If you own a business or a property used for industrial or commercial purposes, you no doubt already know the importance of fire safety measures. You might have concerns about the level of security and fire prevention you already have in place, and whether it needs improving.
As their name suggests, fire shutters are designed to prevent flames and smoke from spreading, usually in high-risk commercial and industrial buildings. Installing this equipment is essential for keeping people and property safe from injury and damage in the event of a fire.
There are many considerations involved in fitting a bespoke fire shutter, from dimensions and features to your budget and existing fire system. Of course, the main factor is the product’s fire resistance level – how long it can withstand flames and smoke for under test conditions.
As you might expect, the effectiveness of fire shutters and their advertised test ratings are regulated by several health and safety laws. This blog explains everything you should know about fire shutter regulations for the performance, testing, and servicing standards of fire shutter doors.
What are the performance requirements for fire shutters?
There are several characteristics that a fire shutter legally must have, with minimum performance levels to ensure the product is not just passable during tests but actually effective in a real-life fire. These include fire resistance, smoke control, release and self-closing capabilities, and durability.
Following the Grenfell tragedy in June 2017, testing standards for fire resistance were updated in November 2019. While previous standards for the fire resistance of construction materials didn’t require them to ensure the shutter would release when signalled by a fire alarm, the new rules do.
Previously, fire shutters couldn’t be CE marked due to the lack of harmonised standards, but the new regulations changed this. Now, fire shutters were no longer excluded from BS EN 13241-1, and BS EN 16034 allows manufacturers to CE mark their fire shutters if they’re up to standard. If they aren’t, or classed as NPD (no performance determined), they can’t be advertised with a CE mark.
From the end of 2019 onwards, fire shutters must meet the minimum system requirements for:
- Design and suitability (type and use of building, location of fire doors, local building regulations etc)
- Smoke and fire resistance (how long a self-closing shutter should be able to prevent the spread of fire and smoke)
- Appropriate installation (manufacturers must provide comprehensive installation manuals and full operation manuals)
- Non-cascaded test evidence (test results must be verified by a certification body to prevent passing on incorrect/incomplete data)
- Declaration of Performance (compliance officers must issue a DoP listing the characteristics and tests covered by BS EN 13241 and BS EN 16034 in one document)
Products cannot legally be advertised or sold as fire resistant or smoke resistant if they do not meet or exceed the minimum standards, and the product information must be accurate to the test results.
What are the regulations for testing fire shutters?
The Grenfell inquiry led to legislation improving the testing and installation of fire-rated products, including fire shutters and steel fire doors. These products now have to be tested or re-tested to the new stricter standards and CE marked as described above. Products that have only been tested to the previous certifications are no longer legal. Relevant British Standards for fire shutters include:
- BS EN 16034
- BS EN 1634-1: 2014
- BS EN 1634-3: 2004
- BS EN 13241-1
- BS EN 1363-1: 2012
- BS EN 1363-2: 1999
- BS EN 15269-10:2011
- BS 476-22: 1987
- BS 476-31-1
These regulations lay out the necessary testing standards to determine the fire integrity of a fire-rated product. Before they can be advertised and sold, fire-rated shutters must go through mechanical cycle tests, furnace tests, and more to measure their functionality and effectiveness.
Their integrity performance is rated in minutes, which needs to meet the minimum stated by the relevant regulations. This can be evidenced by a test report, an assessment by a dedicated fire testing lab, or certification by a third party based on sampling and auditing during manufacturing.
The first stage in fire testing is to design, manufacture, and install the shutter in an example of its intended setting. It will run through a full cycle and be tested on its ability to release and self-close.
After this, sensors will be installed to help measure the shutter’s performance once the furnace is ignited and the timer is started. If any mechanical or design failures occur, the shutter will fail the test and the design must be adjusted and retested. If the fire shutter passes the integrity tests, the data can be gathered into a report, so the manufacturer can use this information in their manuals.
What are the regulations for maintaining fire shutters?
Of course, it’s not enough for a fire shutter to pass the initial manufacturing tests and then be installed and left to it. Fire shutter regulations also require regular testing of the product in its installed setting, making sure that it still works as it should and won’t suddenly fail in an emergency.
As part of the government’s Fire Safety Risk Assessment requirements, every business owner or building owner should be regularly evaluating fire hazards and reviewing their fire prevention and fire safety measures. This should include fire shutter inspections to check whether the equipment still complies with national standards and local building regulations, or if the system needs repairs.
Maintenance and safety checks for roller shutters and fire shutters fall under the following laws:
- The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 (Regulation 5)
- The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005
A qualified inspector should be hired to service fire shutters at least once every 6 months to comply with the law. They can then produce a Declaration of Performance documenting the tests taken and the shutter’s results. Not only can non-compliance result in paying thousands of pounds in fines, but it can also lead to injuries or even deaths in the event of a fire, as well as extensive property damage.
The easiest way to avoid fire shutter failure and the potentially severe consequences is to set up a rolling contract for six-monthly fire shutter servicing. You might be able to do this with the supplier who originally provided and installed your fire shutters, or you might want to look around for a local company offering roller shutter maintenance in your area (such as roller shutter repairs in Bolton).