SEVENTY per cent of Lancashire businesses failed fire safety checks last year, putting people’s lives at risk, according to a new report.

Business owners have been warned that putting off fire risk assessments and cutting back on vital maintenance to save money is a false economy.

Figures by independent fire expert Safety Management revealed in 3,636 audits carried out between April 2011 and March this year, only 1,089 were found to be compliant by Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service’s fire safety experts.

They also served 376 enforcement notices over that period.

Safety Management said it believed the situation in Lancashire was mirrored across the UK, with business owners suffering from a false sense of security that they had their fire safety covered.

Brian Gregory, managing director, said: “Small businesses are feeling the pressure of the recession and are looking to save money, but putting fire safety to the bottom of their priorities is a false economy.

“This figure suggests that businesses are gambling with their future.

“Often, business owners and managers feel that by having fire extinguishers in place and a fire detection system in their building means they are covered. But critically, unless the assessment is completed by a competent person, there is no guar- antee that the fire detection is the right system for the building.”

The Safety Management study also revealed there were 3,851 arson attacks in Lancashire over the 12-month period. There were also 24 office fires, 76 factory or warehouse blazes and 50 fires in small shops and takeaways.

Safety Management is an independent provider of fire safety training, fire risk assessments and first aid training.

This year it will complete around 12,000 fire risk assessments in the UK.

Lancashire’s assistant chief fire officer, Dave Russel, said: “There is no satisfaction in seeing people punished for failure to make their premises safe, but it should act as a powerful deterrent for anyone who supposes that ensuring fire safety is an option and not an obligation by law.

“When it proves necessary to do so, we will take action through the courts.”