Title image for article taking care of fire doors

Taking care of fire doors

Fire doors are a vital bit of safety kit in our buildings, but many of us don’t pay them much attention. They are just there, get walked through every day, get bashed about a bit, propped open when they shouldn’t be and generally get neglected. Fire doors should be looked after – they may be our last line of defence against smoke, heat and fire in a burning building. We need to show them a bit of love, so what do you need to know when taking care of fire doors?

What do fire doors do?

It is a legal requirement for all non-domestic properties (eg businesses, commercial premises and public buildings) to have fire doors, but do you know why?

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 places a duty on those responsible for premises to manage fire safety precautions. The responsible person will need to make sure that a fire risk assessment is in place and suitable controls measures put in place. Fire doors form part of that overall protection.

Fire doors are a passive safety measure, they protect you just by being there! But to get the level of protection intended we need to make sure they are used properly, and that we take care of them.

They key function of a fire door is to:

  • slow down the spread of fire within a building
  • slow down the spread of smoke, heat and fire onto escape routes
  • protect particularly vulnerable areas of the building, eg server rooms or storage rooms containing combustible materials
  • create compartments within the building, and provide a minimum of 30 minutes resistance to fire in a compartmentalised area

What are common faults with fire doors?

Fire doors need to form a barrier between different areas of a building. To do that, they need to be of sound construction, form a good seal in the frame and be used in an appropriate manner – ie not propped open (often with a fire extinguisher!).

Common faults to look out for on fire doors are:

  1. If seals are fitted (often not found on older fire doors) they can be damaged, installed incorrectly or not filling the gaps.
  2. no mandatory signage identifying the fire door
  3. excessive gaps between the door and the frame
  4. unsuitable or damaged hinges
  5. damage to the door itself

What do I need to do to take care of fire doors?

Your fire risk assessment will determine what controls you need to put in place to manage fire protection in your premises. One of those controls should be to regularly inspect your fire doors. This will allow you to spot any defects quickly and get them rectified so that you can rely on the protection in the event of a fire.

When deciding how often to check the fire doors, you need to pay particular attention to those doors on high traffic routes and those most likely to suffer damage. You can carry out regular checks yourself (on a weekly or monthly basis, for example) but you must periodically have the fire doors inspection by a trained and competent person. Again, your fire risk assessment will guide you on the frequency of a fire door inspection, but I suggest it is done at least annually, or more frequently if needed.

What do I need to look at when checking fire doors?

  1. Check the gaps around the top and sides of the door are less than 4mm when closed.

2. Check the door has a working door closure system, and closes correctly

3. Check that intumescent seals (if fitted) are intact with no sign of damage

4. Check the door has 3 hinges, and they are in a good state of repair.

5. Check any vision panels are free from damage.

6. Check the door furniture allows the door to close firmly into the frame.

7. Check the door has correctly fitted mandatory signage.

Remember – your fire doors will only protect you if you show them a little love!!

If you need any further help in taking care of your fire doors or managing fire safety in your premises, then please get in touch.

This article was published as part of Fire Door Safety Week 2021

Related articles:

  1. Burning facts about fire risk assessments
  2. Managing health and safety for small business.

Burning facts about Fire Risk Assessment

Fires have a devastating effect on businesses, with even small fires leading to huge consequences. As well as the immediate effects of fire (injury or fatality, damage to premises and work equipment), the recovery from fire can be extremely challenging. Even with insurance in place, some businesses will never recover from the loss of production, potential loss of documentation and client data and damage to their reputation.

Making sure your business is protected from fire is not only a legal requirement, but a fundamental of health and safety management. Nobody wants to see everything they have worked for go up in smoke!

When do I need a Fire Risk Assessment?

If you have any non-domestic premises, then you are required by law to carry out a fire risk assessment. Non-domestic premises include all workplaces and commercial premises, all premises the public have access to and common areas of multi-occupied residential buildings.

In England and Wales the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (RRFSO) requires that every business undertakes a fire risk assessment, and that if there are 5 or more employees a record of the risk assessment must be made.

The RRFSO does not set out how often you need to carry out a fire risk assessment, but it does say you need to review it periodically. It is usual to review your fire risk assessment annually, or sooner if any of the following circumstances apply:

  • Changes to the structure of the building or premises
  • Major changes to the function or purpose of any part of your premises
  • Any new hazardous substances are introduced to your premises
  • Following any fire related accident or incident
  • If you see any damage or faults with fire safety equipment
  • Changes to the number of people on the premises (increase or decrease)
  • If you take on new employees with any disabilities that may have an impact on their ability to evacuate independently in the event of a fire

Who is responsible for carrying out a Fire Risk Assessment?

There are two distinct duties here:

  1. Responsible person – the person defined in legislation as being responsible for ensuring a fire risk assessment is carried out and that fire precautions are adequate

2. Fire risk assessor – person who has the competence to carry out a suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment.

The responsible person can also be the fire risk assessor, providing they are competent to carry out the assessment, but it is more usual for the responsible person to appoint an assessor either from within their own organisation or an external consultant.

What does a Fire Risk Assessment cover?

 Fire Hazard – a source, situation or act that has potential to result in a fire

Fire Risk – the combination of the likelihood of a fire and the consequences (fatalities, injuries or damage) likely to be caused by the fire.

There are 9 steps to Fire Risk Assessment – it sounds a lot, but it is relatively straightforward. These steps are:

Information about the premises, occupants, and the processes – details of the physical structure and layout of the premises, occupancy levels, details of any occupants with any disabilities that may make them more vulnerable in an evacuation, details of what works and processes are carried out on the premises and details of any previous fires on those premises or others of similar nature.

Identification of fire hazards and means for their elimination or control – identify sources of ignition (such as electrical faults, cooking, hot work, malicious ignition), unsafe conditions (such as poor housekeeping leading to increased fire loading) and unsafe acts that could lead to the development of a fire.

Assessment of the likelihood of fire – a determination of the overall likelihood of fire in the current circumstances, usually given as high, medium, or low.

Assessment of fire protection measures – look at the physical measures in place to mitigate the consequences of fire such as fire detection and warnings, means of escape, signs, emergency lighting, firefighting equipment, structural design to limit the spread of fire and any other appropriate measures.

Assessment of fire safety management – the policies and procedures in place to prevent the occurrence of fire and identify special responsibilities in the event of a fire. This includes arrangements for training and fire drills, use of firefighting equipment, liaison with fire and rescue services, routine inspections of the premises and fire precautions, testing and maintenance of fire protection systems, and sharing information with other stakeholders (e.g. in the case of shared premises).

Assessment of consequences of fire – consider the number of people that can be injured, and the likely extent of their injuries, usually given as slight harm, moderate harm or extreme harm.

Assessment of consequences of fire – consider the number of people that can be injured, and the likely extent of their injuries, usually given as slight harm, moderate harm or extreme harm.

Assessment of fire risk – a combination of the likelihood of fire and its potential consequences from earlier steps. An example of a risk matrix is given in the table below.


Consequences of Fire

Likelihood of Fire

Slight Harm

Moderate Harm

Extreme Harm


Trivial Risk

Tolerable Risk

Moderate Risk


Tolerable Risk

Moderate Risk

Substantial Risk


Moderate Risk

Substantial Risk

Intolerable Risk

Action plan – detail all actions needed to reduce and / or maintain the risk at a tolerable or trivial level. It should address physical measures and managerial issues that need to be addressed, and the urgency with which each action should be carried out.

Periodic review of fire risk assessment – set a date by which the next periodic review should be carried out, if not reviewed before because of a change in circumstances in which the original FRA was based. Any actions plans from previous FRA’s need to be reviewed at the same time.

Fire safety management

Your fire risk assessment is a living document, having it nicely written up and tucked away in a filing cabinet does not protect your people and your premises. You need to make sure the precautions, arrangements and actions detailed in the FRA are in place and remain effective. Your insurers and local Fire and Rescue Service may want to see evidence of your risk assessment and its implementation to make sure you are doing all you can to keep your people safe.

So, what’s the key message to take away?

Every business that has premises needs a fire risk assessment, and if that business employs five or more people then the risk assessment must be documented. You need to make sure the measures and controls identified to minimise the risk and consequences of fire are in place, and that defined responsibilities in the event of fire are assigned and understood. If you have any significant changes to your building, your people or what you do there, then you will need to review your fire risk assessment to assess the impact of the changes and take actions if needed.

Got any questions about Fire Risk Assessments?