The Regulatory Reform Order (RRO) which caused the introduction of new risk based fire safety controls as of October 1st 2006 has changed the way in which we achieve safe premises in a very important way. Prior to this date, most buildings that were occupied for commercial purposes operated under a Fire Certificate issued under the Fire Precautions Act of 1971, which was audited occasionally by the Fire Service to ensure compliance with the Certificate requirements. This Fire Certificate carried with it a ‘statutory bar’ that prevented any premises owner from having to upgrade his properties solely because primary legislation or its guidance had changed. The major change in adopting a risk based fire safety strategy is that the statutory bar has now been broken. A Risk Assessor will make up his or her own mind as to whether the building is safe in the way it is being used and will not necessarily be guided by compliance with the Codes that were in existence when the building was first approved.
This means that the Risk Assessor has to be certain that people will evacuate the building safely should there be a fire event. Up until now these Risk Assessors have been provided with very little information as to how fire doors, penetration seals, and fire resisting glazing influences the tenability of the protected spaces in that building and how they should be assessed. These components are critical if one is to ensure the life safety of persons in and around the building.
For the first time ever the Intumescent Fire Seals Association (IFSA) has produced Guidance Notes solely for use by any Risk Assessor working under the RRO to enable him/her to come to a rational decision as to whether the construction being audited compromises life safety or not. Risk Assessors would not have appreciated that a fire resisting door that was incorporated when the building was turned into its current use, possibly in the late 1970’s, early 80’s would probably only achieve half of it’s recommended fire resistance if it were to be adjudged by today’s standards. Similarly, the impact of smoke production or smoke leakage has never fully been able to be quantified by a Risk Assessor.
The new IFSA Guides, Technical Communiqués 1, 2 & 3 gives the Risk Assessor guidance on the role that door seals, penetration seals and glazing play in the overall fire safety principles. It can be seen that these products do ensure tenability of the spaces in a building during a fire event and if wrongly specified people, not just property are at serious risk. These Technical Communiqués are free and downloadable from the IFSA website - www.ifsa.org.uk. Alternatively, please contact the Secretariat for a printed copy of these Guides as they will make a valuable contribution to any Risk Assessors’ tool box of reference material;
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