A recent survey conducted by Housing Management and Maintenance Magazine into the state of fire safety in social housing provided some interesting facts and revealed some interesting perceptions. Dean Bradford, Installation Operations Manager for Mila Maintenance and Installation suggests that while there are some obvious points raised, the equally obvious solutions to prevent another disaster are not being adopted.
“As someone who is involved in the installation of fire doors literally every day, I am fortunate to talk to a lot of what you might call ‘stakeholders’ in the whole campaign to improve fire safety in housing across the UK. My own experience tells me there are obvious solutions to help prevent another disaster but that for whatever reason these are still not being taken up.”
The survey revealed that 95% of those who responded categorised fire doors as the single most important product in the fight to prevent fires, but 54% of doors were classified as ‘broken’ when inspections were carried out, meaning that in over half of the cases, a fire door had become not fit for purpose since it was originally installed.
Alarmingly, in my opinion, 72% of landlords were only carrying out one survey a year (59%) or one survey every two years (13%) meaning the potential for doors to get broken and become ineffective in the fight against fire between surveys was significant. Only 23% of landlords were inspecting every 6 months or less.
Of course, resources both in terms of personnel and finance have a big impact on this, but investment in inspections twice yearly as a minimum would ultimately lead to reduced repair costs.
Broken closers, architraves coming away from the structure, locking mechanisms not working correctly can all be maintained easily if reported quickly and attended to efficiently rather than waiting a year. A preventative maintenance mindset would provide not only a financial benefit to landlords in the longer term, but of course would improve everybody’s confidence that fires can be prevented, or at worst be more readily contained should there be an incident.
Greater education for residents too would also help to reduce the amount of ‘broken’ doors that are discovered – drilling holes for cables, fitting letterboxes and other ‘DIY’ changes to fire doors are literally a threat to life. There is little point in recommending the installation of a fire door as the key defence against fire if those doors are not going to be maintained to retain their operational integrity.
Maintenance on all window and door products to ensure correct operation and to keep residents safe and secure is essential; on fire doors it is even more so, with the implications for the failure of products literally a matter of life and death. If inspecting fire doors more regularly would lead to fewer product failures and reduced risk to residents, then surely all landlords need to try and prioritise a more robust and regular inspection regime.
Also, out of the survey came figures that showed that landlords (35%) had suffered a loss of confidence in products installed as a result of the Grenfell disaster.
It is clear that all manufactured products must have third party testing and accreditation as a minimum, and that the installation and maintenance of all products must only be carried out by accredited installers, supervised by accredited site managers.
At Mila Maintenance and Installation all our products are fully third party tested and accredited, and our site teams are covered under the BM Trada Q Mark scheme to ensure compliance. I can see little excuse with everything that has gone on for any landlord to accept anything less from their providers.
“As BM Trada, managers of the Q Mark scheme point out ‘There is a legal requirement for those responsible for buildings under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order (RRFSO) to ensure that all fire doors are able to resist the passage of fire and continue to retain that ability throughout their working life’.
It will be interesting to see where the numbers revealed in this survey go to in 12 months’ time, but what they show is there is an obvious issue, but also fortunately a very obvious solution. More inspections will deliver a better position in the fight against fire. Let’s see what the appetite is from the market to do what needs to be done.