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Substandard work by contractors and the need for properly installed passive protection in hospitals

Over the years, British Fire Consortium member Envirograf, specialists in passive fire protection products, has experienced a number of hospitals with serious shortcomings in their fire safety provisions. Two recent examples, listed below, show how a fire could have easily and quickly spread to other sections of these hospitals.

Safety failures

In the first case, a hospital in Manchester had an inspection by the fire and rescue service. Its report highlighted that the laundry rooms were a key area of concern. The rooms are situated one above the other and have both large and small plastic pipes interconnected to each other. In the event of a fire in one of the rooms, the pipes would be a fast-track route for the fire and smoke to travel. In addition, the laundry is passed by motorised hangers to access chutes from upper floors, and these are left completely open at all times witout an integral fire barrier.

The second case involved a hospital in Kent that failed an inspection by the fire service. The brigade recommended that the hospital make a significant number of improvements or face potential prosecution. Its main cause for concern was that a number of contractors over the years had fitted and replaced services and had left large holes and gaps around the srvices in which a fire could travel. Examples included cables and cable trays passing through fire rated walls with no fire-stopping products being used, and pipes and services in open risers without protection.

The room next to the operating rooms had no fire break walls above the suspended ceilings, while in other rooms the fire barriers that had been fitted had either been damaged by unskilled contractors or completely removed. Holes in previous fire barriers were large enough for a person to crawl through. Temporary partitions that had been in place for many years needed upgrading. The services through the partitions need to be fire-proofed. Electrical trunking passing through escape corridors had no fire breaks.

Many hospitals face similar problems because many of the contractors doing the installation work are not aware or have not been trained in the need for passive fire prevention products.

Installation rigour

The Passive Fire Training Centre in Dover, Kent is a unique facility that highlights the urgent need for life-saving products such as Envirograf products to be used on all new-build and refurbishment properties. The centre also informs tradesmen about the dangers of ignoring this protection and, through the services of the Nationwide Association of Passive Fire Installers and Specifiers (NAPFIS) installers can then become accountable for their work, helping to avoid sloppy workmanship which could later prove to be fatal.

Many building control departments now require properly trained installers to carry out fire-stopping work and as NAPFIS members, these installers can show that they have the knowledge and have been independently assessed.

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