FIA releases new technical bulletin on painting fire-resistant cables

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Overview of the FIA Technical Bulletin

The Fire Industry Association (FIA) has recently published a technical bulletin addressing the potential hazards of painting cables used in fire detection and fire alarm systems.

This bulletin provides crucial insights into how different types of paint can impact the integrity and fire resistance of these cables.

It emphasises that while water-based paints are less harmful, they may still compromise the cable’s fire resistance and emit harmful gases during a fire.

Impact on cable integrity and fire resistance

The FIA bulletin explains that most standard or enhanced fire-resistant cables consist of a Low Smoke Zero Halogen (LSOH) sheath.

Water-based paints generally do not harm LSOH cables, but oil-based or organic solvent-based paints could lead to swelling, softening, and even long-term degradation such as cracking.

Furthermore, painting these cables can affect their low smoke and zero halogen properties during a fire, potentially increasing the emission of harmful gases and smoke.

Implications for building safety standards

The bulletin also outlines the potential consequences of painting cables on compliance with building safety standards.

It notes that once a cable is painted, its condition is altered from its original state, which could affect its compliance with BS 502002 standards.

Additionally, the FIA advises caution with intumescent paints, as they may not guarantee fire resistance without specific testing.

The bulletin suggests the use of PVC sheathed cables in certain situations, as water-based paints typically do not harm their integrity.

Recommendations for fire safety practitioners

For fire safety professionals, the FIA bulletin provides guidance on best practices.

It recommends that any painting of cables should be documented in special inspection or takeover documentation and subsequent service records.

Where cable sheath markings are obscured by paint, the installation of labelling or identification markers is advised to ensure continued compliance with fire safety standards.

IFSJ Comment

The Fire Industry Association‘s latest technical bulletin on the risks associated with painting fire-resistant cables offers valuable guidance for fire safety practitioners.

It highlights the need for careful consideration of the materials used in fire safety systems and the potential consequences of seemingly minor alterations such as painting.

This bulletin serves as a reminder of the complexities involved in maintaining fire safety standards and the importance of adhering to best practices to ensure the effectiveness of fire detection and alarm systems.

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