Ensuring fire safety competence in hospitals

  • 6th May 2024

Following news that there are four fires daily across NHS hospitals, Helen Hewitt, chief executive of the British Woodworking Federation, speaks to Healthcare Property about the essential role of fire doors in protecting people and assets

Fire doors play a critical role in fire safety within healthcare settings

Recent data from NHS Digital has revealed an alarming 18% increase in fire incidents, equivalent to nearly four fires daily across the NHS.

And this surge highlights the pivotal importance of robust fire safety protocols, particularly concerning fire doors, third-party certification, and inspection regimes, which are essential to effectively manage fire risks in hospital buildings.

Educating building owners and hospital staff about fire safety is also paramount. They must be equipped to recognise potential fire hazards and take responsibility for reporting issues.


The essential role of fire doors

“Fire doors play a pivotal role in the event of a fire, acting as a barrier to prevent the spread of fire and smoke. Additionally, they ensure that escape routes, such as corridors, remain clear – a vital consideration in a busy hospital setting,” explains Helen Hewitt, chief executive of the British Woodworking Federation.

“This gives patients and staff more time to evacuate safely and provides better access for firefighting efforts.

“Ensuring that hospital staff are adequately trained to identify and report faulty fire doors is therefore imperative for ensuring patient safety.”


Choosing third-party certified doors

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.

The ongoing Be Certain, Be Certified campaign run by the British Woodworking Federation (BWF) Fire Door Alliance, highlights the importance of third-party certification of fire doors in improving fire safety standards across the UK.

And last year’s campaign found an increased understanding of the benefits of third-party certification, with 52% of respondents looking to third-party certification to provide proof of performance of a fire door.

This marked a seven-point increase from the 46% recorded in 2022 when surveying the same audience.

However, despite the increased understanding of the benefits associated with third-party certification, many still rely on alternative methods for fire door testing which lack crucial traceability and performance assurance. And this poses significant risks as these methods often fall short of the comprehensive assessment provided by third-party certification.

“While opting for third-party certified doors offers numerous advantages, their performance hinges on correct installation practices alongside vigorous inspection procedures,” said Hewitt.

Helen Hewitt

Fire door inspection regimes

“When it comes to fire doors, particularly for large buildings like hospitals where there can be hundreds of fire doors, a quality inspection of fire door installation can be time-consuming. For this reason, there are steps and preparations that site inspectors should undertake to ensure a quality and safe installation.

“Beyond installation, there needs to be a robust regime of inspection and maintenance of the door on an ongoing basis.”

Regulation 38 is a requirement under the Building Regulations to provide fire safety information to the ‘Responsible Person’ to allow them to inspect and manage that product throughout its lifespan.

For fire doors, this includes care and maintenance instructions, as well as traceability back to the original fire door certificate.

This is crucial so that the original installation can be inspected against this certificated specification and ensure that any components that need to be changed during its lifespan are compatible.


Checking a fire door’s condition

Hewitt advises following these five easy steps to check that fire doors are fit for purpose.

  • Certification – Is there a label or plug on top (or occasionally on the side) of the door to show it is a certificated fire door? You can use your mobile phone camera or mirror to check. If there is, that’s good news. Otherwise, report it to whoever is in charge of your building
  • Apertures – Altering the door for glazing apertures and air transfer grilles will make certification void
  • Gaps and seals – Check the gap around the door frame is constant and around 3mm-4mm and CE-Marked hinges are firmly fixed with no missing screws. Ensure seals are fitted at the top and sides of the door
  • Closers – Check that the closer shuts the door onto the latch from any position – check from 75mm from the closed position
  • Operation – Ensure the door closes correctly around all parts of the frame

For more information visit: http://firedoors.bwf.org.uk/be-certain-be-certified/


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