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The tragic events of the Grenfell Tower fire eighteen months ago have brought the importance of fire safety in all buildings front and central to the minds of facilities managers and property owners. But whilst the focus has thus far been on building materials or managing risk from power supplies, the role of fire doors and their ongoing upkeep – a vital lifeline in the event of a fire – has so far been discussed less.
The recent ‘Raise the Bar’ fire safety event, hosted by ASSA ABLOY UK in support of the British Woodworking Federation’s annual Fire Door Safety Week campaign, considered the importance of correct certification, compartmentation in buildings, and the steps required to install and regularly maintain fire doorsets across the building industry.
Held at West Midlands Fire Service Headquarters in Birmingham, the event was well-received by over 70 building owners, facility managers, risk assessors and door industry professionals who attended from across the country.
Leading up to the event, ASSA ABLOY UK launched a thought-provoking whitepaper in response to Dame Judith Hackitt’s Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety which was then summarised and discussed by Brian Sofley, Managing Director of ASSA ABLOY Security Doors on the day.
Brian highlighted: “Increasingly, we as an industry are finding that fire doors are not performing as they should. A lack of training and qualifications, combined with a complex supply chain and insufficient due diligence, means that far too many doorsets are failing.
“Fire doors are often supplied as separate parts, meaning that the complete doorset can risk not meeting compliance once assembled. Add to this the fact there is no mandatory maintenance for the lifecycle of a fire doorset and it soon becomes clear why the industry as a whole has become disjointed.”
To address these issues, Brian suggested that fire doorsets should be supplied as complete doorset solutions, where the doors, frames, hardware, vision panels, seals and ironmongeries are supplied as compatible products from a single source. He clarified that this will drastically reduce the chance of certain elements failing and triggering a domino effect across the other doorset components, which can compromise fire door safety.
Brian also proposed that the industry gets together as a collective in order to press the government to follow through with its proposal to create a new Joint Competent Authority (JCA).
Further recommendations included the introduction of mandatory third-party accreditation of fire doorsets themselves, as well as the installation of these doorsets. As well as this, Brian proposed mandatory regular inspection and maintenance of said fire doors.
Ross Newman, Project Engineer at UL International, also reinforced Brian’s message of mandating third party certification for fire door manufacture, installation, maintenance and inspection. He then went on to cover the findings of the Grenfell investigations and the impact these have had on the composite door industry.
Ross concluded by saying: “There is a need for further clarification on the requirements for testing fire doors in both opening directions, as well as a need for a full review and revision of Approved Document B – Appendix B – fire doors, which is expected to start this autumn.”
Next, Michael Skelding, General Manager and Secretary of the Door & Hardware Federation (dhf) discussed a case study involving a local council and incorrect fire door installation, which costed the local authority millions to fix. He concluded with three key messages: “Our advice would be to always specify third-party certified doorsets, prepared in the factory; to take responsibility in helping review obsolete standards; and to review training and apprenticeship opportunities in order to lead to recognised qualifications.”
Harish Garara, Installation Manager for ASSA ABLOY Security Doors brought to light a number of real-life education and commercial office case studies where installation issues affected the performance of fire doors in-situ.
Harish drew on the lessons from these examples and outlined what could be done to avoid these common faults, with the main takeaways being to strictly adhere to specification, to always gain proof of certification for fire doors and to employ only certified installers.
Nick Lacey, Fire Safety Inspecting Officer for West Midlands Fire Service went through a fire safety risk assessment overview. He covered The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, and what it meant for building owners, facilities managers and persons responsible for fire door safety.
The attendees of the event then had the opportunity to engage with Brian and Nick who joined Iain McIlwee, Chief Executive of the British Woodworking Federation (BWF) and David Hindle, Head of Door Closer Sales for ASSA ABLOY UK to form a discussion panel, to share their expertise in fire door safety. Key topics discussed included compartmentation in buildings, the future of fire door safety, certification and standards.
Assa Abloy UK draws on many years of experience within the fire door industry and wants to utilise this expertise to help guide persons responsible for fire safety through this time of uncertainty. That is why events such as this are vital to help raise awareness and facilitate a culture shift in all areas of the building industry and to help raise the bar on quality standards necessary for fire door safety.
Future recommendations for fire door testing
- Fire Door Safety Inspection providers should be audited in line with other professional testing facilities and schemes, such as UKAS labs.
- Fire door testing and training schemes should be accredited and audited to avoid any confusion in the market over which scheme to choose and to demonstrate compliance.
- If fire door inspections are to remain voluntary, they should at least be accredited but ultimately mandatory inspections are the only way to ensure safety.
- Approved and certified training is needed to better interpret and ensure compliance with standards.
- Standards need to be more agile to adapt to the changing building types and methods of construction. It is vital that standards can quickly and effectively incorporate feedback from those working with and adhering to building regulations.
Raising the bar on the standards of fire door safety
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