(the information in this blog entry relates to fire doors in Australia with relevant Australian Standards being AS1905.1, AS1530.4 and AS1851)
I was recently involved in a project where a service company inspected fire doors and subsequently informed the building owner that a substantial number of fire doors would have to be replaced due to non complying hardware being installed.
This is not necessarily an issue but from the client’s perspective, the building had been inspected and certified for over a decade without issue and only now was the compliance of the hardware raised as a possible issue.
To the client the recommendation of the service provider was questionable. Was the current report correct (and the last decade non compliant doors in situ) or, was the report incorrect? The answer to this question had enormous financial implications and as such the building owner sought further clarification.
I was contacted by the building owner to investigate the situation and provide advice based on what we could discover. Was the hardware compliant or not?
From initial investigations it was clearly evident that there was a lack of documentary evidence held by the building owner in relation to the originally installed fire doors. Having no door schedule, from a service perspective it would have been difficult if not impossible to adequately service the installed fire doors as the fire test report references for the installed fire doors was not known.
The majority of doors did however have compliance tags fitted to the door leaves identifying the manufacturer and from investigations in relation to the details on these tags documentary evidence was eventually located supporting the compliance of the original installation (this however is not always possible).
As a side issue, this investigation also outlined an issue whereby service companies in the past had installed upgrade seals to doorsets to rectify clearance issues. While a number of door types have been tested and approved for use of these seal systems, one door type identified at this site was found to have no such approvals in place (a door manufactured and tested prior to the invention of the upgrade seal system). As the seals had not been tested on the door type, the installation of the seals on these door types was in clear contradiction to the requirements of the Standards.
This revelation identified a clear issue in that the inspectors and repairers of these doors over the past decade did not have adequate knowledge of the approved items which could be fitted to the doorset installed, or if they did, disregarded the Standard requiring only tested and approved components be installed.
This failure has inadvertently left the building owner in a difficult position. They have unknowingly accepted repairs to their fire doors over time which are not compliant and have never been compliant.
The seals may in fact work on this type of door but under the Standards the seals have to be tested before this can be done. This testing confirms that by the inclusion of these seals on this type of door that the integrity of the door type is maintained and not diminished.
The final observation from this investigation was the fact that annual fire safety certificates (NSW regulatory requirement) had been issued for the property year in year out even though non compliant issues in relation to the fire doors laid, and still lay, dormant.
From my investigations into this matter some concerning issues arise;
- Lack of understanding as to why documentary evidence is so important
- Availability of fire test approval documentation
- Failure to properly identify, inspect and maintain fire resistant doorsets (a product no doubt of the licensing requirements, or lack there of in the case of fire doors
(While some States of Australia do have licensing requirements for individuals or companies working in the fire door industry, NSW does not currently have any requirement for licensing of individuals or companies involved in the certification, service or repair of fire doors. Courses are available through Registered Training Organizations but these courses are not mandatory under the current regulatory framework. The Fire Industry is working hard to see changes in this area. Lookup the Fire Protection Association of Australia if you want to know a little more about available training for people working in the fire door industry.)
- Lack of knowledge in relation to approved hardware, seals, components etc which can be fitted to a particular type of fire resistant doorset
- Lack of knowledge in relation to the general requirements of the Standards and how they apply to fire resistant doorsets, and components fitted to fire resistant doorsets
- Lack of enforcement by regulatory authorities (NSW regulatory frame work, some other States in Australia are much more proactive in this regard), not in ensuring that certificates are provided but that they are a true and correct representation of the actual status of the installed fire resistant doorsets
- Could insurers reduced or refused claims if issues such as these were identified following an event such as a fire where there was a loss of property or worse still a loss of life?
At the end of the day, essential services (such as fire doors, exit lighting, sprinklers, hose reels, smoke detectors etc) are installed and maintained for the purpose of protecting life and minimizing property damage. Generally their importance is not recognized until they are needed and when they are needed, (if you are holding a fire hose or a fire extinguisher, if you are running to an exit in a smoke filled room, if you are going down the fire stairs past floors engulfed in fire) you should have the confidence that these services, installed for your protection, will in fact work and that you will be able to safely exit a building.
If you found this article useful or otherwise please provide comments or suggestions so I can improve on future posts.