Karen Trigg of Allegion UK provides insight on the safety standards that buildings must meet and why now seems an opportune time to carry out essential maintenance in a bid to help to achieve them.
Regular building maintenance has and always will be a fundamental part of a facilities manager’s role. Work can sometimes feel continuous, ensuring everything from ventilation to water systems are in good working order and all while making sure health-and-safety standards are maintained along the way.
Each building has a unique set of needs that must be addressed, and for that maintenance is key. Yet facility managers must also recognize the importance of ‘essential maintenance.’ For example, both the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 and the Fire Precautions (Workplace) Regulations 1997 cite door safety requirements and call for any fire-safety system to be subject to routine maintenance.
And with several public buildings now either empty or operating with far fewer staff, it’s an opportune time for decision makers to schedule a comprehensive check on those ‘essential maintenance’ areas, starting with fire doors and their accompanying hardware.
Despite the recognizable dangers, fire doors are often not operating as they should be and thus an industy report from the Fire Door Inspection Scheme (FDIS) has highlighted the issues of many building’s fire doors. This has subsequently led to government investigations and the launch of fire safety guidance on some of the more recurring issues, including fire doors with excessive gaps, poorly maintained door closers and problems with intumescent seals.
There’s no doubt that poorly fitted and maintained fire doors don’t save lives in the event of a fire. The safety and security of a building and its occupants rely on the effective operation of all fire doors – without them, safety is truly compromised. And regardless of a reduced footfall across 2020, so many fire doors are still not meeting standards. With an eventual ‘return to normal’ expected, it has never been more important to turn attention towards essential maintenance checks.
With that in mind, it’s not only fire doors that must be up to standard. All hardware and furniture must meet the stringent EN classification codes and Health & Safety requirements. Additionally, exit devices must comply with the latest revisions of EN1125:2008, which applies to panic applications that can be used by any member of the public, and EN 179:2008, which refers to emergency applications used by trained personnel. So how can facility managers ensure they’re meeting these standards?
Checks are key
Essential maintenance is far more than checking the cosmetic condition of fire doors. When ensuring fire doors are functioning correctly, a stringent five-point check is necessary, inspecting certification, gaps, seals, hinges and closure. To meet all British and European legal requirements, fire doors must have all the necessary components and they must work as designed, because even the smallest of changes can reduce effectiveness.
Take a door’s intumescent seal, for example. Fire doors have a number of ratings, ranging from FD20 to FD120, which show they will provide protection against fire from 20 minutes and then up to 120 minutes. The intumescent seals expand in a fire, sealing the gap between door and frame when temperatures reach 200°C, so it’s essential they remain intact, undamaged and in good condition. Failing to keep them in top condition means smoke can leak out with ease and create a potentially dangerous situation in the event of a fire.
When it comes to door furniture, it’s important to consider the main elements of the door such as the handle. The door handle itself must be fitted correctly – not loose, or even worse, missing. Screws too must be checked over to ensure none are missing and that each one is tight and secure.
Hinges – of which there should be a minimum of three – should be marked with a CE stamp or BS EN 1935 to meet the necessary safety standards. Furthermore, they should be free of any metal fragments and signs of oil leakage as these could be signs of wear and tear. Finally, check the locks and latches as these should also be fixed securely, leaving no room for movement when the latch secures firmly into place.
Outside of functional checks, it’s also key to consider the visual elements such as certification labels and ‘Fire Door, Keep Shut’ signage, amongst others. These signs and labels provide essential information to both building occupants in the event of a fire and installers who can use certification labels when looking for manufacturers and traceability.
Outside of healthcare, these times present building managers with a rare opportunity. With so many buildings experiencing reduced footfall, perhaps it’s the perfect time to carry out essential maintenance and build towards a safer tomorrow.
After all, maintenance – whether regular or more essential – should never be neglected, and those fire-safety and health standard requirements should always be met and are arguably even more important in today’s climate.
Allegion UK has a wealth of resources to help facilities managers undertake their maintenance checks on fire doors and hardware. This simple toolkit provides information and tips on how to guarantee the safety of the doors, a guide to the EN classification system and a safety checklist. There’s also an option to order a free-door gap tester. Or download Allegion’s general guide to service and maintenance for free.
For more information, go to www.allegion.com