7th August Journal Column

Web-LogoBy Catriona Lingwood, Chief Executive of Constructing Excellence in the North East

Health and Safety is relevant in all aspects of the construction industry, and it’s vital that it’s taken seriously, as, in some instances, it can mean the difference between life and death.

A recent report by Neil Ashdown, general manager of the Fire Door Inspection Scheme, shows a worrying increase, in big and small companies alike, of incorrect fire door installations. The purpose of the fire door is to block out flames and smoke during a fire, and if wrongly installed they are useless at compartmenting the flames

The study found doors wrongly hung in buildings ranging from hospitals and schools to the most iconic buildings which were built by some of the biggest names in the industry and cost hundreds of millions of pounds- basically, places you’d expect fire doors to be correctly installed.

The results of the report have highlighted a need for improvement in a particular area of the industry which I don’t think has ever been considered before.

Companies are more than likely following protocol when it comes to certifications for the doors being verified and work being checked and rechecked, but if nobody understands the problem in the first place, then it isn’t going to be picked up.

Five of the most common faults with the doors in the report include:

  • Over one third having incorrect signage
  • Over 230 fire doors having excessive gaps between the door and the frame
  • 15 per cent having damage to door leaf
  • One in five having unsuitable hinges
  • Over 61 per cent having fire or smoke seals missing or installed incorrectly

If you are responsible for Health and Safety in your organisation, it is down to you to ensure you are correctly trained and feel confident enough to be completing or overseeing such tasks. It might not be the easiest thing to admit that you need more help/training, but damage to your ego isn’t as tragic as the possible consequences of incorrectly installing a fire door. Some of the common faults found could have easily been avoided or resolved, had they been flagged up.

There’s more to consider than just the quality of Health and Safety prevention measures, it’s about legal responsibilities too. Under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (RRO) and your probable duty as the Responsible Person appointing the Competent Person to carry out work, regardless of whether a fire occurs or not, you could still be liable if a problem with the doors is flagged.

I’m not picking faults or criticising companies, but the results of the report have stressed the need for education and training and made me aware of a problem that I didn’t know existed. It’s a problem with a very simple solution in my opinion and a one we need to sort sooner rather than later.