Nicola John, Director of Fire Door Maintenance (FDM), and Andrew Tyas, Managing Director of Contactless Check Solutions (CCS) explain the growing need for more thorough fire door inspections, why the ‘responsible person’ may soon find themselves out of their depth, and what can be done to overcome the challenges.
Following the Hackitt Report’s recommendations, the legal landscape relating to fire safety is changing rapidly, presenting many challenges for those responsible for owning or managing buildings.
The Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022 require the ‘responsible person’ for multi-occupied residential buildings over 11m to carry out annual inspections on all flat entrance doors, and quarterly checks on fire doors within communal areas and which cross corridors. On paper, this requires a relatively simple check to establish whether the door is in good working order. However, for owners and managers of larger residential portfolios, particularly social landlords, this process is difficult to navigate.
To deliver the large numbers of checks required, housing providers will need people on the ground to deliver them. And as this process unfolds across hundreds of doors, the likelihood of finding more serious faults increases, driving the need for more thorough inspections as well as specialist skills and knowledge.
To make sure a fire door is safe and futureproofed, both sides must be inspected, and sourcing the manufacturer’s primary test evidence is strongly recommended. In line with the ‘golden thread’ policy post-Grenfell, this will confirm if the correct components have been installed and have not been substituted or changed.
From 1 October 2023, the responsible person will also have to navigate Section 156 of the Building Safety Act – a new piece of legislation set to have a huge impact on the industry. This requires all fire door inspections in residential blocks over 18m to be documented in written form, including proof of the action that has been taken.
Combined, these changes will put a huge amount of pressure on the responsible person who is unlikely to have the time, skills and resources needed to meet the legislative requirements.
To tackle these challenges, many local authorities are faced with the prospect of training people inhouse to deliver more thorough fire door inspections. However, this can be an expensive and lengthy process, delaying potential compliance with the law.
As well as people on the ground, new systems will also be required to assist with scheduling, monitoring and reporting the inspections. This is likely to see manual processes replaced with digital solutions offering more efficiency and accuracy.
Rising to the challenge
In response to these hurdles, specialist companies are stepping up to help local authorities. Software providers are offering a range of technology to help the responsible person manage, inspect and maintain fire doors in accordance with UK fire door regulations.
Cloud-based software, incorporating a mobile App and desktop dashboard, provides an efficient, cost-effective solution. More advanced technology features a fire data pin, which is installed into the hinged side of the door blade. The pin holds all the digital data needed for traceability and can be scanned for inspection using any compatible smartphone, without the need for additional hardware.
The fire door must be opened for the pin to be scanned, meaning false reports can’t be submitted. Unlike a label or QR code, the pin can’t be peeled off or damaged, and will still work if painted over.
To address the people challenge, pools of operatives are being trained by specialists to deliver fire door inspections at scale, and to a higher standard. These operatives can work alongside software providers and have the skills to identify and fix issues on numerous different types of fire door.
Before any work begins, details of the manufacturers of fire doors within a building are sourced. This information is provided to the operatives as part of the bespoke training process, enabling them to know exactly what to look out for during the inspection and ensuring they are aware of any potential risks.
A holistic approach
With new fire safety regulations now firmly in place and more legislation coming down the line, there is an urgent need for local authorities to develop a robust fire door inspection system. By working with specialist partners, housing providers will benefit from an integrated service on the ground and ‘in the cloud’ ensuring fire doors are inspected by a skilled team and to the highest safety standards.