Government to require three month fire door checks
IN THE upcoming fire safety bill, the government will include a requirement for fire doors in all flat blocks to be checked every three months.
Last December, the government’s Queen’s Speech saw building safety and fire safety bills introduced, the latter setting out to ‘learn the lessons’ and ensure ‘an appalling tragedy like Grenfell can never happen again’. It is set to include providing residents with ‘reassurance’ as well as making it clear that building owners and managers know they are ‘responsible for assessing the risks of external walls and fire doors’.
Its main elements include a clarification that the scope of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 ‘includes the external walls of the building, including cladding’ and ‘fire doors for domestic premises of multiple occupancy’. The ‘relevant enforcement powers’ to hold both building owners and managers ‘to account’ would be strengthened, while a ‘transitional period’ for these two roles – or the responsible person – and the fire and rescue services would assist in placing infrastructure.
Inside Housing has now reported that it understood the new fire safety bill would include a requirement for fire doors in all flat blocks ‘to be checked every three months’, with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) understood to be asking building owners if quarterly inspections are ‘feasible’. This came after Grenfell inquiry chair Sir Martin Moore-Bick recommended this timescale of inspections in the first phase report.
He had also recommended this to ‘ensure that all fire doors are fitted with effective self-closing devices in working order’, with initial concerns over the government’s response stating that doors and closers should be ‘routinely checked or inspected’. This had led to speculation ministers were ‘moving away’ from the compulsory three monthly checks, but a government source said the bill would implement ‘all’ inquiry recommendations, including the fire door check schedule.
Currently there is no ‘specific legal requirement’ to check fire doors at certain intervals, though legislation requires their maintenance, with British Woodworking Federation technical director Kevin Underwood stating that ‘quarterly checks might be suitable for domestic fire doors, but not adequate for high-risk, high-usage doors. For instance, doors in corridors in busy areas may be more or less constantly in use, meaning that the risk of damage is high.
‘There are also fire doors where their contribution to a building’s fire safety is very important, which means they should be inspected even more frequently. Fire door inspection has to be a risk-based approach’. An MHCLG spokesperson added: ‘Residents’ safety is our utmost priority and building owners should ensure that products being used in their buildings meet the appropriate standards. We have been clear that building owners must take responsibility, review their building fire risk assessments and ensure fire doors are routinely checked or inspected by a qualified professional.’
Victoria Moffet, head of building and fire safety programmes at the National Housing Federation, added: ‘Housing associations’ top priority is their residents’ safety. As such, our sector is carrying out in-depth reviews of buildings for fire safety risks and developing remediation programmes where necessary, as well as regular and comprehensive checks of fire safety mechanisms, including fire door self-closers.
‘We agree that we must learn the lessons from the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower and would welcome further conversations with government about achieving the safety outcomes that the inquiry’s recommendations seek.’