As we prepare to return to our workplaces and our universities, schools, hospitals and hotels start to move closer to their designed capacities, there is much talk of confidence, particularly surrounding whether these spaces are safe places to be.
The main focus may, understandably, be on COVID security but, whilst this takes centre stage, it is important that other critical safety measures are not overlooked.
That is why the publishing of the new BESA VH001 Technical Bulletin: Fire and Smoke Damper Maintenance is so timely. Fire safety may not have been front of mind for those building owners and managers who have had so many other things to think about but testing and maintenance of fire prevention systems is, arguably, more important than ever as long-dormant offices and public spaces are brought back into use.
The main objective of VH001 is to inform responsible persons of the specific considerations they must make when testing and maintaining fire and smoke dampers. As one of the most important lines of defence in fire prevention, these systems should already be regularly tested ; after all, there are a number of best practice documents and guidelines which are in place, including BS9999 and the Dept. of Health Technical Memorandum HTM 03-01. Despite this, it is believed that, currently, only approximately 50% of dampers in the UK are currently tested.
Mark Poultney, Managing Director of System Hygienics, was present on the working party who passed the new VH001 regulation. He is only too aware of the number of premises containing old and potentially hazardous damper systems which are not regularly inspected or tested to ensure that they are fit for purpose. His main hope, and the hope of the other professionals involved in the document’s publication, is that the requirements for testing, the frequency of inspection and the competencies associated with fire and smoke damper maintenance can now be better understood, and therefore, also more widely complied with.
VH001 is clearly and concisely formatted to remove any ambiguity surrounding all aspects of fire damper operation. There are sections on Standards, Installation, Testing, Reports, Maintenance and Competency and even a summary of all of the relevant Legislation which can be read in conjunction with the Technical Bulletin and where to find further guidance.
At System Hygienics we, of course, welcome this new document (indeed we played a part in its production) and we hope that it will lead to a much higher level of compliance across all types of facilities.
We are always on hand to provide advice and guidance to employers, public organisations and local authorities regarding their specific duty of care, be that in relation to fire damper testing or ductwork and ventilation cleaning. Get in contact with a member of our team to discuss how everyone can return to work safely.