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Guild renews its call for action on fire safety competencies and fire door checks

In response to
the Building a Safer Future consultation on fire
safety and the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 call for
evidence, the Guild of Architectural Ironmongers
(GAI) has renewed its call for mandatory
competency checks on those who specify fire doors and associated door hardware. 

The Building a Safer Future proposals
build on the recommendations from Dame Judith Hackitt’s Independent Review of Building
Regulations and Fire Safety. The report sets out ideas
for the fundamental reform of building safety requirements, designed to
ensure residents can be safe, and feel safe, in their
homes.  

The GAI has also called again for
mandatory fire door inspections and maintenance as part
of Building Regulations.  

Its response noted that, while the report
says residents and landlords in High Risk Residential Buildings
(HRRBs) should ensure fire compartmentation is maintained to a suitable
standard, this was in fact only a step in the right
direction. 

Douglas Masterson, technical manager of the GAI, said: 

“Any increased emphasis on competence in industry is most
welcome by our industry. The architectural ironmongery industry’s view is
that there is a clear requirement for fire-related and other
complex specifications to be undertaken by qualified ironmongers,
and that installations and maintenance should also be
undertaken by qualified personnel or companies. Competence is key across all
these areas when it comes to ironmongery, particularly for fire and escape
doors.” 

In its submission to the consultation, the GAI has
also highlighted its growing concerns about
continued ‘value engineering’ by contractors and sub-contractors, particularly the
frequent changes to architectural ironmongery specified for fire doors. 

The Guild supports the change control process
recommended in Hackitt’s report,
but also recommends taking it further to add ‘changes in specification on
product with fire and life safety implications’ to the list of changes that
would be deemed major. 

Major changes would require the principal
contractor to consult the client and principal designer, and then, if
they are happy with these changes, the principal contractor must then
notify the regulator and submit further details before carrying out
the work.  

“There is a danger that substitution of specified products
which can have an impact on fire safety, such as architectural
ironmongery, may not be picked up as part of the existing proposals,” said
Douglas. “We are most concerned
that any potential degrading of a specification which has
been prepared by a qualified architectural ironmonger could have severe fire
safety consequences.  

“At the GAI we are still very much in support of
reintroducing the Clerk of Works role to ensure that specifications are being
followed to the letter, something that was sadly missing from the Government’s
response.”  

The Guild supports calls for a national construction
products regulator that can take
action against
any manufacturer which makes false claims about its products. But the
GAI argues that its remit needs to go wider: 

“A national regulator with the powers to take
legal action should be a necessity against all major standards, not purely
those which are harmonised standards, as suggested in the original
report.” 

The GAI also backs recommendations to change
the RRO so that the fire service has greater involvement with the sign-off of
buildings, the industry-wide implementation of smart
labels, greater clarity of approved documents, and third-party
testing of products through schemes such as BWF-Certifire. 

The GAI is part of the Industry Response Working Group 12
relating to products, chaired by the Construction Products Association. 

www.gai.org.uk  

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