COVID blamed for inadequate fire safety checks

Over half of UK local authorities responding to a Freedom of Information request said COVID-19 had got in the way of planned fire door maintenance and replacement in the first half of 2020.

At least 26,318 fire doors were scheduled for maintenance or replacement between January and June 2020, but 16,580 did not progress -- meaning 63% of individual planned works were delayed until at least the second half of the year, affecting a minimum of 9,954 individual properties.

The findings follow an open letter from the London Fire Brigade to housing providers in the Capital urging them to put plans in place ahead of new fire safety legislation coming into effect. The letter strongly advises building owners to consider the risks of existing fire doors in their fire risk assessments, regardless of the height of the building.

Of those local authorities that experienced delays, 65% intend to commence works by the end of the year. This signals that the majority recognise the importance of properly fitted and maintained fire doors. However, worryingly 31% of local authorities stated that they are yet to define a date for recommencing the planned works.

The findings are released during this year's Fire Door Safety Week, which takes place at a time when many people are working from home, and a great number now appear to be without fit for purpose fire doors.

Helen Hewitt, chief executive of the British Woodworking Federation, which organises Fire Door Safety Week, said: “It is clear COVID-19 has understandably impacted on service delivery across a variety of sectors, but fires do not stop. With the UK lockdown period forcing many people to spend more time at home, people without fit for purpose fire doors have been put at risk. There is a need for continued and urgent focus on ensuring the safety of all building occupants whether in local authority or privately-rented accommodation, workplaces or other building types.”

On local authority plans to recommence delayed works, Hewitt said it was encouraging that over half of local authorities experiencing delays are due to recommence or complete their scheduled fire door replacement and maintenance in the second half of 2020.

"For those yet to define a date to recommence works, it is vital local authorities take action to replace or maintain fire doors that have been identified by inspectors as soon as possible.

“The construction industry has worked hard to ensure that it is COVID-secure, and now there is a need to act to ensure individuals living and working in properties have safe and compliant fire doors. We hope Fire Door Safety Week will draw attention to these important issues and encourage all with responsibility for fire doors to take urgent action.”

"Whilst we have focused upon local authority owned and managed housing stock, we strongly suspect that our insight reflects the wider market. We hope that through this years’ Fire Door Safety Week, we can draw attention to these important issues and encourage all with responsibility for fire doors to take urgent action across fire door maintenance, inspection and replacement."

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