‘Tens of thousands’ of faulty fire doors discovered

‘Tens of thousands’ of faulty fire doors discovered

AN INVESTIGATION has found that London councils continue to ‘scramble to replace’ tens of thousands of faulty fire doors.

Huffington Post reported on its own investigation, which found that last year’s Grenfell Tower fire has exposed ‘decades of neglect’. Fire safety experts told the news outlet that ‘at least’ one million fire doors ‘need replacing in the long-term’, while another added that 70% of doors inspected ‘are not fit for purpose’, authorities ‘only seriously acting on the issue’ of ‘inadequate and badly-fitted’ doors since last year’s disaster.

Earlier in 2018, an independent panel stated that ‘no change’ was needed to building fire safety advice after a fire door from Grenfell Tower tests recently failed police tests. That panel aimed to ‘determine whether any further action was required as a result’, and in a written statement, then Housing Secretary Sajid Javid confirmed further investigations into the doors – manufactured by Manse Masterdor, which is now no longer trading – were not recommended.

More recently, new Housing Secretary James Brokenshire updated parliament, confirming experts ‘advise the risk to public safety remains low’. The expert panel assembled to investigate the Grenfell door ‘concluded there is a performance issue with these Manse Masterdor fire doors, which do not consistently meet the 30 minute fire resistance standard’.

Kensington and Chelsea Borough Council recently announced it would (http://www.frmjournal.com/news/news_detail.grenfell-council-to-replace-all-fire-doors.html) spend £3.5m replacing all 4,000 fire doors in its social housing. Huffington Post added that the ‘scale of the problems […] appears to be significantly greater than portrayed’, having asked every London council ‘what testing and replacement programmes had taken place’ in the last year.

Its results revealed a ‘mixed picture’, as some councils had replaced ‘thousands’ of entrance and communal doors, while other have ‘found few problems with fire safety’, Lewisham’s ‘proactive’ programme underway to replace 15,500 doors and only 2,000 left to remove. Islington meanwhile identified just over 15,200 doors that need ‘work of some kind’, with 13,000 to repair, while Ealing has replaced 3,000 doors since 2016.

Hillingdon has replaced 2,000 doors and recently authorised another £2m investment, while Hounslow found 1,335 doors that needed replacing, with 1,111 replaced so far. Havering found 171 doors that needed replacing, and the City of London found only seven ‘not up to standard’. The site added that the figures were ‘only the tip of the iceberg’ as some councils ‘have yet to decide whether to replace’ the Manse Masterdor doors that have been tested.

Barnet identified 1,200 of these and Barking and Dagenham had identified 280, with both councils ‘awaiting Whitehall guidance’, while Lambeth will replace 84 failed doors by October. Hackney identified 90 Manse doors and is replacing them for ‘residents’ peace of mind’, and these were among 257 identified as in need of replacement.

While the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) acknowledged ‘wide failures’ in high rise fire safety, it pointed to the fact ‘it commissioned’ the Hackitt Review and is testing fire doors. Fire safety experts stated that the findings ‘lay bare’ the ‘toxic combination’ of budget cuts and ‘confusion over fire safety laws’, which have led to ‘years of neglect over fire doors specifically and fire safety more generally’.

Expert Graham Fieldhouse commented: ‘The problem is local authorities and companies are not getting the correct advice. I have seen many fire risk assessments that simply say “you need to get your doors checked by an expert”: guidance says doors should be checked twice a year. But I doubt they have been checked by a competent person in the last 10 years.

‘It is the exception - not the rule - to see doors fitted well. There are many other issues, such as a lack of maintenance for fire doors, residents interfering by removing closers and wedging doors cutting into fire doors. These should be specific criminal offences. There is also the problem of fire doors being replaced with doors that have not been properly tested. A door not set-up as tested becomes a big open door - a big hole - and breach of the compartmentation.’

Arnold Tarling, another expert, added: ‘They have been neglected. It’s only when there’s a fire when you find things do or do not work. It’s only because of Grenfell that there’s been an analysis of fire doors. They’re now repairing decades and decades of damage.’

An MHCLG spokesman said: ‘Public safety is paramount. When we were informed about an issue with a Grenfell Tower fire door, we acted quickly to seek independent expert advice and established a wide-ranging investigation. Based on the results of these investigations to date, the expert panel advised the risk to public safety remains low.

‘However, they advised there is a performance issue with Manse Masterdor which is why we took the responsible step of writing to relevant building owners setting out clear advice on what they should do. We asked Dame Judith Hackitt to carry out an independent review of building regulations and fire safety, and have made clear we will take action after her final report called for fundamental reform of the regulatory system.’