Fire safety compliance. It’s new so it must comply!
Compliance is essential owing to the significant legal responsibilities and obligations placed on companies and organisations to maintain minimum standards, ensuring a thorough approach to fire safety.
As fire safety experts, as you can imagine, we see a variety of types of buildings and indeed risks as we travel throughout the south west. A recent eye-opener was when we carried out a Fire Risk Assessment of a community building, provided to the local community by a housing developer as part of a Section 106 housing development provision. The facility is a fantastic addition for everyone to enjoy, from parent and baby groups, various local interest groups, sport clubs and much, much more. It’s great that the community now have this fantastic building to use. Or is it?
During our assessment it became very apparent that the minimum fire safety standards had been skimmed over, giving the impression of compliance but they actually now give the community a bit of a headache, in fact serious concerns and potentially significant expense.
Fire doors are fitted throughout the building, but they have all been poorly installed and therefore not offering the fire safety they are designed for. Excessive gaps, no self-closing devices on any fire doors including the kitchen door. Some doors had sustained damage, it would appear during installation, yet they had continued to be installed as if acceptable. Door furniture had no appropriate approvals and smoke strips and the very important seals were poorly fitted. However, this had been considered acceptable.
A Fire Alarm system had been provided in what appeared to be Category L2 configuration. However, crucially detection was lacking in some areas and not located correctly, either being too close to walls or light fittings.
The CIE (Control and Indicating Equipment) had a fault showing. There was no zone plan giving any idea of how the system was configured. The Fire Alarm mains power supply had been wired on to the same circuit as the exterior lighting, with many of the devices still have the commissioning caps fitted.
Emergency Lighting was fitted in the building however, it fell significantly short of the required standards and was only an “offering”. I was also surprised to see older fluorescent fittings had been used in many cases.
Poor workmanship in newer buildings is something that is increasingly common in some sectors and when it comes to building safety, especially fire safety, there should be absolutely no compromise. Why would you? The reality is that the cost difference between a good job and a bad job is marginal, so who picks up the tab for making good all these issues? In this case we are unsure but, in many cases it’s likely to be the end user, a (possibly significant) cost which is generally not anticipated. More importantly, the building was considered fit for purpose and without the owners recognising their legal responsibility to commission a Fire Risk Assessment, users of the building would have been innocently be exposed to significant and illegal fire risks!
This is in a new building, built under the spotlight of major developers and under the scrutiny of building inspectors. This is one of the many reasons why there is a legal obligation to have a Fire Risk Assessment.