Closing the door on fire

Each year, Fire Door Safety Week raises awareness of the vital role that fire doors play in keeping building occupants across the country safe. Helen Hewitt from the British Woodworking Federation (BWF) explores why the campaign remains as important as ever in driving up safety standards in our buildings

The Fire Door Safety campaign continues to increase, as we regularly see fire doors propped open, damaged and poorly installed, which puts lives at risk.

Recent data has clearly highlighted the lack of maintenance and proper care taken over fire doors. Research from the BWF Fire Door Alliance has found that nearly a fifth of those responsible for the specification, installation and maintenance of fire doors (19%) inspect their fire doors twice a year, 14% inspect annually, while 3% only inspect their fire doors when an issue has been reported. This allows for potentially dangerous maintenance issues to go unnoticed, putting lives at risk. In addition, 2% admitted they never inspect their fire doors – meaning that a tragedy is a matter of ‘when’, not ‘if’.

The Government is taking positive steps to address fire door inspection. From the 23rd January 2023, the Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022 will make it a legal requirement for responsible persons for multi-occupied residential buildings with storeys over 11 metres in height to undertake quarterly checks of all fire doors in common areas, and endeavour to conduct annual checks of all flat entrance doors.

Generally speaking, and where legislation is not in place, at the BWF we advise inspections should be undertaken at a minimum of every six months; unless it is a high traffic area or building, such as a hospital or hotel corridor, in which case it should be once a week or monthly. As only through regular inspections any maintenance issues can be quickly identified, reported and addressed to help maintain the fire safety of the building.

Added to this, building users often misunderstand the role and function of a fire door. This results in fire doors being propped open or damaged and not reported for remediation – effectively meaning that the door is unable to perform its role.

Raising awareness

Fire Door Safety Week exists to address the ongoing misunderstanding and lack of awareness of the role that fire doors play. Launched in 2013, the campaign is managed by the British Woodworking Federation and is supported by a wide range of partners, including the Home Office’s National Fire Safety campaign, the National Fire Chief’s Council and London Fire Brigade.

Each year the campaign aims to raise awareness of fire doors, drawing attention to specific issues such as poor installation and maintenance, and encouraging building owners and users to check the operation and condition of their fire doors and report those that aren’t fit for purpose. It also engages and educates property owners and the whole building industry to help them better understand the correct specification, installation, maintenance and inspection of fire doors.

Everyone plays their part in ensuring a fire door performs as it should, and Fire Door Safety Week helps all building users understand a fire door’s role and maintenance needs so that lives are not unnecessarily lost due to fire door neglect.

This year the campaign’s focus is on ensuring everyone understands the fundamental and life-saving role that fire doors play in the event of a fire. We’ll be launching new research highlighting common misconceptions of fire doors as part of the campaign and also hosting educational webinars for fire safety professionals to share the latest insight and industry best practice over fire door specification, installation and maintenance.

Evolving building fire safety legislation

This year’s Fire Door Safety Week follows the introduction of new building and fire safety legislation – the Building Safety Act and Fire Safety Act.

The new legislation puts a focus on accountability, information sharing throughout the supply chain and provides residents with a voice with regard to building safety issues. A positive step forward, the Acts will drive forward best practice and improve fire safety in buildings across the UK.

In addition to these recent changes, landlords also need to ensure their properties are fit for human habitation under the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018. This includes ensuring that the property is free of serious hazards, including exposure to uncontrolled fire and associated smoke through the use of fit-for-purpose fire doors, for the duration of the tenancy. Further fire door regulations may also apply depending on whether the fire door is installed in a new building or existing property. For example, the Building Regulations apply for new build properties, while the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order: 2005 (RRO) is pertinent for existing buildings.

For houses of multiple occupancy (HMOs) and high-rise buildings, which are often categorised as high-risk, rigorous regulation applies, and checks are put in place to maintain fire safety and protect lives. Regulation can be challenging so it’s important to always seek expert advice to ensure compliance and safety.

Driving up standards

The focus on improving and reforming the professionalism and governance of fire safety professionals is gathering pace, further enhanced through the launch of the Fire Reform White Paper and Consultation. The Reform will implement recommendations from the Grenfell Tower Inquiry Phase 1 report to improve fire safety across the UK – clearly demonstrating that fire safety remains at the top of the Government’s agenda following the introduction of the Acts.

It’s clear that fire doors perform a life-saving role in the event of a fire, but they can only do that if they are correctly specified, installed and maintained – and regulation only goes so far. This year Fire Door Safety Week will help ensure everyone is able to play a role in maintaining the fire safety of their buildings by identifying and reporting fire door issues.

Helen Hewitt is CEO of the British Woodworking Federation (BWF)