Introducing Steven MacDonald

Introducing Steven MacDonald, the latest member of the Worksmart Team to qualify as an FDIS Certified Fire Door Inspector!

Steven is a valued and long-term member of the Worksmart family and brings a lifetime of relevant experience to the role. He is an accomplished tradesman and site supervisor and is looking forward to using his knowledge and expertise to help improve fire safety standards wherever he can. His knowledge and insight will be invaluable in helping clients recognise problems and understand how they can rectify them.

We are delighted to have him on board to extend our reach and spread the fire safety message wider!

If you think you would benefit from Steven’s expertise or have any questions or concerns regarding your fire doors, call us on 01563 53 55 11 or send an enquiry via our website at https://worksmartfiredoorinspection.co.uk/contact-us/

MHCLG Test Certificate Scheme for fire doors

MHCLG Test Certificate Scheme for fire doors?

Never heard of it? That’s because I made it up – but it’s something that occurred to me as I was writing this blog. I’m sure someone else will have thought it too and I’d be interested in your thoughts on the idea.

It is a commonly understood reality that anything with moving parts needs to be serviced and maintained to make sure it works efficiently and properly throughout its life. Cars are the most obvious example of this, but we do it with all sorts of things, from bicycles to ventilation systems.

Building operators, businesses, hoteliers, retailers all unquestioningly conduct routine inspection and maintenance of fire extinguishers, alarm systems, manual handling equipment, vehicle fleets, vending equipment and even completely static equipment like warehouse racking & shelving.

Why then, do we not include fire resistant doors in this list?

There could be number of answers to that question, but maybe one of them is that there is a lack of understanding of what makes a door (any door) work and how that can be affected.

The most common fire door assembly will include a frame, door leaf, hinges, closer and a latch/handle. If we examine each of those components individually, the potential for alignment and performance to slip becomes quite clear.

Frame – surely a frame cannot move or change once it is fixed in place? Well, yes it can. Even if it has been properly installed, the fixings can be loosened by continuous, heavy impact – for example where doors are routinely opened by pushing trolleys through them. It is also possible for frames to shift in the first few months following installation in newly built environments due to settlement or timber shrinkage/warping (especially with softwood).

Door leaf – like the frame, the door leaf can warp and twist. Sometimes this can be caused by the door being continuously ‘wedged’ open against the force of the door closer. The edges of the door are also subject to damage from passing traffic and if the intumescent and smoke seals are in the edge of the door these can also be damaged. Even minimal damage to the edge of the door leaf can be enough to make it non-compliant, there is a tolerance of ± 1mm on the gap around the door.

Hinges – these are one of the hardest working components of any door and could be opened tens of thousands of times each year. This puts enormous pressure on the mechanism of the hinge and on its fixings. If either are compromised, either the door will shift in the frame (compromising the door edge gaps, which only have a tolerance of ±1mm), or causing binding in the frame and even failure to close.

Closer – like the hinges, the closer can go through many thousands of cycles a year. Fixings can work loose, seals can become worn and perished, fluid can leak and the closer loses capacity to close the door properly or overcome resistance from a brush seal or latch.

Latch – the action on a latch can become worn and stiff over time, creating more resistance for the closer when it meets the strike plate. The strike plate itself could be damaged or its deflector misaligned, preventing the latch from passing it.

When you are dealing with such fine tolerances between function and disfunction, all these elements (and more) need to be regularly inspected, maintained and replaced as required. Failure to do so will result, as many places are now discovering, in large reparation costs as they seek to restore historically neglected fire doors to proper working function.

So, maybe what we need IS a system like the MOT system for vehicles, with a certificate being issued (or not) on an annual basis? Just like the MOT, it wouldn’t guarantee the proper function of those doors for a year, but it would improve the poor standards of repair that we currently find during our inspections.

Firedoor inspection

In the course of my recent travels I have inspected about 120 fire doors for compliance with the regulations. I have been shocked, but not surprised (I doubt anybody who works in the fire safety sector would be too surprised) by the results. Of those 120 doors, only 17 were compliant with the regulations.

Many of the faults I found would not have been obvious unless you were conducting a detailed inspection of the doors, but some were, frankly, ridiculous.

Not so obvious to the untrained eye – a plastic spacer has been used to pack out this hinge on a fire door.

Blatantly obvious – this door has been allowed to fall in to a ridiculous state of disrepair.

What struck me hardest though, was the prevailing attitude that allows these findings to be the norm. Not only from those who have legal obligations for fire safety, but from everyone else who accepts it and doesn’t challenge it. From the widespread use of door wedges to blocking fire exit routes, examples of a dangerous disregard for fire safety are frighteningly frequent.

Is it ignorance? Often, yes. But is there also something of an institutionalised reluctance to understand fire safety in case we feel obliged to take inconvenient action? I don’t mean just within individual corporations – I mean within society as a whole. Most people I meet who have fire safety duties would gladly implement every regulation and recommendation because they don’t want any kind of tragedy on their conscience, but I come across people almost everyday who clearly regard me as a ‘jobsworth’ and can’t wait for me to leave so they can wedge open their door again.

Building managers have to contend with that attitude from the occupants of their premises as well, they often tell me it is a constant battle to prevent the use of door wedges and to keep fire exits clear. Budgetary constraints are also a headache – most places accept annual costs now for inspection and maintenance of fire alarms, sprinklers and extinguishers, but I haven’t found one that has a budget for fire doors. This often means that their fire doors have not been maintained correctly and they are reluctant to look at them in case it ends up costing them a lot of money to rectify the problems that are identified. So they are stuck between the corporation that doesn’t want to spend any money and the occupants who don’t want to take fire safety seriously!

As far as corporations are concerned – yes, you need to have a budget for maintenance of fire doors. There is no compromise, they either comply or they don’t – ‘that’ll do’ does not apply to fire doors and if an (apparently) minor defect means the difference between 30 minutes and 15 minutes protection it could be the difference between life and death.

But it’s not just money, you need to embed fire safety in to corporate culture along with every other kind of safety, whether it be from discrimination, violence, harassment or industrial injury. If we can insist that people wear PPE when necessary, surely we can get rid of door wedges?

Taking Action in 2019

Like everyone else, I watched in horror on the 14th Of June 2017 as Grenfell Tower burned – knowing that people were dying. Knowing also, because we have become used to the pattern, that the subsequent investigation would reveal ignorance, incompetence, cost and neglect as major factors in the tragedy.

I was overwhelmed by grief for those people, but also by anger and frustration that I – we – allow this pattern to keep repeating itself. We watch, experience all those emotions, then – usually – tell ourselves that we’re powerless to do anything.

This time it’s different. A few months later I joined the Make It Worksmart Group and found myself talking about how we could make a difference.

In the intervening months we have undertaken training and accreditation programs to develop our knowledge and have been horrified by the catalogue of avoidable fire disasters that we have found in our research. We have also been genuinely shocked by some of the compromises and failures we’ve seen – I have been guilty of some myself in the past (see my blog ‘What’s To Lose?’ https://worksmartfiredoorinspection.co.uk/2018/10/18/worksmart-fire-door-inspections/ ).

So, what started from a sense of responsibility for ensuring that our own work was ‘proper’ is growing in to something of a mission – to improve fire safety in Scotland and the UK. We want to feel sure that nothing we do ourselves will compromise fire safety, but the sense of responsibility we have always felt to our workforce, customers and community drives us to use whatever influence we have to improve fire safety in any way we can.

Nobody wants to die in a fire. Nobody wants to be bereaved by fire. And nobody wants to feel responsible for either of those things.

So let’s not accept it anymore. Let’s call it out wherever we see it. Let’s lead by example. Contractors, facilities managers, customers, tenants, employers, hotel guests – everyone – let’s take responsibility for preventing another avoidable death.

We believe we can make our buildings safer for everyone by raising awareness and understanding. We believe public awareness can change attitudes and actions. And we believe everyone should be safe in our public spaces and buildings.

Contact us for information on how you can help wherever you work (or play).

Worksmart Fire Door Inspection

Protecting Lives, Protecting Loss

What’s to lose?

Since starting my Fire Door Inspection journey, I have been alarmed by the proportion of fire resistant doors that have failed an inspection – at least half of them. Many of these failings are not immediately apparent, for example automatic hold open devices that don’t release the doors when they should, or a hinge with a leaky bearing. But some of them HAVE been obvious, such as detached door closers or doors so clearly ‘dropped’ they are being propped up by their partner!

I will be the first to admit that, in the past, I have been ignorant of the importance of fully functional fire doors and had limited understanding of their purpose. Not that I would have turned a blind eye to obvious defects in any of the places where I would have been the ‘responsible person’, but if the doors looked okay, surely they WERE okay?

No – it is not okay.

Looking back, it scares me to think that an undetected fault in a fire door in one of my premises could have had catastrophic consequences. I didn’t know what ‘compartmentalisation’ was – at least, not in relation to fire safety – much less realise a fire doors’ function in maintaining separate compartments in order to restrict the spread of fire and provide precious minutes to people trying to escape.

I suspect there are plenty of ‘responsible persons’ out there now who are in the same boat as I was all those years ago – but beware, ignorance is no defence in law and, even if you’re not one of those who blatantly risk people’s lives by recklessly ignoring problems with your fire doors, you can be prosecuted.

Research conducted by the Fire Door Inspection Scheme (FDIS) in 2015 on 45 prosecutions involving non-compliant fire doors resulted in fines totalling £951,000 – this on top of a number of suspended prison sentences and even custodial sentences. These were not all large corporations, far from it. They included landlords of HMO’s, pubs and restaurants, owners of SMEs, care homes and nurseries too.

So, if you are an owner, landlord, manager, employer or appointed ‘responsible person’ – anyone with legal and moral responsibilities for fire safety, please seek the help of an FDIS certified fire door inspector to ensure all your fire doors are working properly.

Worksmart Fire Door Inspection

Mark McQuade CertFDI

PROTECTING LIVES, PREVENTING LOSS

One of my objectives since joining the Worksmart Contracts team only 6 months ago was to establish our new Fire Door Inspection Service to help our clients, new and existing, to fulfil their legal and moral obligations and bring them peace of mind. It makes sense to us to offer this service – with over 16 years’ experience in installing and repairing fire doors and screens, we are industry experts. We think it makes sense to our clients to take advantage of our experience and expertise too. I am delighted to announce that we have achieved that objective with the launch this week of WORKSMART FIRE DOOR INSPECTIONS!

Worksmart Fire Door Inspection are committed to improving fire safety throughout Scotland and beyond and are proud supporters of the FIRE DOOR INSPECTION SCHEME (FDIS) – Europe’s first fire door inspection scheme. It was launched in 2012 as a joint venture between the BWF-Certifire Scheme and the Guild of Architectural Ironmongers (GAI) and aims to transform people’s knowledge about how and why fire doors work and the potential dangers of getting it wrong. It does this through education programs (such as the diploma and certification programs I have recently completed), awareness campaigns like the Fire Door Safety Week campaign, sharing important changes and updates to legislation and regulations (as well as best practice and new developments) and maintaining a database of FDIS Certified Inspectors (http://www.fdis.co.uk/inspector).

There is an ever increasing challenge to keep abreast of, and comply with, the regulations that apply to public or commercial buildings. Foremost of these, following recent developments in the UK, are those concerned with fire safety – which define the standards for passive fire protection, including the installation and maintenance of fire doors. Fire doors are complex, engineered products and, like any engineered product, need regular maintenance. Evidence shows us that fire doors are one of the most common areas of non-compliance, often due to poor installation and/or maintenance. Any failing could lead to prosecution and would mean that they will not perform to the required standard in the one and only case that they may be called upon to do so.

Amazingly, Scotland is desperately under-represented on the FDIS Certified Fire Door Inspector database, a situation we, at Worksmart Fire Door Inspection, are well positioned to rectify. With an extensive reach throughout Scotland, offices in Edinburgh and Kilmarnock and active projects from Aberdeen to Ayr we have a track record of delivering first class service all over the country. Our aim is to be the first choice for fire door inspection services in Scotland!

I can’t wait to start introducing the service to our existing clients and spreading the word to a wider audience! Our service will not stop at producing a ‘one off’ inspection report using the latest auditing software, however. If required we can create and manage an inspection program in line with legal requirements and produce detailed, historical reports, recommendations, confirmation of remedial actions and more. In short, we can tailor the service to individual requirements in order to strengthen existing fire safety management plans.

Call me to find out why your fire doors should be inspected, what it entails, when you should do it and how we can manage it all for you.

#makeitworksmart #worksmartworksafe #makeitworksafe #protectinglivespreventingloss