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March 26, 2015

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Fire door inspection scheme: the need continues to grow

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Clive Reilly discusses the importance of the Fire Door Inspection Scheme and how regular and systematic inspections can prolong the life of the door.

The birth of the Fire Door Inspection scheme (FDIS) in 2012 was set against a backdrop of a severe economic downturn which amongst a range of other issues resulted in a reduction of funds available to building managers to undertake planned preventative maintenance at the same time as the industry was experiencing a rising tide of prosecutions and fines under the RRFSO and related legislation across the whole of the UK.

It is clear from the steadily growing number of enquiries received by FDIS that many organisations are waking up to the need to have their fire doors inspected. The fact that these organisations have made contact with FDIS also means that they recognise the need for these inspections to be undertaken by competent individuals who have both a detailed knowledge of fire door requirements and who adopt a robust and systematic inspection process that can be repeated from door to door and where necessary, from building to building. This brings with it the consistency that is necessary to commence the process of effective fire door management.

Despite this, there are still a vast number of organisations that are either unaware of their obligations under current fire legislation or who simply choose to do nothing. Many other – perhaps more responsible – organisations do make an attempt to inspect and maintain their fire doors but use untrained, inexperienced staff that may not have a detailed inspection criteria to follow. While these organisations are to be commended for making the effort it is clear that a number of the defects that can be found on fire doors may not be readily apparent to the untrained eye. This can lead to a false sense of security and a resultant failure to undertake appropriate remedial action.

On the basis of inspections of many thousand fire doors conducted in the three years since I became an FDIS certificated inspector there is still a lot of work to be done. Recent analysis carried out by FDIS detailed the five most common fire door faults identified during inspections. These include damage to the door leaf, missing or incorrectly installed intumescent strips and incorrect hinges.

Individually, each of these defects can have a significant impact on the performance of a fire door in the event of a fire-related incident. What should also be borne in mind however is that an individual fire door can often be found to contain multiple defects. The combination of these defects could mean that such doors are likely to fall significantly short of delivering the required period of fire protection that organisations rely on to effect evacuation, to move people away from a fire or simply to minimise the damage and disruption to the operation of their business.

Regrettably is not just the failure to inspect doors on a regular basis that is a cause for concern. It is quite clear from the results of my inspections that the standards of repairs carried out on fire doors can often fall short of requirements. Often push plates are used to conceal voids in a leaf resulting from the removal of a lock after the fitting of controlled access devices or that non-fire rated glass and sealants are used to replace damaged vision panels. It is only by having doors inspected on a regular and systematic basis that these issues can be identified and addressed.

Perhaps more worrying than any of the above is the number of newly installed fire doors that are not fitted in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions, relevant fire test evidence or even in accordance with industry best practice. For example, is not uncommon to find newly installed hinges that have not been bedded on the required intumescent liners or to find that one or more hinge fixings are missing. In each instance the organisation expects that these doors have been installed correctly and will perform as required in the event of a fire. It is only when such doors are subject to inspection by someone who knows what to look for that these problems are found, by which time the costs of remediation may have to be borne by the organisation itself.

To summarise, it is clear that whilst the FDIS, their inspectors and others are doing much to raise awareness of the importance of correctly functioning fire doors, the very nature of a fire door means that many are in almost constant use and of those a significant number are subject to high levels of wear and tear caused by users who either do not know of or do not care about the vital role that a fire doors have to play in the event of a fire. As a result the need to undertake regular and systematic inspection of fire doors should be regarded as an ongoing commitment and not simply a one-off event. There is still much to do and until such a time when all organisations understand and take seriously their obligations to ensure that fire doors are “maintained in an efficient state, in efficient working order and in good repair” the work of the FDIS must continue.

Clive Reilly Cert FDI – Director, Fire Four Ltd

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