The Leading News & Information Service For The Facilities, Workplace & Built Environment Community

Tuesday, 26 May

No Smoke Without Fire

The Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) has made available the technical bulletin – Fire and Smoke Damper Maintenance TB001 – in response to growing alarm about the apparent failure of many building owners to test and maintain their smoke and fire dampers.

Fire safety officers and building engineers are becoming increasingly concerned over the fire risk posed by the thousands of dampers that are never checked, due either to lack of awareness or access problems.

 

A hospital case

Last summer, Channel 4 News revealed that hundreds of dampers in a ‘flagship’ PFI hospital in Birmingham had never been tested.

When attempts were made to address the situation, fewer than 50% passed the test; several were found to be damaged and almost 200 in one section of the hospital alone could not be found or reached. Fire services believe that this is simply the tip of the iceberg, and that thousands of buildings are at risk.

 

BS requirements

The BESA technical bulletin points maintenance teams towards the requirements of the relevant British Standard and outlines the tasks that must be completed.

It references the guidelines introduced by the Department of Health which state that fire dampers must be tested and maintained annually and the testing and reporting procedures set out in the Association's Standard Maintenance Specification for Building Services (SFG20). It also reminds companies to undertake appropriate training of all relevant personnel

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order which came into force in 2006, stipulates that a ‘responsible person’ must ensure that all components of the fire safety system are kept in ‘efficient working order’, must carry out a fire safety risk assessment and put a planned maintenance regime in place.

Failure to meet the requirements of the order can lead to fines of up to £10,000 and two years in prison for the designated responsible person. Prohibition notices can close a business down if the local fire officer is not satisfied that the right measures, including the regular testing and maintenance of all system parts, are in place.

BS 9999 – the code of practice for fire safety in the design, management and use of buildings – covers routine inspection and maintenance of ventilation and air conditioning ductwork. It stipulates that all fire dampers be tested by a ‘competent person’ at regular intervals ‘not exceeding two years’ and should be replaced immediately if any fault is found.

Spring-operated dampers should be tested every year, according to the standard and even more frequently if they are installed in areas of heavy dust contamination. Unfortunately, pressure on maintenance budgets means that regular damper testing is often overlooked.

“This is a huge life safety issue that is largely hidden from the public,” observed Tim Rook, Technical Director, BESA. “It often arises not through ignorance or laziness but because building managers and their maintenance contractors don't know what to do, or can't locate or access the equipment.” The typical remedial works, e.g. fitting access panels and ductwork modifications, are, according to Mr Rook, “second nature” to specialist contractors using well trained ductwork cleaners.

Additionally, the information contained in the newly published technical bulletin is a natural addition to the content of the Guide to Good Practice: Internal Cleanliness of Ventilation Systems (TR19) which is also produced by the BESA.

Picture: “This [fire damper maintenance] is a huge life safety issue that is largely hidden from the public,” observed Tim Rook, Technical Director, BESA.

Article written by Robin Snow

Share



Related Articles

Game, Set and Match as Landlords Get Record Fine

Friday may 26 saw crews called to fire in hedgerow at Wimbledon Tennis Club Four fire engines and 21 firefighters and officers went to a practice court area of the All...

 Read Full Article
Fire Engulfed Man in Flames

August 18 saw a distillery based in Oldbury fined after an employee was engulfed in flames in a fire that destroyed the warehouse and its contents. Wolverhampton Crown...

 Read Full Article
Is Your Fire Safety Risk Assessor Competent?

A survey carried out recently by FireUK highlighted a ‘staggering lack of awareness’ among the owners of small businesses about their responsibility to...

 Read Full Article
The Rights and Wrongs Of Prohibition Notices

The Supreme Court has recently decided that where a Prohibition Notice is served and subsequently found to be unfounded, the Notice can be rescinded or modified but the...

 Read Full Article
NHS Trusts In The Dock - Legionella and Lone Worker Fatality Convictions

Royal United Hospitals (Bath) NHS Foundation Trust has (in week ending December 15) pleaded guilty to a charge under Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act...

 Read Full Article
How The Mighty Fall - HSE Issued With Crown Censure

In something of a bitter irony, the Health and Safety Executive has avoided justice because of its status and  has instead accepted a Crown Censure after a worker at...

 Read Full Article
THINK! Drink

Tell your friends not to drink drive this festive period says the latest THINK! campaign which started on December 7. For this year’s campaign, which runs to...

 Read Full Article
Massive Fine & Jail Sentences After Horrific Fatality

A recycling company has been fined £880,000 and two people have been given suspended prison sentenced after the death of an agency worker who was drawn into...

 Read Full Article
Asbestos, Fall and Overhead Power Line Convictions

A Paisley based utility services company has been fined for exposing four of its employees to asbestos during work at Anderson Tower in Motherwell in 2014. Hamilton...

 Read Full Article
Britain's Annual Injury & Ill Health Statistics Released

The latest annual injury and ill health statistics from the Health and Safety Executive show 1.3 million workers were suffering from work related ill-health and there...

 Read Full Article