Over half (52%) of UK local authorities delayed maintenance and replacement of fire doors in the first half of this year and even more (60%) delayed routine inspections, according to information gained by Freedom of Information requests on behalf of Fire Door Safety Week.
More worryingly, say organisers, nearly a third of those experiencing delays (31%) say they are yet to define a date for recommencing the works.
The report, based on responses from 147 local authorities that own and manage their own housing stock, says 53% cited Covid-19 restrictions including limited access and shortage of contractors due to social distancing.
According to the data, 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.
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.
“Regular inspections, carried out by trained and competent professionals, are essential in identifying damage that may prevent a fire door from performing in the event of a fire. If a damaged door goes unidentified it cannot perform its life-saving role. We urge all local authorities and building owners to restart inspections as soon as possible, if they haven’t already, as fire doors can become damaged at any time, especially where they are frequently used.”
She continued: “It’s encouraging to see 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.”
She concluded: “The Building Safety Bill and Fire Safety Bill, both currently going through Parliament, will place a greater responsibility on building owners to ensure risks are identified and improvements made where necessary. Our message to all building owners is: ‘stay ahead of the game and do not get left behind when it comes to bringing all fire doors up to the correct standard’.”