Why you should take a closer look at fire door certification

By Kevin Underwood, BWF Fire Door Alliance

As an effective passive fire protection product, fire doors fulfil a life-saving role in resisting the spread of smoke and fire for a period dependent on their fire classification. A fire door is a general term used to describe a complete installed assembly consisting of a complex system of components that must work together to perform in the event of a fire to save lives. The system includes the fire door leaf, frame, ironmongery and the glazing. Unfortunately  it’s only when a fire breaks out that the consequences of poorly manufactured or fitted fire doors are known.

Since the tragedy at Grenfell Tower three years ago, the Government’s Building Safety Programme has looked to develop reforms for the future building safety regulatory system. At the BWF Fire Door Alliance we fully support all the measures taken to date by the Government following the Hackitt Review and Phase One of the Grenfell Tower Enquiry. It’s encouraging to see action on building safety including the conclusion of the Building a Safer Future consultation and launch of the Fire Safety Bill and Building Safety Bill, which will provide greater accountability and enforce more rigorous standards. However, we would like the Government to go further and chief among our requests to policymakers is that independent third-party certification of fire doors and other passive fire protection products is enshrined in law. This would limit the opportunity for substitution of untested and dangerous products through tighter regulation, better guidance, and effective building control.

Why focus on the third-party certification of fire doors?

Third-party certification is a process of testing and verifying a fire door’s design, performance, manufacturing process and quality assurance of procedures and supporting documentation. A company that seeks third-party certification is independently audited to ensure that the management and manufacturing processes, and supporting systems, are in place to ensure consistency with the fire door that was initially tested. The product is also subjected to regular scrutiny, with periodic testing taking place on standard products to ensure that the test wasn’t just a once-only event.

In the Government’s fire door guidance that was published earlier this year to support fire safety in purpose-built blocks of flats – Annexe A: assurance and  assessment of fire doors – it is advised that the third-party certification of fire doors provides greater assurance on the performance of fire doors:

“The Expert Panel advise that, while it should not solely be relied upon, third party certification by a UKAS accredited body of manufacture, installation and maintenance and inspection for fire, smoke and security can provide building owners with greater assurance on the performance of fire doors.”

Third party certification is the cornerstone of the BWF Fire Door Alliance and membership is currently only open to companies holding third-party certification under either the Warringtonfire for Certifire or BM TRADA Q-Mark Schemes.

For BWF Fire Door Alliance members, this involves meeting specific criteria:

  1. The Fire Test: The fire resistance of a door assembly is determined by subjecting full-sized constructions to one or more tests in accordance with the appropriate fire test standard, BS 476: Part 22 or BS EN 1634-1 at a UKAS accredited test facility, the results of which are used to generate the scope of certification.
  2. Auditing the Manufacturing Process: BWF Fire Door Alliance member companies are independently audited by their chosen UKAS accredited product certification body (via Warringtonfire for Certifire, or BM TRADA for Q-Mark). This ensures that appropriate management and manufacturing processes and systems are in place to provide consistency in the manufacture of the fire door.
  3. The Audit Test: The fire door is subjected to regular scrutiny, with frequent testing taking place on sampled products to ensure that the test was not a one-off result.

The benefits of fire door third-party certification

If a fire door manufacturer has third-party certification it means that specifiers, local authorities and building owners can be guaranteed that performance evidence has been independently provided, without them having to rely on the word of the manufacturer. Certification also provides added benefits such as visibility and traceability of the door’s pathway through the construction supply chain.

When a fire door is manufactured or modified by a BWF Fire Door Alliance member, a label with a unique number is placed on the top edge of the door. The purpose of that number is to provide access to additional information including the fire door manufacturer and, where relevant, the Licensed Processor, as well as any certifications related to its specification and production records.

This allows the original fire door certificate and specification to be sourced, enabling on-site checks to be carried out against the door’s original standards. If this process highlights that any components need replacing, the documents will also outline the parts compatible with the original certification and test requirements to ensure compliance is maintained.

Under the Building Regulations or the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order (RRO), proof of compliance of fire doors can be requested. For this reason, the specification should be adhered to and only compatible components used, otherwise challenges can arise.

Promoting an understanding of passive fire protection measures

The issues around fire door safety don’t just exist in high rise, high risk buildings. They are prevalent in pretty much any sector and building type that you think of; public and private residential accommodation, educational, specialist housing, defence and secure accommodation; places that house some of our most vulnerable members of our communities.

As I write this article, we are planning for the eighth Fire Door Safety Week. Taking place at the end of September this year, we will continue to raise awareness of the critical role that fire doors play in saving lives and protecting property to help stamp out future bad practice. Awareness about the critical role of fire doors has certainly grown since the Grenfell Tower tragedy, but there is still a long way to go and that’s why campaigns like Fire Door Safety Week are so important and why we continue to campaign for third-party certification to become mandatory in both the manufacture and installation of fire doors and other passive fire protection products.

Find out more

For further information on the third-party certification of fire doors, and the importance of the correct specification, installation and ongoing maintenance of them, visit the BWF Fire Door Alliance website – https://firedoors.bwf.org.uk