Make sure that you are getting the Fire Rating that you (and your client) are paying-for.
It’s disappointing (but not entirely surprising) that post-Grenfell, we are still finding suppliers in the market who supply screens and doors without definitive Fire-Test Evidence to back up their assertions that their products will perform adequately.
The whole point of Fire-Rated doors and glazed screens, along with other passive fire protection products, is to protect lives and property in the event of a fire in a building.
These products are the last line of protection between the building occupants, temperatures of near 1000DegC and poisonous smoke. They should be correctly specified, detailed and installed to the correct standard to achieve their aim. They are expensive – but they are designed to do a critical job when fire breaks out, they will save lives. It’s money well spent.
Without the correct paperwork and supporting evidence for the installation of passive (and possibly active) fire protection measures, the Responsible Person is at risk of prosecution under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Act, 2005.
So why do so many clients, Architects and contractors still not insist on seeing definitive, authoritative Fire Test Evidence to back up the claims of Firescreen installers? Even in this Post-Grenfell age, we still see installations of glazed systems which are of doubtful quality and performance, often supported by a piece of paper which is almost worthless.
For your information – if a physical Fire Test has been carried out on a product or system, there will be a Fire Test report. This will normally be published by the Test-House, which will either be a UKAS-accredited institution or one of the well-known Continental houses, such as IFT Rosenheim, Efectis France, IBS, Deutsch Institut fur Bautechnik, CTICM or Gryfitlab. To be acceptable in UK and Europe the Fire Test should have been conducted in accordance with EN1634-1 or in the UK the old BS476-22 is acceptable.
A Fire Test Report is the top level of Fire Test Evidence and has no time limit on its validity. However, it is common practice to combine two Reports of physical tests (perhaps evidence for a door system which had been tested with one type of glass infill, with a FR glass which had been tested with a different door system) into an “Assessment” of the new combination of products.
An Assessment has a validity of 5 years and cannot legally be relied-upon if it is more than 5 years old. If you are asked to rely on an Assessment, you would be well-advised to get a copy of the supporting Fire Test Reports that go with it, and which will be referenced in the Assessment document itself. Do not rely on an “in-house” “certificate” for the supplier themselves, they must be able to provide independent back-up proof of performance.
If you do commission Fire Rated doors and screens (or any other form of passive fire protection, for that matter) please make sure that you see and retain a copy of current, in-date Fire Test Evidence, which is relevant to the product and its relationship within the building. Or better still, have the supply and installation carried-out by a company who has independent, 3rd-party accreditation, such as the FIRAS scheme, run and administered by Warrington Fire.
It’s worth remembering that if there is a fire in a building that you have handed-over and the passive fire protection measures fail, it is quite possible that you could face prosecution. If there’s a death involved, it could result in a prison sentence. If you’ve saved a few pounds by appointing a 2nd-rate Fire Screen installer (or internal partition installer or window/curtainwall installer), who didn’t have the correct Fire Test Evidence to prove that his product was appropriate and fit for purpose and fitted correctly, you might need to be worried.