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Exclusive: Tackling fire door inspection & maintenance

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Expertise should be sought when assessing fire door safety, writes Richard Bingley, Technical Advisor (Fire Doors) at Yeoman Shield  

According to the Fire Door Inspection Scheme (FDIS), in 2019, three-quarters of fire doors examined in the UK by scheme inspectors failed to reach acceptable standards. 

This shines the spotlight on the lack of current understanding and expertise concerning fire door manufacture, installation and maintenance. 

It also supports the need for fire door manufacture, installation and maintenance to be carried out by a certified third-party to ensure conformity of products and workmanship.  

Duties of the Responsible Person 

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 makes it a legal requirement that the Responsible Person must take steps to ensure that fire doors comply with regulations and are kept in good working order by means of a documented system of regular planned maintenance. Such maintenance should be undertaken by competent persons. 

Understanding a Fire Rated Doorset  

The purpose of a fire rated doorset is to restrict the passage of fire and/or smoke, allowing more time for people to evacuate the building in the event of a fire. Limiting the spread of the fire will also protect the rest of the building from smoke and fire damage.  

The standard for all UK fire rated door designs is testing carried out in accordance with BS 476 Part 22 or BS EN 1634-1. Essentially, fire tests are undertaken at a UKAS (United Kingdom Accreditation Service) approved laboratory where a fire test report will be prepared. More than one test can be undertaken on each door resulting in a wealth of documented evidence. 

A fire rated doorset is a component of many parts and therefore it is not only the fire door blank itself that requires testing but products such as ironmongery, glass vision panels, seals and fire door protection. For these items to be included within assessment packages manufacturers must have their products tested to the relevant standards.      

A Tried & Tested Recipe 

To further endorse fire rated doors and associated products a global fire resistance assessment package for each product type can be produced. This essentially is a “recipe book” detailing all the “ingredients” required to produce a fire rated doorset based on fire test evidence and expert opinion. 

An assessment package is produced based on the tested specimens and the results achieved and will cover all the material and components that go into making a fire rated doorset, effectively detailing an approved list of compatible products and components for manufacturers and installers.   

Specifying Fire Rated Doorsets 

The correct specification of fire rated doorsets is paramount, Code of Practice BS8214: 2016 Timber-based fire door assemblies provide the following recommendations. Firstly, fire doors should be sourced as coordinated fire rated doorsets or door assemblies in accordance with the manufacturers’ fire test evidence and global assessment package. Secondly, the expectation of this is to ensure that all the correct components are supplied, and full fitting instructions are available.  

Thirdly, the specification of fire rated doorsets should be undertaken only by persons with appropriate expertise. This is to ensure that a knowledgeable person will be able to assess other considerations.  

Doors should also be sourced from a manufacturer that operates as a member of a third-party certification scheme. Following this guidance will ensure consistency of product conformity. 

Fire rated doorsets that are supplied under a third-party certification scheme will generally be identified in some way, such as a label or plug indicating the fire rating. This makes traceability of the door manufacturer, door type and fire certification much easier. 

Installing Fire Rated Doorsets 

The installation of fire rated doorsets also comes under the guidance of BS8214: 2016 Timber-based fire door assemblies, which initiates the good practice of utilizing an installation company operating as a member of a third-party certification scheme for fire door installation. This produces a registered documentation trail of the installation of work carried out offering traceability as part of RRO requirements.   

All doorsets and associated products should be supplied complete with the manufacturer’s installation instructions which must be adhered to so again conformity can be assured. 

If not available then they should be installed in accordance with BS8214: 2016 and the ASDMA Best Practice Guide to Timber Fire Doors. 

Maintaining Fire Rated Doorsets 

Once correctly manufactured and installed, again following the Code of Practice, it is prudent to examine the condition of door leaves, door frames, hardware, glass and seals at regular intervals. 

The timescales for these inspections can be determined by a risk assessment based on where a door is situated, the surrounding environment and the level of use. The BWF Fire Door Alliance offers the recommendation of inspections to be at least every six months and more frequently if a door is in an area of higher use and exposed to impact damage.     

When undertaking fire door conformity surveys several considerations are made including the condition of the door, frame, seals, hinges, hardware, glazing, fire signs and gaps around the door which all play a part in the functioning and conformity of a fire rated doorset. 

From these observations a list of recommendations can be provided to bring doors back to conformity using best practice which may range from something as simple as replacing a fire door sign to the more in-depth process of replacing an entire doorset. 

The Advantages of Using Third-Party Certification Scheme Company Members  

Third-party certification schemes are run by independent bodies and are designed to ensure consistency of product conformity and the standard of workmanship being provided. 

Being a certified company member demonstrates an acceptable level of competence which is supported by the undertaking of audits from an independent external body to ensure that scheme standards are continually met. 

These encompass office audits which will concentrate on paper trails and processes to ensure the correct procedures are being followed correctly and more importantly understood. It is necessary that not only does an operative follow the correct procedure but also shows understanding of why that procedure is in place and what it is for. 

During audits a random sample of employee training records will be reviewed to ensure the employees responsible for undertaking each process have suitable training and that the training is up to date. 

On site audits will also be carried out to observe actual work undertaken, will also be carried out at least once a year, for installation and maintenance registered companies. 

Manufacturing scheme members will also have to undergo product type testing every few years. A sample doorset from the range offered by the company (usually selected by the scheme, not the manufacturer) is tested at a UKAS approved testing facility. 

Often requiring company members to have additional certification such as ISO9001 offers Layers of Quality Management & Assurance for clients.  

Fire Rated Door Protection as Part of a Maintenance Regime 

Adding tested fire rated door protection products can protect essential elements of the door. Applying these types of products will not affect the integrity of the fire door but can shield parts of the door most vulnerable to impact damage.   

For example, door edges are persistently damaged leading to the gaps between the meeting edges/edges and frames becoming greater than the 3-4 mm constant recommended for the efficient employment of intumescent strips, which help to seal a door in the event of a fire, slowing the passage of smoke and flame. 

The installation of a fire rated PVCu door edge protector to both meeting and hinged edges can put a halt to such damage. 

As long as a door edge is not too badly damaged a door edge protector along with adjustments where necessary to hinges and frames, can also provide a solution to reducing the oversized gaps.  

One of the most vulnerable components of the door is glazing beads which can become split, loose or missing, undoubtably affecting the integrity of a fire door. These problems again stop the all-important intumescent seals around the vision panel of a fire door from working to an optimum. 

A glazing bead unit can be replaced with a fire rated PVCu clad hardwood unit. The plastic covering will preserve both the timber and the enclosed intumescent and will not affect the integrity of the fire door. 

The main body of the door – or leaf, is subjected to continual wear and tear simply by people using it. If a door leaf is continually hit at the same point, it will in time form a hole, crack or indent, which will render a fire door non-conformant to fire regulations. 

A simple solution to ward off this onslaught would be the installation of a 2mm thick PVCu fire rated door protection panel. 

Proactive Maintenance – Protecting People, Buildings & Budgets

The provision of a certified, proactive fire door maintenance regime offers assurance of conformity of the condition and functioning of a fire rated doorset with supporting, traceable documentation. 

Not only that but the exercise can, by identifying problems and carrying out remedial work early, help reduce the amount of precious time and money spent in the repair and replacement of doorsets. 

Proving that if you look after your fire doors, they will look after you – in more way than one.