Most buildings, unless very small, will have barriers built into the premises that prevent the spread of fire heat or smoke. This is called Fire Resistant Compartmentation. It is intended to create areas that fire, heat and smoke cannot penetrate for a specific period of time allowing people to escape the premises, confine the fire to a room or area of origin, thereby restricting fire damage. This allows business to continue post-fire in the rest of the building and protect Fire and Rescue personnel who attend to fight the fire.
IN THE MAJORITY OF PREMISES THAT WE ASSESS, THE COMPARTMENTATION IS DEFEATED.
There are holes that would let the fire heat and smoke spread through the building. At worst, persons may be trapped by the fire and at best this will result in larger areas of the building being lost than was necessary.
Naturally, owners / occupiers employ contractors to install services or make alterations to the premises. New builds are not exempt, the pictures below are from unoccupied new premises.
These contractors by necessity need to put holes in the compartmentation to do their job, but unfortunately, they either deliberately or unknowingly fail to replace the compartmentation that they have removed, fire stop (fill in the holes) where they have passed the utilities through the compartmentation or use none fire rated products to complete the work. Typically the work is carried out above suspended ceilings, in loft spaces or shafts that are out of site. The work is completed, every thing is working, looks OK and off they go leaving you with a fire risk to the occupants and a perpetual cycle of remedial work identified on a fire risk assessment or fire compartmentation survey.
What can you do?
We recommend that you:
- Subject all contractors to a contractor’s approval process
- Specify on the scope of work that the fire resistant compartmentation is restored after the work is complete by a competent person using appropriate materials sourced from accredited suppliers
- Control the contractors on site by using an access permit system to the area of work that all holes created are recorded and subsequently inspected to ensure that the compartmentation is restored
- Get a competent person to inspect the work, if you are not sure what you are looking at
There were 231 fire-related fatalities in the year ending June 2020 compared with 271 in the previous year. FPA analysis of 4,782 major UK fires between January 2009 and December 2019, where the financial loss was £100,000 or more, revealed a mean average loss of £657,074 per incident.
Don’t be left to pick up the cost. ProAktive are here to help.
By Ian French CMIOSH – Risk Consultant