A hotel fire tragedy, in which two guests lost their lives, has highlighted how recommendations arising out fire risk assessments can be worthless unless a plan is put in place around their implementation.
According to reports from Scotland, a fine of £500,000 was imposed on Cameron House Resort (Loch Lomond) Limited on 29 January 2021, after the company pleaded guilty to offences under the Fire (Scotland) Act 2005.
Dumbarton Sheriff Court heard how the organisation had failed to put a safe system of work in place around the removal and disposal of ashes and embers from fires at the Cameron House Hotel. It had also failed to ensure staff were given instruction, training and supervision around the safe removal and disposal of the ash and embers.
This was despite the fact, the court heard, that third party fire risk assessors appointed by the company had in 2016 (and reiterated in 2017) advised that a written policy around the emptying of open fires at the hotel be implemented. The recommendations were not put in place.
An employee, a night porter at the premises, was also sentenced to community service over the December 2017 fire. The court was told how the hotel porter had “put a bag of ash and embers in a cupboard containing kindling and newspaper”, which then ignited. A video of the incident, from CCTV cameras and published by STV News, can be viewed here.
Crown QC Michael Meehan explained that the cupboard was “well alight” and that the blaze “immediately took hold and spread from there”, with the night manager sounding the full alarm and calling 999. Firefighters began tackling the blaze within 10 minutes, but by then the fire was “well developed”. Several guests were rescued, however two were not so fortunate. One died at the scene, while the other was pronounced dead at the local hospital. Both were killed as a result of smoke and gas inhalations.
It was heard that a manager “understood incorrectly that all the actions (around the risk assessment) had been completed, including in relation to the written procedure for disposing of ash from open fires.” However, Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) had also warned hotel management about the risks of storing combustibles in the concierge cupboard in August 2017, the court was told. Despite a follow-up letter to an audit, combustibles continued to be stored in the cupboard.
Commenting on the case, Shaun Small, RiskSTOP Risk Management Consultant, said: “As an organisation we were not involved in this case, however we occasionally see first-hand how requirements and recommendations around risk can either be ignored or watered down in some way.
“The fire and loss of life here highlights how the ultimate price can sometimes be paid for not putting a plan in place to properly implement advice from the fire services or independent risk assessors. It’s terribly sad that people had to lose their lives under such circumstances.”