Building Compliance Legislation and Maintenance of Fire Dampers
18th May 2021
Fire and smoke dampers are protective devices used in Heating, Ventilation & Air Conditioning (HVAC) ducts. They are a safety device that remains open during regular operation and close in the event of a fire to prevent the propagation of smoke and fire through buildings.
Despite the horrific events of Grenfell and legal obligations for building owners to check fire dampers at least once a year, The Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) believes that less than one per cent of buildings are tested in line with legislation.
As a building owner, it is essential to understand the legal requirements for all building systems and make sure they are safe and adequately maintained as part of a fire risk assessment. It can be challenging to pinpoint the existence and location of fire and smoke dampers due to their installation nature. They should be identified on any “as-built” drawings or O&M manuals provided by mechanical and electrical contractors. Am experienced HVAC specialist may also be able to trace their location should other documents not be available.
Like any mechanical device, over time, fire dampers will degrade. However, a structured, planned preventative maintenance program will ensure fire and smoke dampers are identified and checked regularly. Any remedial works are addressed quickly, in line with BSI Standards standards.
As part of a planned maintenance program, the ductwork should also be cleaned. The build-up of dust and grease within ducting can be a significant fire hazard, especially within commercial catering installations.
BESA has updated their technical guidance for damper maintenance (VH001), which can be accessed from the links below.
The British Standards Institution (BSI) document, BS 9999: Code of Practice for Fire Safety in the Design, Management & Use of Buildings, is another helpful document that covers a range of fire safety best practices aimed at architects, surveyors, facilities management professionals, fire safety engineers and consultants as a benchmark for the development of safe buildings.