Question We have several properties that are fitted with numerous timber-based fire doors. It has been suggested that we should be inspecting these regularly. Is this the case and how often should this be done as it could have significant resource issues?
Answer A fire door is a complex structure that consists of various elements that must be designed, installed and, very importantly, maintained so as to ensure the fire resistance performance requirements are achieved when required to do so.
Apart from maintaining compartmentation, the other main function of fire doors is to allow access and pedestrian traffic flow. This can lead to deterioration, wear/tear and damage to fittings or door elements due to repeated operation and/or abuse.
Article 17 of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (or its equivalent in Scotland and Northern Ireland) requires the responsible person to ensure that the premises and any facilities, equipment or devices are subject to a “suitable system of maintenance and are maintained in an efficient state, in efficient working order and in good repair”.
BS8214:2016 Timber-based Fire Door Assemblies. Code of Practice makes reference to this requirement while guidance from the Chief Fire Officers Association states that maintenance regimes should include “inspection and testing by a competent person, as necessary at suitable intervals”.
To meet this regulatory requirement, there are various good practice guides that can be followed to inform the responsible person as to frequency of inspections.
For example, BS9999:2017 Fire Safety in the Design, Management and Use of Buildings. Code of Practice recommends that automatic release devices are tested daily and monthly, while fire doors themselves are inspected every six-months.
However, BS8214 and guidance from the Architectural and Specialist Door Manufacturers Association (ASMA) suggest that the frequency of inspection can be determined according to the risk assessment and relative to the frequency of use of the doorway.
In general, frequently used doors (eg less than 80 times in a 24-hour period) could be inspected monthly and high usage doors (eg more than 200 times in a 24-hour period) weekly.
This could have resource implications where numerous doors are involved and as such, other factors could be taken into consideration as part of the assessment including the:
Any decisions on the inspection regime should be recorded along with the rationale and kept under review to adapt to any changes in circumstances. It should be remembered that the fire strategy for buildings almost always assumes that fire doors operate as they were designed to, ie why appropriate maintenance is essential.
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