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CROSS Safety Report

Failure of Firefighters lift to operate

Report ID: 1232 Published: 20 November 2023 Region: CROSS-UK


Overview

The reporter tells of an instance when a Firefighters lift switch, located on the Fire Service Access Level (FSAL) of a multi storey building failed to operate. After an investigation, the switch was found not to have been connected.

Key Learning Outcomes

For commissioning engineers:

  • Check the operation of lifts conforms to the agreed cause and effect strategy. BS EN 81-72 on Firefighter lifts applies

For fire and rescue services, responsible persons and risk assessors:

  • A lift for use by firefighters or for evacuation has a range of critical, pre programmed behaviours that only start upon activation of the firefighter's switch. The failure of these features would not be apparent in normal passenger use. They must be specifically checked in firefighting mode

  • Responsible persons should ensure regular checks are carried out on Firefighter lifts

Full Report

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The reporter tells of an instance when a firefighting lift switch, located on the Fire Service Access Level (FSAL) of a multi storey building, failed to operate. When turned on, the switch did not recall the Firefighter lift to the FSAL.

The reporter then interrogated the operation and maintenance drawings and discovered that the switch was not connected to the relay to recall the lift. Therefore, the switch did nothing.

The electrical engineering drawing for the lifts showed only a communication line running to the FSAL. This was for the two way communication between the lift car and the Firefighter lift switch intercom.

Image
Figure 1: Example of Firefighters lift control

It is felt by the reporter, that those persons with responsibility for buildings are not conducting regular checks on lifts provided for the fire and rescue service (FRS), or on evacuation lifts. They suggest that there are occasions where lift engineers do not have a thorough understanding of these types of lifts.

Furthermore, the reporter feels firefighters are not checking the operation of these lifts when they conduct their familiarisation visits, and that fire risk assessors are not checking test records, which is of particular importance for higher risk buildings as it is a requirement of The Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022 (Reg 7).

persons with responsibility for buildings are not conducting regular checks on lifts provided for the fire and rescue service

The reporter suggests that this might be a widespread issue. They hope this report will raise awareness of the guidance issued by the Lift and Escalator Industry Association (LEIA) on the tests and inspections of lifts for use by firefighters, evacuation lifts, and lifts with recall. 

Expert Panel Comments

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A widespread issue

This is, unfortunately, a common occurrence. It is often discovered Firefighter and evacuation lift controls are not operational, either because they were never connected and tested, or because they subsequently failed and have never been subjected to periodic testing during routine maintenance.

It is rare to see any comment in a fire risk assessment regarding the existence or nature of emergency lift controls. If such provision is noted, commentary regarding their maintenance is usually limited to identifying which part of the organisation retains the maintenance certificates.

Commissioning and routine checks 

All functions should be confirmed as operational for the commissioning and sign off. There appears to have been an initial design error, which was then missed due to error in the commissioning. These errors were then in turn missed in the ongoing maintenance.

There is a need to review what functionality is checked by different parties, including the fire service. Any reliance on commissioning checks alone is likely a flawed approach. This issue also exemplifies the need for an independent third party approval system in the construction industry that would carry out such essential tests prior to a Building Regulations completion certificate being issued by the building control body.

Guidance highlighted by the Expert Panel

Checks should follow BS 8899 Improvement of firefighting and evacuations provisions in existing lifts – Code of practice once revised, but in the meantime, advice on routine checks can be found in section 3.1 of Checks and inspections of lifts for use by firefighters, evacuation lifts, and lifts with recall on the Lift and Escalator Industry Association website.

Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022 add additional requirements for Responsible Persons and Accountable Persons of high risk residential buildings in England. They must:

  • Undertake monthly routine checks of lifts for the use of the FRS and evacuation lifts and make a record available to residents. All Responsible Persons should regard regular checks such as these as best practice

  • Inform the fire and rescue service electronically, as soon as practicable, when an identified fault with a lift cannot be rectified within 24 hours
  • Record information on all the lifts in the building on floor plans stored within a secure information box (SIB)

As a final note, readers of this report may find CROSS Report 1182 Design criteria for firefighting lifts helpful as it explains the terminology for lifts provided for use by the FRS. Firefighters lift indicates a minimum level of protection compared to the standard. There are also firefighting, firemen’s and evacuation lifts, and those with some specifically described (but limited) levels of protection.

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