Joining the dots
Nicola John, director of Fire Door Maintenance (FDM), discusses the impact of the Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022 on door manufacturers and why a joined-up approach is essential for fire door inspections.
Enforced in January 2023, the Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022 regulations set new legal duties for those who own or manage multi-occupied residential buildings over 11m high. These include new procedures for checking fire doors to make sure they are still suitable after their original fire risk assessment.
The person legally responsible for a building’s fire safety, known as the ‘responsible person’ must carry out annual inspections on all flat entrance doors, and quarterly checks on fire doors within communal areas and which cross corridors. A responsible person is usually the building’s landlord or manager.
The overall aim is to ensure fire doors are in good working order, including checking for any defects which could undermine their ability to prevent fire and smoke from spreading.
The scale of the challenge
For owners and managers of larger residential portfolios, particularly social landlords, the new rules present many challenges.
Currently, the majority of housing providers don’t have the in-house expertise or capacity to deliver and record the volume of inspections required. With hundreds, or even possibly thousands of doors to check, significant resources will need to be put in place to comply with the regulations.
In response, some social landlords have begun to adopt specialist software to assist with scheduling the checks and reporting. But that still leaves a gap in the process. Fire door inspections require people on the ground with the knowledge and time needed to carry out the checks.
To plug this gap, a growing number of housing providers are turning to door manufacturers to help. Those supplying new doors for residential buildings are being asked if they can also inspect existing fire doors to help their clients comply with the new rules. However, this approach presents further challenges with many manufacturers struggling to allocate enough time and resources to meet these requirements.
Another key consideration is the quality of the inspection. Although the Government guidance states checks should be ‘simple and basic’ the importance of a more thorough approach should not be underestimated. To make sure a door is safe and futureproofed, 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 on each door, and have not been substituted or changed.
For a new door manufacturer to undertake this task is near impossible as many existing doors are likely to have been produced and installed by a different company.
As the impact of these challenges starts to bite, FDM has been launched by UAP to help door manufacturers provide a holistic service to their clients and enable them to deliver inspections to a higher standard.
As a company with extensive experience of the door industry and with direct links to manufacturers across the UK, we can bring specialist expertise, training and people to the table. This includes the ability to source primary test evidence from manufacturers which may have installed doors several years ago. We can also work with software providers to incorporate this evidence as part of wider fire door inspection solutions.
To overcome labour and skills challenges, FDM can provide a pool of specially trained locksmiths as part of its service. This training has been developed based on our industry knowledge of fire doors and involves practical and theory-based learning.
It can also be adapted to meet the specific needs of a housing provider. More than 300 locksmiths are currently available to deliver bespoke inspections to housing associations and local authorities across the UK.
Completing the jigsaw
With the new fire safety regulations now firmly in place, there is an urgent need for housing providers to develop a robust system for carrying out fire door inspections. This requires the appropriate resources, skills and knowledge to be in place across the entire inspection process.
By working with a specialist like FDM, door manufacturers can join the dots for their clients, providing an integrated, efficient service which ensures fire doors are inspected to the highest safety standards.