A climbing company in Rochdale has been fined £14,000 for breaching fire safety regulations

Big Rock Climbing Ltd, which owns and runs Climb Rochdale, was convicted of seven fire safety offences at Bury Magistrates’ Court on 17 December 2012. The company was fined £2,000 for each offence and ordered to pay £1,858 costs to Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service, as well as a £15 victim surcharge.

The prosecution by the Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Authority followed an inspection in January 2012, after a member of staff made an anonymous complaint reporting locked fire doors. The fire protection officer found a series of failings in the fire safety measures at the premises which meant that, if a fire had occurred, staff and climbers could have been trapped inside the building.

All of the fire exits, apart from the main entrance, were locked or blocked and two of the fire exits could not be opened even after staff unlocked them, as the doors were stuck in the frames.

The escape route from the first floor was not safe, as fire doors had been wedged open. Had a fire occurred, smoke, heat and the fire itself could have quickly spread and trapped people upstairs.

Staff working at the climbing centre had not been trained in how to use and test the fire alarm or the emergency lighting.

The fire alarm and emergency lighting had not been tested and some of the emergency lights did not work. This had been identified in a risk assessment that had been reviewed in April 2011, but nothing had been done to address it.

Cassie Williams, prosecuting for Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Authority, told the court: ‘All of the doors out of the building were locked or blocked. Staff were not able to operate the fire alarm and, when tested with the key, it didn’t work. This was a busy place and early warning is vital to ensure people can get out.’

Peter O’Reilly of Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service said: ‘The nature of the centre and the fact that people are actively climbing there means that early warning of a fire is vital, to ensure customers can get down from the wall and evacuate safely. However, not only was the alarm not maintained, the fire doors – which are emergency exits – were locked and could not be opened even when they were unlocked.

‘It is fortunate that there was no fire, as the risk of people not getting out of the building safely was unacceptable. I would urge all businesses to make sure they do a risk assessment and then act on the findings.’