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Fire door bodies sound the alarm on fire safety law compliance

2 Aug 12 Two fire safety organisations in the construction industry have raised urgent concerns with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) as part of the Government’s review of enforcement of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order, commonly known as the RRO.

BIS is currently gathering people’s views and experiences of working with fire safety officers and local fire and rescue authorities where this affects the day-to-day running of businesses, particularly those with 250 or fewer employees. It is also interested to find out where companies get advice on fire safety compliance.

The BWF-CERTIFIRE Fire Door and Doorset Scheme and the UK’s new Fire Door Inspection Scheme (FDIS) have both written to BIS to warn of confusion and alarmingly low levels of awareness among many businesses of their responsibilities under the RRO and the crucial impact of fire doors on protecting life and property.

Peter Johnson, chairman of the BWF-CERTIFIRE Scheme, said: “In almost every prosecution and report relating to the RRO, the lack of understanding of the role and use of fire doors is evident.  Just this month we saw the prosecution of a Bideford hotel for malfunctioning fire doors, including reports from guests of a terrifying moment in May when fire raged through the hotel and they became trapped in smoke-filled corridors because a door had jammed shut and another had no door handle. Similar reports of fire door failures crop up on a weekly basis.

“Too often the wrong product is being specified and installed.  A fire door is not a homogeneous thing, and it only functions properly when installed correctly with all the right components.  People really need to understand the difference between a so-called 'tested product', a product with a certificate, and proper third-party, independently certificated fire doors. Only the latter gives any guarantee of performance.

“We have told BIS that it is essential that building contractors, too often pressurised into ‘value engineered’ specifications, are fully aware of the implications of not choosing a third-party certified fire door and the consequences this may have for those occupying the building. The BWF-CERTIFIRE Scheme will happily provide training and support to any organisation that needs more advice on this aspect of fire safety compliance.”

Of course, once the correct fire doors are installed in any building, the challenge then becomes their effective inspection, maintenance and replacement. This is another area where building owners can fall foul of the RRO, warns Gary Amer, spokesperson for the UK’s new Fire Door Inspection Scheme (FDIS):

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“We have an ever-growing dossier of cases where fire doors are no longer compliant, have been badly damaged or simply never given any attention since they were first installed.

“We are also concerned about unclear advice and inconsistent rulings on the RRO which can lead some building owners to believe they do not need to worry about the state of their fire doors if sprinklers or other measures are in place.

“However, FDIS has written to Government to alert them to a solution to some of their problems regarding enforcement of the RRO. We now have Europe’s first fire door inspection scheme set up here in the UK and available to train and qualify fire safety professionals. This autumn we will also be launching a register of fully qualified, independently assessed FDIS inspectors who can help businesses in meeting their obligations.

“This is a classic example of an industry-led initiative which will help support official RRO enforcement options and will create a body of expertise here in the UK.”

The BIS review is open for comments until 31 August 2012:

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