With HSE becoming increasingly vigilant on the avoidance of fire risk on and around sites, the recent report by Neil Ashdown, general manager of the fire door inspection scheme, shows a worrying prevalence of incorrect fire door installation. This, he asserts, applies to contractors of all sizes, with subcontract skilled carpenters and joiners showing a lack of knowledge of the specialist way in which fire doors should be installed.
Ineffective & Useless
First-hand experience and inspection reports he claims show major issues – including some currently going through the courts – where fire doors have been installed incorrectly and would be pretty much useless at compartmenting flames and smoke in a fire.
Big Names & Prestigious Projects
From iconic London buildings costing hundreds of millions of pounds, to schools, hospitals, care homes and blocks of flats, the problems are across the board and are the work of some of the biggest names in construction.
Lack of Understanding
Ashdown does not think that contractors are deliberately fitting faulty fire doors. “Certifications for the doors will have been verified, work will have been checked and rechecked prior to handover. But if no one in the process really understands the issues then clearly the problems won’t be picked up”.
Simple Errors Easily Fixed
In fact, most of the issues sound simple to fix and centre around cutting too much from the edge of the door, unsuitable hinges, gaps between the door and frame being too large, incorrectly fitted closers and wrong or missing seals.
Five most common fire door faults
If you’re responsible for installing, overseeing or approving the installation of fire doors you need to ask yourself whether you know 100% what makes a hinge unsuitable, a seal wrong, a closer incorrect or a gap too large. And if you don’t you’d better either get trained or get someone in who’s qualified in this specialist area.
It’s not just about quality, it’s about legal responsibilities too. Under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (RRO) and your probable duty as the Responsible Person appointing the Competent Person to undertake works, you could be liable if fire doors are shown to be defective, whether or not a fire actually occurs.
Cost and Court Implications
Getting it wrong can be costly, as with the recent building owner who was required to upgrade fire doors to comply with RRO. The contractor purchased standard fire doors, cut them to size and glazed them against the advice of the fire safety officer. As a result the doors’ fire integrity performance was adversely affected and the manufacturers’ certification was void. Argument is continuing over who pays for the 67 door replacements.
Lowest Price Caveat
As certificated fire door inspector, Jeremy French, says “Where we see the focus on using the lowest price we also see low levels of compliancy and operational problems with doors. Competent people are making uninformed, potentially life-threatening decisions, not through negligence but ignorance.”
Certificated Fire Door Inspectors can be found at www.fdis.co.uk/inspector
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