As it’s a legal requirement in commercial buildings to have the correct systems in place for fire stopping and fire protection, the importance of fire doors cannot be underestimated. It’s a key feature which will help protect the lives of customers and the public, as well as all members of staff, in the event of a fire. Having fire doors fitted by FIRAS accredited experts will ensure that the surrounding walls and structures stay intact, unfortunately there have been many instances of fire doors not doing their job due to poor fitting and maintenance.
Since Grenfell in 2017, fire regulations have become a lot stricter and there is a lot more scrutiny based on whether a company complies with fire regulation. Only 66% of fire audits conducted across England were deemed satisfactory in 2019/2020, and only 59% of licensed premises were satisfactory. Therefore, it is obvious that some work needs to be done in order to raise the bar on fire safety standards.
However, it can be difficult to navigate the rules surrounding fire doors, as it depends on many factors, such as the number of occupants, overall purpose and size of the building, to name a few.
Different types of fire door
Fire doors are heavily tested in order to find out their ‘grade’. The grade refers to the duration that a fire door can provide protection for in the event of a fire. The materials that were used to build the fire door can mean that the results can vary for different doors.
The main organisation that gives fire door ratings is the British Woodworking Federation (BWF). The ratings are assessed using 4 main integrity levels and can also vary from FD30 (30 minutes) to FD120 (120 minutes). The average fire door grade in commercial buildings is typically FD60 or above, compared to FD30 or FD60 in residential buildings. This can all depend on the materials being used to build the fire door, as commercial buildings will typically opt for a much safer door due to the presence of high-risk materials or things that are of a particular value to an organisation.
In a commercial building, a steer door may be the best way to go. This is because they are solid and durable and can offer the maximum protection of above FD120 (120 minutes). A lot of the time, steel doors are used in settings such as hospitals and kitchens.
Glass fire doors
Glass fire doors must be made from fire-rated glass, it cannot be made from regular glass. Regular glass will shatter if it reaches temperatures above 120 degrees Celsius. However, fire-rated glass can withstand temperatures of up to 900 degrees Celsius and can last up to 60 minutes without cracking or breaking.
Wooden fire doors
Wooden fire doors are very popular in residential properties, and they can provide the same level of protection as glass fire doors. This can be anywhere between 30 and 60 minutes. Many wooden fire doors’ cores are made from magboard, particleboard, flax board or timber.
Frames and hinges
Regulations should be followed to the letter as it can mean the difference between life or death, when it comes to the event of a fire. This includes the use of fire door frames and hinges. Frames and hinges must also comply with fire door regulations and the materials and products used for these is just as important as the materials used for the actual fire door itself.
All materials that are used in the construction of fire doors, frames and hinges must be Certifire approved, and where necessary, CE marked. CE marking is how a product complies with EU safety, and other safety legislation. CE marking also requires being vetted by an independent third party. The gap between a fire door and its frame cannot exceed 4mm in size. This is in order to block smoke coming through to the rooms protected by fire doors.
The hinges in which fire doors hang must be made of metal with a metal point of above 800 degrees Celsius. The hinges also must be CE marked and there must 3 hinges on every fire door.
A ‘responsible person’ must be allocated on each commercial premises and it will be that person’s job to conduct a thorough fire risk assessment (FRA). In this assessment, any misuse or neglect must be noted. For example, it can be dangerous to wedge open a fire door. However, this is an extremely common thing to do, which compromises the fire door’s ability to do its job and protect people in the event of a fire. It was reported that 68% of buildings visited by the fire service in 2018, had doors wedges open.
The risks of non-compliance
There are very high penalties for not meeting the fire protection regulations, fines of £5,000 and even prison sentences can be carried out for not complying with fire safety regulations. In 2007, supermarket brand Tesco was fined £95,000 for wedging open its fire doors.