Encouraging signs that fire-safety guidance and best practice are being adopted across the industry

By Steve Bond, customer and technical support manager, fire protection at Pilkington UK.

It’s well known that the world of fire protection is going through a shake-up, with specifiers rightly looking for much more assurance that the products they use are fit for purpose.

This applies to both passive protection products, including fire resistant glazing systems and doors, and active fire-prevention measures, such as sprinklers and fire alarms.

Following the review of building regulations and fire safety by Dame Judith Hackitt, there is an increased emphasis on testing, certification and traceability required for any product marketed as having fire-protection capabilities.

Walking around the recent Firex 2019 event – Europe’s only dedicated fire-safety exhibition – I was struck by the way these changes are beginning to filter into all levels of the industry.

Last year, most of the conversations I had were with those in the role of ‘responsible person’ on both construction projects and existing premises. They have the ultimate duty of ensuring the right measures are in place to keep buildings safe from fire, and they were looking to understand what they needed to specify to achieve the right level of protection.

By contrast, this year fabricators and installers were very well represented among the attendees, and I was talking mainly with those involved in putting the specifications into practice.

We are witnessing a significant ratcheting up of the testing and certification requirements for manufacturers of building products claiming fire-safety benefits.

The firedoor industry is currently being reviewed by the government, particularly regarding glass reinforced plastic (GRP)-containing composite doors, after it was discovered that some doors did not deliver their claimed protection duration when tested as part of the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government investigation into fire doors.

Strengthening the involvement of third-party certification bodies in the industry is a major component of this review, and the outcome is eagerly awaited.

While third-party certification is not currently mandated by the law, there is a legal responsibility on anyone specifying fire-protection products to ensure the manufacturer is ‘competent’. Clearly, getting products that are supplied by a company that is part of a third-party scheme is the best way of ensuring that this is the case.

This is something we at Pilkington UK have always done where fire-protection products are concerned, and every specification of fire-safe glass we offer has been independently tested. Production runs are also routinely subjected to testing in our own test furnace to provide assurance that every product that reaches market is up to standard.

The Hackitt review called for a “universal shift in culture” to restore trust in the building products industry as a whole, and the glazing supply chain is not exempt. While this clearly isn’t something that can be achieved overnight, we have certainly witnessed a dramatic increase in awareness and changes in ways of working at every level of the supply chain.

At Pilkington UK, we’re committed to continuing to collaborate across the industry and to invest in reseach and development to keep offering products that are not just fit for purpose but ahead of the curve of regulations.