Wednesday 13 December 2017

Council failed to ensure safety of firefighters, trial told

Ben Haugh

WICKLOW County Council has gone on trial in relation to breaches of health and safety which led to the death of two firefighters in a derelict building almost six years ago.

Brian Murray (46) and Mark O'Shaughnessy (26) died fighting a blaze at a disused ink factory at Adelaide Villas in Bray on September 26, 2007.

Wicklow County Council is the fire authority for the region and runs the fire service in Co. Wicklow. It is the prosecution's case that the council failed in its duty to ensure the health and safety of its employees.

Wicklow County Council pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to four charges relating to alleged criminal breaches under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005, between September 1, 2005 and September 26, 2007.

Thomas Murphy, director of enterprise and corporate services at Wicklow County Council, was nominated to appear in court and entered the plea on behalf of the defendants.

Opening the case, Alex Owens, prosecuting, explained the meaning of the different charges to the jury.

He said the first charge alleges that Wicklow County Council failed to ensure the safety of its employees which resulted in personal injury.

He told the jury that a lack of clear 'rules of engagement' resulted in two firefighters being exposed to 'unnecessary risk' after they entered the unused building.

Mr Owens said the men were ordered out of the building by their fire chief but got trapped inside after the fire spread quickly.

It was the prosecution's case that Wicklow County Council failed to introduce clear guidelines on dealing with this type of fire and should have sent two fire engines to the scene rather than just one.

He said the second charge related to the Bray Fire Brigade safety statement, which was drawn up between 1992 and 1994 but never revised.

Mr Owens said the defendant had failed to revise the safety statement when there was reason to believe that it was outdated.

"The safety statement was never updated," Mr Owens said.

The court heard that the third charge relates to the lack of a proper risk assessment of the region's firefighters.

Speaking about the fourth charge, Mr Owens said it is the prosecution's case that the fire-fighters were not trained to use a new fire engine which was in use on the day of the incident.

The trial continues.

Irish Independent

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