Trade body urges immediate action to address fire risk

Building clients have been urged to carry out checks and repairs “without delay” on ventilation systems, after life-threatening defects were found in a large number of buildings.

According to the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA), annual inspections by maintenance contractors revealed that “a huge number” of fire and smoke dampers had been incorrectly installed, posing a serious fire safety risk.


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A large number of dampers have been installed in a way that compromises their effectiveness

The urgency of the problem has led BESA to issue an interim technical bulletin (VH001) ahead of a full update of its industry guidance for fire and smoke damper installation (DW145) which will be delivered at its conference in October.

Graeme Fox, BESA’s head of technical, explained that the association had been alerted to “the very dangerous practice” of using self-drilling ‘tek’ screws which do not melt when temperatures rise during a building fire – thus preventing the spring-loaded dampers from being released to contain the spread of the fire.

“Dampers must be secured by fusible fixings that allow the duct to break away otherwise the collapsing duct could pull the damper out of place and break the seal between the fire zones,” Fox added.

He said remedial action should be taken “without delay” to ensure compliance with manufacturer instructions.

“While this is clearly a very worrying situation, we can take some reassurance from the fact that this problem is being brought to our attention by the increasing frequency of fire damper inspections and tests as awareness grows of this extremely important issue,” he said.