology fire

Avon Fire and Rescue Service (AF&RS) has concluded its investigation into the fire at the Bristol Haematology and Oncology Centre and issued University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust with a caution.

Following the fire on the 10th of May 2018, AF&RS Technical Fire Safety (TFS) officers conducted a number of visits to investigate the site and any fire safety failings.

These investigations specifically looked at why and how the fire spread from the plant room to a number of areas within the building and resulted in an evacuation of over 50 people.

TFS officers discovered a number of fire safety failings under Article 8(1) of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. 

This Order requires the Trust to “take such general fire precautions as will ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the safety of any of his employees; and in relation to relevant persons who are not his employees, take such general fire precautions as may reasonably be required in the circumstances of the case to ensure that the premises are safe”.

TFS Officers found that at the time of the fire, adequate measures were not in place for securing the means of escape safely and effectively.

They found:

  1. Inadequate fire separation in the lower ground floor plant room, enabling the spread of toxic smoke and flames which compromised the means of escape for persons in the event of fire.
  2. The compartmentation within the ceiling voids in the premises was inadequate to prevent the passage of toxic smoke and flames, which compromised the means of escape for persons in the event of fire.
  3. The ventilation ductwork did not prevent toxic smoke and flames penetrating it, which compromised the means of escape for persons in the event of fire.
  4. There was inadequate emergency lighting to allow escapees to use the means of escape safely and effectively in the event of the failure of normal lighting.

This failure to comply with Article 8(1) (a & b) placed one or more relevant persons at risk of death or serious injury in case of fire, contrary to Article 32(1)(a) of the Order.

Steve Quinton, Risk Reduction Group Manager for AF&RS, said: “My officers carried out a thorough investigation following the fire and we felt that we had sufficient evidence to bring a prosecution against the Trust.

“We were able to demonstrate that the case passed the evidential and public interest tests to proceed and we were confident of securing a successful outcome in the courts.

”Our concern was that any fine imposed on the Trust would have drawn money away from patient care and fire safety works.

“With this in mind, and the on-going cooperation from the Trust to make improvements to ensure patient safety, we decided to offer a caution which was accepted by the Trust agreeing to the failures identified.”

As with all cautions issued by fire services, a record will be kept which may subsequently influence a decision to institute proceedings should the Trust be found to be infringing the law in the future. 

The caution may also be cited should the Trust subsequently be found guilty of an offence by a Court of Law.

Steve added: “I would like to praise the work of my Fire Safety officers in carrying out a complex investigation and also acknowledge the cooperation we received from the Trust and its staff.

“We continue to work closely with the Trust to ensure that they comply with the Fire Safety Order across their premises and that all patients are safe.”

At 01:05 on the 10th May 2018, crews from Bedminster, Hicks Gate, Temple, Kingswood, Avonmouth and Southmead fire stations we mobilised to reports of a fire at the Haematology and Oncology Centre.

On arrival, firefighters found a fire in the ground floor plant room and a full evacuation was implemented.

Crews used six breathing apparatus for safety and one high-pressure hose reel, one 45mm jet and one CO2 extinguisher to put out the fire.

They also used a positive pressure ventilation fan to clear smoke and thermal imaging cameras to check for hotspots. The cause of the fire was accidental.