Due to recent tragic events, the impact of Fire Safety and Risk Assessment is quite rightly under the spotlight.
Whilst the tenants of commercial multi-let buildings and residential blocks will be familiar with the requirements for the testing of fire alarms and emergency lights and the regular practising of evacuation are commonplace for commercial occupiers.
However, one item that forms an integral part of the fire protection system within a building and is often overlooked, is the fire door. The purpose of a fire door is to provide a protected escape corridor so that people can escape without hindrance from smoke and flames.
The escape corridor is a vital part of the total fire system and must be maintained and inspected regularly to ensure that the escape route is kept clear of items such as bikes, prams etc. Fire doors must also be inspected regularly, to ensure that they are in a fit state to do the job for which they are intended.
Building owners must have in place a suitable maintenance regime to ensure that relevant equipment is fit for purpose. This responsibility lies with the “Responsible Person” however, any contractor, or agent who give advice and carry out work, must also be a competent person, all have a responsibility to ensure works are carried out in a suitable and competent manner.
In the case of fire doors, it is recommended that each Fire Door is identified in a central register and given a unique identification number. Regular inspections must then be completed, this is normally recommended to be done every 6 months, or as agreed with the responsible person.
It should also be considered as to the importance and use of each fire door as to how often they are inspected, so that main doors leading onto a staircase, may be considered worthy of a more regular inspection than that of a storage cupboard which is hardly ever used.
Checks need to be made to ensure that intumescent strips are in place and that they have not been damaged, that the door furniture is of a suitable quality and has sufficient fire resistance and complies with British Standards. Door closers should be properly functioning and hinges must be properly adjusted and functional and again meet British Standards.
Another area that is often overlooked is letterboxes. It is easy to imagine the scenario where a replacement door has been fitted to a flat (perhaps without landlord’s consent) which may achieve the required fire rating but has a normal letter box installed which provides an effective breach to the protected area and could allow smoke and flame into the escape corridor.
It is recommended that landlords and their agents regularly review the Fire Risk Assessments for their buildings and ensure that these are updated on a regular basis to ensure that they keep up to date with changing regulation and the buildings for which they are responsible are safe.
Kevin Cruiks – Ayers & Cruiks