Trusts are 'sleepwalking into danger' by failing to ensure fire doors are fitted and maintained


Fire Door Inspection Scheme research shows healthcare organisations are at risk in the event of a fire

Despite a new heightened awareness of fire door safety among specifiers, estates managers, and building contractors in the healthcare sector, many organisations are still ‘sleepwalking into danger’, according to experts.

The warning about the state of existing and newly-installed fire doors comes on the third anniversary of the creation of the Fire Door Inspection Scheme (FDIS), Europe’s first qualification and inspection scheme for fire door safety.

Enquiries to FDIS from healthcare organisations looking for fire door inspectors have doubled over the last 12 months.

I regularly come across organisations that are either unaware of their obligations under current fire legislation, or who simply choose to do nothing

Clive Reilly was the first person to qualify as a fire door inspector after undergoing an independent assessment by Exova Warringtonfire in 2012. He said: “There is no doubt that many working in the healthcare sector are waking up to the need to have their fire doors inspected.

“FDIS has built a market for competent people like me who have a detailed knowledge of fire door requirements, and it has created a robust and systematic inspection process that can be repeated from door to door and where necessary, from building to building. This brings with it the consistency that is vital for effective fire door management.

“But there is still so much more to be done. I regularly come across organisations that are either unaware of their obligations under current fire legislation, or who simply choose to do nothing. Some do make an attempt to inspect and maintain their fire doors, but often use untrained, inexperienced staff who do not have detailed inspection criteria to follow.

“While these organisations are to be commended for making the effort, it is clear that many of the defects that can be found on fire doors may not be apparent to the untrained eye. This can lead to a false sense of security and a resultant failure to undertake appropriate action.”

A review of fire door inspections undertaken by FDIS-certificated fire door inspectors earlier this year revealed the extent of the problems being found on site:

  • Over 61% of fire doors inspected had problems with fire or smoke seals
  • More than a third had incorrect signage
  • 230 fire doors inspected had gaps bigger than 3mm between the door and its frame (as specified in BS9999:2008 and BS8214:2008)
  • More than 20% had unsuitable hinges
  • Almost 1 in 6 had damage to the door leaf

Increasing evidence is also coming to light of newly-installed fire doors which are not being fitted in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions, relevant fire test evidence, or even in accordance with industry best practice.

Reilly said: “It is not uncommon to find newly-installed fire doors with hardware which has fixings missing or with unsuitable frames.

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“Usually the building manager will think these doors have been installed correctly and will perform as required in the event of a fire. It is only when, or even if, the doors are inspected by someone who knows what to look for that these problems are found, by which time they will have to pay for remediation or replacement.”