With new legislation demanding a rigorous approach to specifying and installing fire doors, appointing a fire safety contractor will smooth the path to compliance. Tim Sawka, Pre-Construction Director at Diamond Fire Safety explains.

Since the Grenfell tragedy, there have been many enquiries leading to welcome legislation aimed at improving building safety in England.

Published in 2021, the Fire Safety Act requires owners and managers of multi-occupied residential buildings to carry out fire risk assessments of features including the structure, external walls and entrance doors to individual flats. It also outlines strict criteria for fire door compliance relating to both the type of door and how it is installed.

The Building Safety Act became law this year and sets out safety requirements for landlords of high-rise buildings, which are at least 18m or seven storeys high, and contain at least two flats. An ‘accountable person’ (usually the building owner or management company) will need to comply with building safety duties, including understanding the importance of fire doors.

Overcoming supply challenges

To comply with the new legislation, many local authorities and housing associations are upgrading fire doors across their estates. Increasingly, these organisations are approaching fire door manufacturers directly. This is an understandable trend largely driven by the ‘golden thread’ policy being adopted across the construction industry. As far as fire doors are concerned, this requires details of the manufacturer, certification, components and installation to be sourced and maintained.

But as supply chain issues continue to bite the construction sector, dealing with a single fire door manufacturer is not without risk. If the supply of a particular door component gets delayed, then so does the wider project and compliance. Manufacturers will often be unable to substitute any component part of their doorsets unless they have specific, primary test evidence for the alternative product.

Appointing a fire safety contractor can overcome this issue. As an industry specialist, they will have extensive knowledge of the market, gained by extensive research and factory visits. That means they can advise on alternative fire door manufacturers that will ensure compliance and the project is delivered on time. They will also make sure that alternative fire doors are delivered and installed to meet the required specification and legal requirements.

Streamlining processes

To enable landlords to appropriately inspect and maintain their fire doors, a fire safety contractor can manage and provide Regulation 38 documents too. These demand details of fire tests and ratings as well as the components used to assemble the doors such as the screws, frame, seals and hinges.

A contractor, which is accredited in multiple fire safety disciplines, can provide landlords with a single source of certification and accountability.

With the right experience, a contractor can also carry out any associated building work such as the widening of apertures to meet Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) regulations for minimum walkthrough widths, a consideration that is often overlooked. They may also be able to help commission asbestos refurbishment and demolition surveys if no previous inspections have been completed or only management surveys are in place.

A holistic approach

Fire safety in construction work extends beyond fire doors. With more than 40 years’ experience, Diamond Build takes a holistic approach to fire safety which sees us collaborate with our clients on wider elements within a building bringing further benefits to public sector clients. This could include guidance on further areas of improvement such as fire stopping within the immediate vicinity of installed doors or even identifying building misuse or anti-social behaviour that could increase fire risks.

Our experience of working in occupied sites enables us to assist with resident engagement too. From the outset of any fire door improvement works, we can make sure there is a resident liaison officer in place to liaise with key stakeholders, keep residents informed of the work and is available to answer any questions. We can also assist with colour or style consultations if required by a client.

Another consideration is the construction design management (CDM) regulations. Installing new fire doors in larger buildings will often require a designated site set up and welfare units such as toilets. We can guide a client on meeting the CDM rules and making sure the site can safely accommodate the works and the operatives.

Raising standards

The priority of a fire safety contractor is to leave a building safe and compliant with all relevant legislation – rather than just focusing on one element. When upgrading fire doors, this way of working delivers many benefits for public sector organisations.

A fire safety contractor can not only help to minimise the impact of supply chain fractures but deliver expert guidance on issues that can raise safety standards across a building and provide a working environment that prioritises the needs of residents and operatives.

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