Campaigners call for an end to fire safety negligence

Monday, August 31st, 2015 -

Ten years since the introduction of major new fire safety legislation, fire door safety campaigners are warning that those in charge of fire safety in buildings are still not taking their responsibilities seriously enough.

The warning comes in the run up to Fire Door Safety Week, a national award-winning campaign which aims to raise awareness of the critical importance of fire doors in saving lives and protecting property. This year’s campaign runs from 14-20 September 2015.

Hannah Mansell, spokesperson for Fire Door Safety Week, said:

We need to up the ante on fire door safety. The rates of fire deaths and casualties are reducing, but there are still an average of 25 fatalities or injuries from building fires every day.

Fire doors are a crucial first line of defence in many of these fires, and yet they remain a significant area of neglect. Fire doors are often the first thing to be downgraded in a specification, mismanaged throughout their service life, propped open, damaged and badly maintained.

10 years on from the new law being introduced, fire door failure is still a consistent feature of prosecutions under the Fire Safety Order. Just this year alone we know of hundreds of thousands of pounds of fines and prison sentences for people who have failed to meet their fire safety responsibilities. We’re finding dodgy fire doors in buildings of every type – from council flats to care homes, hospitals to hotels, private rented homes to publicly listed company HQs.

We want to see organisations and building owners in every sector pledge support to Fire Door Safety Week and take action today to check their fire doors.

Early Supporters

Fire Door Safety Week is an annual campaign instigated by the British Woodworking Federation, the BWF-CERTIFIRE Fire Door Scheme and the Fire Door Inspection Scheme (FDIS), and is supported by the Government’s Fire Kills campaign.

So far this year it has also received support from fire and rescue services in Devon and Somerset and the West Midlands, the Association for Specialist Fire Protection, Fire Protection Association and British Safety Industry Federation.

Property and building organisations are also big supporters again this year, including the National Landlords Association, Federation of Private Residents’ Associations, the Federation of Master Builders, the Glass & Glazing Federation, Construction Products Association, Build UK, LABC and National Federation of Builders. And of course London Property Licensing are keen supporters of Fire Door Safety Week!

The other significant body of support comes from a large number of companies in the door and hardware industries that are being highly proactive in promoting Fire Door Safety Week to their customers, including many which are holding events during the week, including Midland Building Products, Arnold Laver, HOPPE, Lorient Polyproducts, Pyroguard, DORMA UK, Intastop, Ironmongery Direct and GEZE UK.

A major seminar on fire door safety will also be held on 17 September at the Building Centre in London, including the launch of the first comprehensive guide to fire doors.

Continued Prosecutions

Under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, employers or those who have control over a premises (known as the ‘responsible person’) are required to carry out a fire risk assessment and act on its findings. This includes landlords of houses in multiple occupation (HMOs). The risk assessment should also identify actions that need to be taken in order to protect the building from fire. It must be kept under constant review and amended if any changes are made to the premises.

However, since the Fire Safety Order was introduced in 2005, there continues to be a steady stream of prosecutions against all types of building owners, landlords and agents.

Hannah Mansell blames the fact that awareness of the Fire Safety Order is still far too low:

When managers with formal responsibility for fire safety in their organisations were asked last year if they were fully aware of their legal obligations, almost half (46.5%) said they either did not know what they were, or admitted they were unclear.

A similar proportion (45%) say they really would not know how to spot a dodgy fire door – one of the most critical passive fire protection features in the buildings we use every day. This is why we run Fire Door Safety Week, to drive up awareness of the correct specification, installation and maintenance of fire doors.

Examples of prosecutions this year include:

  • In March 2015, a London hotel owner received a massive fine of £200,000, plus £30,000 court costs and a suspended prison sentence for huge fire safety violations, including fire doors tied open with string.
  • In April this year, a Coventry landlord was jailed for nine months after a catalogue of fire safety failures in his rental property. None of the rooms in the house, which was not registered for multi-occupancy, had fire doors.
  • A Paignton care home owner has recently been fined £19,500 and was ordered to pay more than £5,000 costs for “very, very serious offences” which included fire doors damaged or with missing self-closing devices.

A review earlier this year undertaken by FDIS certified fire door inspectors also revealed the extent of fire door failures being seen 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 door and frame
  • More than 20% had unsuitable hinges
  • Almost 1 in 6 had damage to the door leaf

Fire Door Safety Week 2015

Fire Door Safety Week highlights the need for all organisations to be fully informed of their responsibilities under the Fire Safety Order, and to understand the correct specification, supply, installation, operation, inspection and maintenance of fire doors.

Building owners, landlord, facilities and estates managers and anyone with responsibility for fire safety can access free resources in an online toolkit to help spread the word about fire door safety. These include technical checklists to help with fire door inspections, videos and posters that can be used in any public or multiple occupancy building to educate people on basic fire door rules.

For further campaign news and updates, follow @FDSafetyWeek on Twitter, or look out for tweets using the hashtag #FireDoorSafetyWeek.