CROSS Safety Report
Fire resisting doors fixed open in hot weather
When visiting a client during a period of unusually hot weather, it was noted that most of the building’s fire resisting door sets were wedged open to increase ventilation and reduce internal temperatures.
Key Learning Outcomes
For building managers and responsible persons:
- Permanent or temporary actions that involve changes to fire precautions should be assessed by a competent person
For fire risk assessors:
- Ensure even temporary changes to a building's fire precautions are fully considered in a fire risk assessment
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When visiting a client during a period of unusually hot weather, it was noted that the vast majority of the building’s fire resisting door sets were wedged open in an attempt to increase ventilation and reduce internal temperatures. This action resulted from a ‘working in hot conditions’ risk assessment, recently completed by the client.
The risk assessment had not considered the detrimental impact to the building’s fire compartmentation strategy, which had been entirely compromised. In addition, no management interventions were arranged to close the doors when the building became unoccupied during the night.
Whilst duty holders and their H&S advisers must consider a wide range of safety issues and hazards in the workplace, change management protocols are a robust method of reducing the chance of unintended consequences.
Expert Panel Comments
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This incident is unfortunately all too common and something regulators across the UK deal with on an almost daily basis. The wedging of fire doors still persists as one of the simplest actions any person can take that adversely affects the fire strategy and precautions of a premises and which can place people at risk in the event of fire.
The fire risk assessment required under The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (FSO in England and Wales with similar legislation in devolved administrations) is a live process and should reflect the premises as it is currently being used.
This live process will identify both fire safety measures, including fire doors and their importance, and what changes in use can be permitted within a premises that ultimately do not adversely affect the fire safety strategy. An example of this would be where an external ‘fire exit’ door may be safely held open to increase ventilation, as it is ultimately a final exit from the premises, but may not be safely held open if the exit is also a fire resisting door that protects a means of escape from above e.g. an external escape.
The practice of wedging internal fire doors becomes even more complex. Advice should always be sought from a competent person. Where a fire door is considered in needing to be held open, there are ways and means that this can be done safely e.g. appropriate automatic hold open devices that close on the activation of automatic fire detection.
A properly installed and maintained fire door can be one of the most important fire safety features in a premises
A properly installed and maintained fire door can be one of the most important fire safety features in a premises, limiting the spread of fire and smoke and protecting the means of escape.
It is imperative that all persons within a premises are aware of the fire safety measures and their importance, and how their actions, or inactions, can adversely affect themselves and others.
Staff should receive training regarding fire appropriate to their responsibilities, and at least to a level where they are familiarised with the fire safety measures, including the identification of fire resisting doors that are required as part of the fire strategy. As well as adversely affecting the fire strategy for premises and placing persons at risk in the event of a fire, the wedging of a fire door may also be considered an offence under the FSO, which could be pursued formerly by the regulator and lead to a criminal conviction.
It is not recommended to create a situation where fire doors are held open to allow for air circulation. In addition to instances of hot weather, situations like the one described in this report have also been created by people reacting to the COVID-19 pandemic. The National Fire Chiefs' Council (NFCC) produced advice for COVID-19 which may be helpful in these situations.
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