Making Time for Life Safety Systems
Karen Trigg, Allegion UK Business Development Manager, explains why properties vacated during lockdown present ideal opportunities for performing statutory fire and safety inspections.
Regular building maintenance has and always will be a fundamental part of a facilities manager role. Work can sometimes feel continuous, ensuring everything from ventilation to water systems are in good working order and all while making sure health and safety standards are maintained along the way.
Each building has a set of unique needs that must be addressed, and, for that, maintenance is key. Yet, facility managers must also recognise the importance of ‘essential maintenance.’ For example, both the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 and the Fire Precautions (Workplace) Regulations 1997 cite door safety requirements and call for any fire safety system to be subject to routine maintenance.
And with several public buildings now either empty or operating with far fewer staff – and with the Christmas break on the horizon – it’s an opportune time for decision makers to schedule a comprehensive check on those ‘essential maintenance’ areas, starting with fire doors and their accompanying hardware.
Despite the recognisable dangers, fire doors are often not operating as they should be. In fact, according to a 2019 survey by the Fire Door Inspection Scheme (FDIS), 76% of fire doors were classed as “condemned and not fit for purpose,” while 57% – out of the 100,000-plus inspections carried out across 2,700 buildings – required small-scale maintenance.
As part of their survey, the FDIS found three recurring issues surrounding fire doors: excessive gaps, problems with the seals and poorly adjusted door closers.
There’s no doubt that poorly fitted and maintained fire doors don’t save lives in the event of a fire. The safety and security of a building and its occupants rely on the effective operation of all fire doors – without them, safety is truly compromised. And regardless of a reduced footfall across 2020, so many fire doors are still not meeting standards. With an eventual ‘return to normal’ expected, it has never been more important to turn attention towards essential maintenance checks.
With that in mind, it’s not only fire doors that must be up to standard either. All hardware and furniture must meet the stringent EN classification codes and Health & Safety requirements. Additionally, exit devices must comply with the latest revisions of EN1125:2008, which applies to panic applications that can be used by any member of the public, and EN 179:2008, which refers to emergency applications used by trained personnel. So how can facility managers ensure they’re meeting these standards?
Checks are key
Essential maintenance is far more than checking the cosmetic condition of fire doors. When ensuring fire doors are functioning correctly, a stringent five-point check is necessary, inspecting certification, gaps, seals, hinges and closure. To meet all British and European legal requirements, fire doors must have all the necessary components and they must work as designed, because even the smallest of changes can reduce effectiveness.
Take a door’s intumescent seal, for example. Fire doors have a number of ratings, ranging from FD20 to FD120 which show they will provide protection against fire from 20 minutes and then up to 120 minutes. The intumescent seals expand in a fire, sealing the gap between door and frame when temperatures reach 200°C, so it’s essential they remain intact, undamaged and in good condition. Failing to keep them in top condition means smoke can leak out with ease and create a potentially dangerous situation in the event of a fire.
When it comes to door furniture, it’s important to consider the main elements of the door such as the handle. The door handle, itself, must be fitted correctly – not loose, or even worse, missing. Screws too must be checked over to ensure none are missing and that each one is tight and secure.
Hinges – of which there should be a minimum of three – should be marked with a CE stamp or BS EN 1935 to meet the necessary safety standards. Furthermore, they should be free of any metal fragments and signs of oil leakage as these could be signs of wear and tear. Finally, check the locks and latches as these should also be fixed securely, leaving no room for movement when the latch secures firmly into place.
Outside of functional checks, it’s also key to consider the visual elements such as certification labels and ‘Fire Door, Keep Shut’ signage, amongst others. These signs and labels provide essential information to both building occupants in the event of a fire and installers who can use certification labels when looking for manufacturers and tracability.
Outside of healthcare, these times present building managers with a rare opportunity. With so many buildings experiencing reduced footfall, perhaps it’s the perfect time to carry out essential maintenance and build towards a safer tomorrow.
After all, maintenance – whether regular or more essential – should never be neglected, and those fire safety and health standard requirements should always be met and are arguably even more important in today’s climate.