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Reducing Spread of Fire and Smoke

Reducing the spread of fire, heat and smoke

You should ensure that any holes in fire-resisting floors or walls, e.g. pipe work openings, are filled in with fire-resisting materials in order to prevent the spread of fire, heat and smoke. You should make sure that any large area of combustible wall or ceiling linings is either removed, treated or suitably covered to reduce the possibility of the linings contributing to the rapid spread of fire. Such linings must not be used in escape routes. (Information on the suitability of wall and ceiling linings can be found in the Home Office publication Guide to the fire precautions in existing places of work that require a fire certificate. Factories, offices, shops and railway premises .

Exhibitions and displays

Any exhibition or display with large amounts of flammable materials, such as paper, textiles and cotton wool, can allow fire to spread rapidly. You should therefore avoid using such materials wherever possible. Any permanent or semi-permanent displays, including wall displays, should ideally be placed behind glass. Notice boards should be kept as small as possible and should be fixed securely in position. They should not be continuous along the length of a wall, sited above heaters etc or contain an excessive amount of paper (e.g. overlapping or multi-sheet notices).

Defining the escape route

The contents of any room in which people are working or any open floor area to which the public are admitted should be arranged to ensure that there is a clear passageway to all escape routes. This may mean that you will need to clearly define the routes, for example by marking the floor or by providing a contrasting floor covering.

Items prohibited on an escape route

You should make sure that items which pose a potential fire hazard or those which could cause an obstruction are not located in corridors or stairways intended for use as a means of escape. In particular, the following items should not be located in protected routes, or in a corridor and stairwell which serves as the sole means of escape from the workplace, or part of it:

•portable heaters of any type;
•heaters which have unprotected naked flames or radiant bars;
•fixed heaters using a gas supply cylinder, where the cylinder is within the escape route;
•oil-fuelled heaters or boilers;
•cooking appliances;
•upholstered furniture;
•coat racks;
•temporarily stored items including items in transit, e.g. furniture, beds, laundry, waste bins etc;
•lighting using naked flames;
•gas boilers, pipes, meters or other fittings (except those permitted in the standards supporting the building regulations and installed in accordance with the 'Gas Safety Regulations');
•gaming and/or vending machines; and
•electrical equipment (other than normal lighting, emergency escape lighting, fire alarm systems, or equipment associated with a security system), e.g. photocopiers.

Escape doors

Doors people have to pass through in order to escape from the workplace should open in the direction of travel where:

•more than 50 people may have to use the door;
•the door is at or near the foot of a stairway;
•the door serves a high-fire-risk area (see 'Fire risk categories for assessing the means of escape' earlier in this section); or
•the door is on an exit route from a building used for public assembly, such as a place of public entertainment, a conference centre or exhibition hall.

You should make sure that people escaping can open any door on an escape route easily and immediately, without the use of a key. All outward opening doors used for means of escape, which have to be kept fastened while people are in the building, should be fitted with a single form of release device such as a panic latch, a panic bolt, or a push pad. Where a door needs to be fastened by a security device, it should be the only fastening on the door and you will have to make sure that all your staff know how it works. Such devices are not normally suitable for use by members of the public. You should display a notice explaining the method of operation and, if necessary, provide a suitable tool so that the device can be operated safely.

Fire doors

Where fire doors are provided they should be fitted with effective self-closing devices and labelled 'Fire Door - Keep Shut'. Fire doors to cupboards and service ducts need not be self-closing, provided they are kept locked and labelled 'Fire Door - Keep Locked Shut'. (Signs should meet the requirements of British Standard 5499.

Self-closing fire doors may be held open by automatic door release mechanisms which are either:

•connected into a manually operated electrical fire alarm system incorporating automatic smoke detectors in the vicinity of the door; or
•actuated by independent smoke detectors (not domestic smoke alarms) on each side of the door.
•Where such mechanisms are provided, it should be possible to release them manually. The doors should be automatically closed by:
•the actuation of a smoke-sensitive device on either side of the door;
•a power failure to the door release mechanism or smoke-sensitive devices; or
•the actuation of a fire warning system linked to the door release mechanisms or a fault in that system.

Such fire doors should be labelled with the words 'Automatic Fire Door - Keep Clear'. Where possible, automatic fire doors should be closed at night and have an additional sign to this effect. (Automatic release mechanisms should comply with British Standard 5839: Part 3.) Other automatic devices are available which operate on different principles - you should consult your local fire authority before installing them.