After collecting data based on over 100,000 fire door inspections, The Fire Door Inspection Scheme (FDIS) recently found three-quarters of fire doors are not up to standard. The FDIS has branded these findings a “tragedy waiting to happen”, placing even more emphasis on the importance of fire safety.

The inspections, which were conducted throughout the UK in 2021 by FDIS approved inspectors, found that lives were ultimately at risk due to the failings of 75% of the fire doors. Perhaps most shocking of all is that the buildings with the highest number of fire door inspection failures were healthcare buildings and private housing, as well as local authorities and housing associations.

It makes for pretty grim reading, given that the fire doors in these buildings are in high foot-traffic areas and, as such, are likely to be used more.

According to the report, the failings can be a result of one or many issues. The most common inspection failure was excessive gaps between the door and the frame, found in 77% of the failed inspections. Care and maintenance issues followed closely, found in 54% of failures, and smoke sealing issues were found in 37% of inspections.

In almost one-third of cases (31%), improper installation resulted in an inspection failure. From the outset, these doors were never up to standard. Had they been needed, it is unlikely that they would’ve prevented the spread of fire and smoke.

A tragedy waiting to happen: three-quarters of fire doors not up to standard

The FDIS Scheme Manager, Louise Halton, said with the vast majority of fire doors in the UK failing inspections, it is a tragedy waiting to happen. However, Halton goes on to explain that it is entirely preventable.

“A fit for purpose fire door can save lives, so now is the time for all of those responsible for fire safety to urgently inspect fire doors in their buildings and act immediately if faults are identified,” Halton said.

“It’s crucial that reputable and trained fire door inspectors, such as those approved by the FDIS, carry out fire door inspections. However, the ongoing reporting of maintenance issues with fire doors is a role for us all – every building user should play a proactive role in reporting any faults to ensure they are quickly addressed so that the building’s safety is maintained.”

Recent amendments to the Building Safety Act, which included legislation to strengthen the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (FSO), coupled with the ongoing Grenfell inquiry, have well and truly put fire safety in the spotlight.

Just last week, Joseph Campbell, a fire safety consultancy lead, published an article in the Built Environment Journal. In the article, Campbell issues a rallying cry to building surveyors, saying that the varied skill set in their profession enables them to make a critical contribution to fire safety management.

Campbell, who was awarded RICS Young Building Surveyor of the Year 2021, said: “Building surveyors have a clear part to play in helping the industry promote and ensure fire safety by implementing new ways of working, such as focusing on fire safety management throughout a building’s lifecycle and across the multiple stakeholders.”

A tragedy waiting to happen: three-quarters of fire doors not up to standard

You won’t find a better skill set for fire consultancy than that of a chartered building surveyor, Campbell claims, although he says that building surveyors cannot do it alone. Instead, he maintains that building surveyors are an influential part of a team responsible for ensuring fire safety.

Pairing the varied skill sets of surveyors with specialists in fire safety, all while emphasising the value of clear paths for decision making and a “golden thread” of safety information – which is soon to be introduced under the Building Safety Act – will amount to a cohesive, consistent strategy that plays a pivotal role in the future of fire safety.

In addition to this, as FDIS Scheme Manager Louise Halton identified, the ongoing reporting of maintenance issues is of the utmost importance. Although some facilities managers, building managers and safety inspectors remain trapped in a cycle of paper-based legacy processes that hamper efficiency and throughput, others are leading the charge through the adoption of new technologies that augment and automate their workflows. 

With changes to the Building Safety Act on the horizon and an ever-increasing focus on fire safety, especially in residential buildings in the wake of the Grenfell tragedy, it begs the question – Will a more proactive reporting and maintenance strategy prevail?