Ensuring fire safety assurance through third-party certification
Under new legislation in the form of the Building Safety Act, those with responsibility for fire doors and other fire safety systems are now held to a far greater level of accountability. This has put much more pressure on them to prove that fire prevention and protection measures in the buildings they manage will perform as intended in the event of a fire.
I believe that third-party certification of fire doors is a ready-made solution to ensure compliance with the new legislation – and is the only way to be certain over a fire door or doorsets performance in the event of a fire.
However, while overall awareness of fire door third-party certification has increased, as evidenced by recently conducted BWF Fire Door Alliance research, this hasn’t yet translated into higher numbers of certified fire doors in use.
Choosing third-party certified doors
Despite the improved understanding of third-party certification and its associated benefits, alternative approaches to fire door testing – which lack crucial traceability and performance assurance – are still prevalent. With an increasing number of individuals that oversee fire safety relying on fire test certificates for proof of performance, many fire doors aren’t undergoing the crucial comprehensive assessment that third-party certification provides.
Third-party certification entails a rigorous audit by an independent party to validate that the fire door manufacturer or processor has conducted appropriate testing and consistently adheres to set standards.
For Fire Door Alliance members, this involves meeting the strict criteria of an initial programme of fire testing, and auditing of the manufacturing process and quality management systems. These measures are confirmed by regular product testing and auditing which provides vital evidence of performance, ensuring that the fire door’s efficacy is not a one-time occurrence and instilling confidence in specifiers, installers and building users that the fire door will perform as designed.
Key criteria for BWF Fire Door Alliance members include:
- Initial fire testing: Full-sized fire door assemblies undergo tests at a UKAS-accredited facility in accordance with the relevant fire test standard, such as BS 576: Part 22 or BS EN 1634-1 to determine fire resistance.
- Initial manufacturing process audit: Audits by chosen UKAS-accredited product certification bodies ensure that management procedures, manufacturing processes and systems align with the standards, fostering consistency in fire door production.
- Audit testing: Regular scrutiny involves frequent testing on sampled products to affirm that the initial test results are not isolated incidents.
- Manufacturing Process Audits: Ongoing audits ensure that the manufacturer’s management procedures, manufacturing processes, and systems consistently meet the required standards.
Why correct installation is critical
While a third-party certified door offers numerous benefits, its performance and function are reliant on correct installation.
Manufacturers should provide specific installation instructions tailored to the product, recognising variations in methods and materials based on factors like the installation environment and product type.
For those new to fire door installation, seeking quality-assured training is imperative to demonstrate competence. The BWF, in collaboration with the NOCN Group, offers an assured Fire Door Installation Awareness Course to promote best practices and enhance understanding of the installation process. Additionally, individuals pursuing a Level 3 Apprenticeship in Site Carpentry & Joinery are required to undertake the BWF/NOCN Fire Door Installation Awareness Course or the City and Guilds Level 3 Award in Fire Door Safety, ensuring a formal, regulated pathway for developing competence in timber fire door installation. On successful completion of this qualification the individual can apply for a CSCS card.
While it’s encouraging to see that those with responsibility for fire doors have a good knowledge of the benefits of third-party certification, the lack of uptake seems to indicate that further information and training following the new legislation is needed. The BWF Fire Door Alliance will continue to advocate for the wider adoption of third-party certification and its crucial role in meeting new fire safety standards, alongside promoting the correct route to becoming qualified and competent in the disciplines of installing timber fire doors.
Written by Helen Hewitt, CEO of the British Woodworking Federation (BWF)’s Fire Door Alliance
For more information on fire door third-party certification, please visit: http://firedoors.bwf.org.uk/be-certain-be-certified/