AN investigation has been launched after emergency services called out to Wigan swimming baths found two fire exit doors locked – and spectators trapped.
Appalled fire crews discovered the serious breach of safety regulations at the Library Street entrance of Wigan Life Centre when they attended a alarm call during a swimming gala event on Sunday afternoon. Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service have now opened a report into the matter and council bosses said they are treating the incident with the “utmost seriousness”.
The call-out which turned out to be a false alarm, occurred after steam from a tea urn – positioned under a smoke detector – set off the pre-alarm, before triggering the main fire alarm.
As the building was evacuated, spectators in the top tier of the pool attempted to leave via the Library Street exit.
But finding the door was locked, they were trapped in the building for a short period of time until they were let out via another exit.
An on-duty fire safety officer took statements and there will now be an investigation into the matter.
Steve Sheridan, borough manager, said: “We turned out to an incident where two fire doors were locked at the Library Street entrance.
“We are not apportioning any blame to anybody in the local authority until the investigation is completed, but this is a serious breach.
“Any fire door where people are trying to exit a building when there is a potential emergency is a cause for concern. Fortunately there was no fire.
“The situation will be assessed. In some circumstances there may be a prohibition notice, where the pool could not be used for a period of time until the doors are sorted, or it could end up in a prosecution.
“It is too early to define any course of action until the investigation is complete.”
Although the site is owned by Wigan Council, Hochtief Facility Management UK has been commissioned to manage the building, including taking joint responsibility with the authority for its fire regulations.
Steve Normington, director of economy at Wigan Council, said: “The incident on Sunday at Wigan Life Centre was a false alarm and at no point was anyone at any risk.
“However, we are treating it with the utmost seriousness.
“With the private company (Hochtief) who manage and operate the building on our behalf, we are undertaking a thorough investigation to establish what happened.
“Already steps have been taken to prevent this type of event occurring again.
“We’d like to reassure the public the Life Centre is a safe building and that fire safety is taken extremely seriously. We would also like to apologise for any distress caused.”
Simon Harris, managing director of Hochtief, said: “We have launched a serious investigation with our compliance director and operations director into the circumstances around what occurred and we will be publishing our report to the council in due course.
“We apologise for any concern that has been caused.”
Health and Safety Executive (HSE) guidelines, under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and Fire (Scotland) Act 2005 state that where there is a potential for serious risk, inspectors have a responsibility to ensure that the risk is appropriately mitigated immediately.
Fire exits which cannot be easily and immediately opened from the inside is one such incident that is highlighted in the regulations.