With the recent revelation that the fire doors at Grenfell Tower did not hold back fire for anywhere near the legal minimum of 30 minutes, it’s important to address the use and maintenance of fire doors.
Even if a door is fully tested and correctly built and installed, there are other factors which can cause it to fail. Fire doors can easily become damaged when they are in regular use.
In a previous blog we covered the reason we need fire doors and the differences between fire doors and other doors. To recap:
- Fire doors are specially made and are much heavier than normal internal doors which is why they can be difficult to push open
- They need to be fitted with a door closer so they shut automatically
- Fire doors need a seal around the edges which swells when heated to block any gaps
- If the doors are fitted with windows, the glazing must be fire-resistant
- All ironmongery on the doors needs to be fire-resistant.
Who is responsible?
The Responsible Person in a building is in charge of ensuring that fire doors are fit for purpose. In commercial properties, you are the Responsible Person if you’re any of the following: employer, owner, landlord, occupier, someone with control of the premises, facilities manager, building manager, risk assessor. Chances are there will be more than one Responsible Person in a business at one time, and these people must work together to ensure they meet all relevant requirements of the Fire Safety Order.
If the Responsible Person is concerned that they don’t know enough to do the job properly, they can employ a fire safety expert to advise or carry out a fire risk assessment.
How often should we check our fire doors?
Every six months or even every three months in a busy building. If possible, employ a registered FDIS inspector to check your fire doors. These are people that have achieved a diploma in fire doors and have had their competence and knowledge independently assessed.
What needs to be checked?
It must be a certified fire door. Check there’s a label or plug on the top (or occasionally the side) of the door. It will be CE-marked, and look something like this.
Fire doors need to automatically close. Open the door halfway, let it go and allow it to close. Does it close firmly without sticking on the floor or the frame?
Ensure the door leaf sits against the door stop and is free from distortion. If you have double doors, check they close in line if opened and released together.
Check your gaps
The top and sides of the doors should have a gap of less than 4mm from the frame. You can use a pound coin to check, as this is approx 3mm in width.
From door to floor the gap should be less than 10mm when the door is closed. As a rule if you can see light under the door the gap is probably too big.
If the gaps are too large, smoke will be able to get through rendering the fire door useless.
Not just any frame will do, they must be purchased from the fire door manufacturer or from a company licensed to manufacture them. Door frames must be firmly attached to the wall and free from damage.
Fire doors must be fitted with intumescent seals. Make sure these are in place, well attached inside the groove in the frame or door leaf, continuous around the frame and free from damage.
Each fire door needs a minimum of three hinges, firmly fixed with all screws fitted. The screws should be the correct size and the hinges free from metal fragments and oil leakage. Make sure there are no broken screws.
Fire doors must have a door closer to ensure they shut automatically. Make sure this is correctly attached and free from damage.
Hold open devices
If keeping your fire doors closed all the time is inconvenient, you can fit them with devices to hold them open legally and safely. These must release the doors to close when the fire alarm sounds.
If your doors are fitted with hold open devices, test them weekly to ensure they are in good working order.
Fire doors can have a bit of a hard life. They are constantly being opened and left to slam shut or pushed open with feet, trolleys, beds and other heavy items. This means they can become damaged, which could reduce their effectiveness.
Check that all parts of the fire door are free from damage. Make sure any glass in the door is not cracked.
Fire doors cannot do their job if they are wedged open. If you spot any fire doors held open in this way, remove the wedge.
Make sure the latch holds the door in place without rattling.
Fire safety is all about common sense. If you have a fire door that looks damaged or faulty, have it checked. It is advisable to ask a competent person to check your doors every six months anyway to ensure they’re in good working order. Regular maintenance will keep everyone safe.
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