How should you inspect your fire doors?
Unlike your technical equipment, such as smoke alarms and emergency lighting, there are no fixed procedures for testing fire doors. Your main concern should be whether the doors can open and close efficiently. And whether there are any impediments that may lead to the doors being unable to function fully in the event of a fire. This can include:
- Faults with the opening or closing mechanism. This is particularly relevant for external fire escape doors.
- Issues with the hinge. Has the door dropped on its hinges slightly, making it scrape the floor or stiff to open?
- Are the smoke seals intact? Over time, smoke seals can erode, particularly on doors in high-use areas. This will prevent the doors from effectively checking the spread of fire and associated fumes.
- Are there gaps between the doors and the frames? As with fire doors with eroded smoke and fire seals, poorly fitted fire doors can present a real hazard, allowing for the spread of fire and smoke.
- Do your fire doors have any damage? Not just to the frames and hinges, but to any part of the door itself? If there is a fire glass panel, is it adequately fitted? Are there any signs of cracks, chips, or other damage that may weaken its integrity?
- Do you have the correct signage in place? Fire exit signs can play an enormous part in the safe evacuation of a building in the event of an emergency. If your fire door and fire exit signage is not correct or not intact, you might be posing a serious risk to the wellbeing of your employees and customers. And it’s important to remember that having the correct fire safety signage in place is a legal requirement.
- Are your fire doors being appropriately used? Too often, especially in hot weather, fire doors will be propped open to improve ventilation. Inadvertently easing the spread of any fire that may break out. And in low-traffic areas, it’s common for fire doors to become blocked, used as a storage space, or somewhere to position deliveries pending booking in.
How frequently do fire doors need to be checked?
As a general rule, fire doors should be inspected at least every six months.
With doors that receive a high degree of usage being checked more regularly for wear and tear. And recently installed doors, or doors in newly occupied buildings, being inspected at least once a month to ensure that no problems have developed as the doors settle. So that any required alterations can be made as swiftly as possible.
Most businesses work fire door inspections into their Fire Risk Assessment checklist. This ensures that fire doors are never overlooked, and that managers, fire marshals, or other responsible parties fully understand the need for fire door inspections. And that any visiting fire safety officers can see that you have the relevant procedures in place.
Do I need to record my fire door inspections?
Yes. It’s a good idea to record your fire door inspection in your Fire Safety Log Book.
With any maintenance performed also logged. This not only provides you with an aide memoire, but may also protect you against any action should a fire break out and your fire doors fail to function fully. It is essentially your audit trail, should you ever need to justify the safety of your business.
While fire door inspection might seem like another unnecessary task on your growing list, ask yourself how it would feel to be trapped behind a broken fire door if a fire ever breaks out. Or what the consequences may be if you are found to have failed in your duty of care, when smoke has infiltrated your building and put your employees at risk.
Fire doors are there to save lives. To allow swift exit from burning buildings. And to prevent the risk of asphyxiation from smoke in the event of a fire. They give fire services the time they need to reach your premises and rescue your people. And, lastly, they protect your property.
The likelihood of anyone randomly inspecting your fire doors is pretty slim. The repercussions of failing to maintain them are potentially catastrophic.