Fire doors are a central element of a building’s passive fire protection system. They help stop the spread of fire and provide people with safe exit points. By law, workplaces across the UK must have fire doors installed on external walls throughout the premises.
Fire doors must be regularly inspected to ensure they are operating correctly. Fire door inspections should only be carried out by trained staff. To maintain a safe workplace for all, employers should provide their workers with access to fire door inspection training.
In this article, we will take a closer look at the functions of fire doors in the workplace and why fire door inspections are a crucial part of maintaining health and safety. We will also detail the benefits of creating and sustaining a strong health and safety culture.
The Function of Fire Doors in the Workplace
Fire is a constant risk in any workplace. A fire requires only three elements to start: heat, fuel, and oxygen. Fires can be caused by the incorrect handling or storage of flammable materials or substances, faulty electrical wiring, incorrect work practices, or a simple lack of awareness of how to manage potential fire risks.
Once ignited, fires can spread incredibly quickly. The major cause of injuries and fatalities during a fire is smoke inhalation, as reported by the UK Home Office. In many cases, smoke inhalation results from people not being able to access stairs or corridors leading out of the building.
If there is a fire, having an effective system of fire doors can save lives. Fire doors protect escape routes and act to prevent fire and smoke from spreading throughout a building. This can give the inhabitants more time to make their escape and provide emergency services with safe routes in and out of the building.
The Legal Obligations of Employers
UK employers must ensure that they provide their employees with a safe working environment and relevant health and safety training, as stipulated by the Health and Safety at Work Act (HSWA) 1974.
Additionally, the UK government has recognised the specific risk posed by fire and has made fire doors a legal requirement for any non-residential building. This is detailed under the Article 17 of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (also known as the RRO/FSO).
The RRO/FSO replaced 118 previous acts of fire legislation. Crucially, the RSO/FFO has moved the responsibility for fire safety from the fire authorities to whoever controls a premises on a daily basis. This means that UK employers are obligated to ensure that their building has properly installed and fully functioning fire doors.
Failure to adhere to these acts can result in heavy financial penalties as well as criminal charges that could lead to imprisonment.
Why Fire Door Inspections are Important
Fire doors must be regularly inspected to ensure that they are functioning properly and are ready to be used in the case of an emergency, as mandated by the RSO/FFO. It is recommended that fire doors be inspected a minimum of once every six months, according to fire safety groups such as the British Woodworking Federation Group Fire Door Alliance.
Additional inspections are recommended during the first year of use, or if the fire doors are used regularly. Depending on the rate of usage, fire doors may need to be inspected as often as once a month, or even once a week.
If fire doors are used frequently during everyday business activities, this can result in changes to the door’s structure and possibly impede effectiveness during a fire. In some cases, fire doors may have been incorrectly installed by uncertified tradespeople.
Aside from the risk to life that incorrectly operating fire doors pose, there are also legal ramifications. If the fire doors in a building are found to have breached the RSO/FFO regulations, then authorities can prosecute owners and occupants and close the building down.
Only by conducting regular, thorough inspections can you be sure that the fire doors in your building meet the legal standard and are always operating as they should.
Why You Need Fire Door Inspection Training
Fire door inspections must be carried out by either the owner of a building, the employer occupying the premises, or by an appointed ‘responsible person’. Fire door inspection training is often required in order for any ‘responsible persons’ to be able to carry out fire door inspections effectively.
Training provides participants with the skills to be able to manage inspections in a way that meets RSO/FFO standards.
When it comes to choosing appropriate training, there are a variety of options out there. And they do not necessarily have to be completed in person. Some e-learning providers are now providing virtual courses on fire door inspection.
The fire door training offered by Human Focus is comprised of three main modules:
- Module 1 – Regulations, Standards & Certification
- Module 2 – Fire Door Construction & Design
- Module 3- Fire Door Inspection
Completing fire door inspection training will ensure that the designated ‘responsible person’ understands the laws surrounding fire doors, what components must be assessed during an inspection, and how to prepare for and record the findings of an inspection.
Generally, a fire door inspection consists of checking five elements:
- Certification labelling – Fire doors and their components must have markings to show they are certified.
- Open apertures – Fire doors must not have any open grilles or apertures.
- Seals and gaps – All seals must be intact and gaps surrounding the door must be no bigger than 4mm.
- Door closing mechanisms – All door closers must operate properly.
- Door operation – The door must close tightly and meet the frame at all points.
Why Health and Safety at Work Matters
Meeting health and safety obligations is not just a legal requirement. Providing a safe place to work is a moral duty that all UK employers and employees should take seriously.
Every year unsafe workplaces and unsafe work practices cost the UK a huge amount in both financial losses and human lives. Statistics from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) show that during the 2019/2020 period:
- 6 million working people developed a work-related illness
- There were 111 workers killed at their workplace
- 693,000 people were injured at work
- 8 million working days were lost due to illness or injury
- The overall cost to the UK economy was estimated to be £16.2 billion
Maintaining a safe work environment can prevent many common workplace illness and injuries. You can ensure that your employees, self-employed contractors that are on-site, and the general public are kept safe. This will also provide some protection against fines or charges from breaches of health and safety law as well as potential legal action due to negligence.
There are also other benefits from creating a strong health and safety culture at work. Businesses and organisations that implement effective health and safety procedures show improved staff morale, greater rates of staff retention, higher rates of productivity, and reduced costs due to absences.
How You Can Improve Health and Safety at Your Workplace
There are several steps that a business can take to improve health and safety in the workplace.
The most important element is to provide staff with access to relevant health and safety courses. Online health and safety training is becoming a popular option as it is inexpensive, effective, and can be done at any time.
Various providers in the industry are available, including companies like Human Focus. Visit their websites to learn more about what they offer.
Other measures a business can implement to enhance health and safety include:
- Ensuring that the workplace has a good number of labels and signs to warn of hazards
- Maintaining good housekeeping and cleanliness procedures
- Rewarding safe behaviour by employees
- Providing the correct equipment and keep it in good condition
- Holding regular health and safety meetings
- Encouraging an open dialogue between employees, managers, and supervisors