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Why is Fire Door Safety so important?

Now that we have your attention! Fire doors are the single most important element in giving occupants time to safely evacuate the building, avoiding potentially tragic consequences.

FSM Magazine’s latest article collates some shocking statistics reported by the FDIS:

“MORE THAN three-quarters (76%, in fact) of the fire doors inspected by the Fire Door Inspection Scheme (FDIS) during 2019 were condemned as being not fit for purpose. In addition, 63% of those buildings inspected also exhibited additional fire safety issues”

In the UK last year, more than 100,000 inspections took place in nearly 3000 buildings highlighting many potential dangers caused by poor fire door installation. Just like other life safety devices, fire doors and final escape doors need inspection and maintenance to ensure that they will perform as intended in a fire.

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order places this obligation with you. Therefore, legally, if it is concluded that someone’s safety and life is put at risk due to the propping open of the fire door then you could be subject to severe penalties such as large fines and sometimes prisons sentences.

Go to the end of this article to read some examples of large fines received by UK companies for breaching the fire safety rules and regulations.

How to Check your Fire Doors

Is it certified?

Look for a label or plug on top or on the side of the door. Take a picture or use a mirror to check. If you can’t locate a label, report it to whoever is in charge of your building.

Can you see any gaps?

Ensure the gaps between the door frame and the door are only up to 4mm thick so no smoke or fire could get through. To check this, use a £1 coin (3mm thick). If you can see light under the door, the gap is likely to be too big so please report it.

Do the seals look intact?

Ensure that all seals around the door and door frame are completely intact with no sign of damage. The seals are vital to the doors performance as they expand when in contact with heat to prevent the spread of fire through the cracks.

Are all hinges secure?

Check all hinges are firmly fixed (three or more of them) with no missing or broken screws. If you see any issues, report it straight away.

Do they close properly?

Check the door can close firmly onto the latch by itself, not sticking to the door frame or any other obstruction. This type of door can only work correctly when its fully closed.

Take a look at the new interactive Fire Door 5 Step Checker – a quick and easy-to-use fire door checker launched as part of Fire Door Safety Week.

If in doubt you should always refer to the documentation of the door, and if there is any concern, we recommend that someone competent is engaged to inspect the fire door, such as a registered FDIS Inspector.

So now the big question to ask yourself, are your Fire Doors fit for purpose?

FIRE DOORS ARE A LIFE SUPPORT TO YOUR BUILDING AND IN ORDER TO PREVENT THE SPREAD OF FIRES, FIRE DOORS NEED TO BE CLOSED.

A dedicated Fire Door Inspection technician can provide you with a comprehensive report. The First Intervention Team are here to help assess your requirements and provide advice whenever you want to get in touch on 01375 676779 or you can learn more about what we cover in our Fire Door Assessments.

Fire Safety Breaches

Here are some examples of large fines received for breaching the fire safety rules and regulations we have been aware of over the years:

Shell International – £300,000

 

Multinational oil and gas company Shell International were fined over significant failings in fire safety at the Shell Centre in central London. The energy giant pleaded guilty at Inner London crown court to three breaches of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. It was the largest fine imposed under the law. Two small fires in three weeks at the Shell Centre on York Road, Waterloo prompting investigation.

 

Fire Safety Breaches:

  • Blocked escape routes
  • Blocked fire exits
  • Defective fire doors
  • Excessive fire loading

Tesco PLC – £95,000

 

London Fire Brigade prosecuted retailer Tesco following a fire in October 2007 and subsequent inspection of a supermarket at Colney Hatch in Barnet. This incident led to concerns about fire safety within the store and it was inspected by the Brigade the day after the fire. Tesco pleaded guilty to five breaches of the RRO (Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005) at Wood Green Crown Court in April 2010.

 

Fire Safety Breaches:

  • Failure to ensure escape routes were kept clear
  • Inadequate fire separation in the building due to doors being wedged open

Chescombe Limited – £40,000

 

Chescombe Ltd owner of Tantons Hotel in Bideford, Devon pleaded guilty to five offences under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. A fire at the hotel in May 2011 in which 55 people were evacuated, including four people who were trapped on the roof of the building and had to be rescued were the grounds for investigation and the resulting prosecution.

 

Fire Safety Breaches:
  • Failing to implement the requirements of the fire risk assessment
  • Failing to provide adequate fire detection and alarm equipment
  • Inadequate fire resisting doors
  • Failure to ensure escape routes were kept clear
  • Failing to maintain a final exit door and self-closing fire doors

Douglas and Gordon Limited – £100,000

 

Letting agent Douglas and Gordon Limited based in London received their fine in July 2011 for failing to act on fire risk assessment. Douglas and Gordon Ltd pleaded guilty to three breaches of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 at Southwark Crown Court. London Fire Brigade carried out an audit of the communal areas after a fire broke out in a block of flats owned by the company.

 

Fire Safety Breaches:
  • Failing to act on significant findings
  • Failure to make an emergency plan
  • Failure to ensure that fire doors were self-closing
  • Failure to install emergency lighting

 

 

More recently, the UK has been shocked by the devastating events of Grenfell Tower. In a report by Peter Apps of Inside House, following Day 80 of the inquiry, we learnt that a risk assessment on Grenfell Tower warned that fire doors were non-compliant.

 

Grenfell Tower Inquiry 

The last fire risk assessment on Grenfell Tower before the deadly blaze raised a series of concerns about safety – including a specific warning that the tower’s fire doors were not smoke sealed.

The assessment went on to raise issues with doors from the lobbies to the stairwells in the tower and said some of them “are not being closed fully by the self-closing devices fitted to the doors”. It said this should be picked up by the building’s caretaker.

Many residents trapped on the higher floors were unable to escape after the stairwell – the building’s only exit – filled with smoke during the fire. Four bodies were recovered inside the stairwell. Read the full report here.

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