High street retailer JD Sports has been fined £60,000 for blocking their fire escapes with stock.

The West Midlands Fire Service found that piles of stock, ordered for the Christmas rush at a Brierley Hill store, had blocked escape routes – reducing exits to just 30cm.

Inspectors had visited for a routine pre-Christmas visit. JD Sports had ordered too much stock, and crates and clothes rails were blocking fire exits. The fire service told staff to clear the exit routes.

Inspectors had spotted similar problems in a previous fire risk assessment – with escape routes blocked by packaging waste – and had recommended that the store manager should check the passageway every day.

But the advice was ignored on both visits. The Fire Service prosecuted.

JD Sports admitted six offences. They were fined £10,000 for each charge – and had to pay an additional £7464 in legal costs.

The Fire Service said, ‘We do everything we can to advise businesses on fire safety, but will not hesitate to prosecute if our advice is ignored. Retailers must realise they can’t put profit before safety by over-stocking, reducing the width of escape routes and blocking fire exit routes.’

It’s a stark warning to retailers: don’t take the risk – keep your escape routes and exits clear.

Laura Harthill – Environmental Health & Safety Advisor.