Blog Article

Firestopping and Competency – What is the issue?

Published: 10th January 2024

Firestopping is one of those building elements that is, more often than not, disregarded and not taken seriously. There are many reasons for this. It could be that the stakeholders involved are just not sure what is required and how it needs to be done. Some people might see firestopping as an inconvenience and just a“box to tick”so will find the cheapest and easiest solution to get their project done. And there are others who think that, since firestopping is hidden away above ceilings and behind finishes that it is not something to worry about.

And yes, these are all excuses that I have heard multiple times over the years.

Unfortunately firestopping is incredibly vital, but it is also incredibly misunderstood, and this then leads to frustrations, omissions, defects and the list goes on.

What is Firestopping?

Firestopping is exactly what it says on the tin–it’s a system that stops fire. To be clear, it doesn’t put out a fire when there is one (that’s an active fire protection system). Firestopping is a ‘passive’ system, which means that it doesn’t “activate” or spring into action when a fire occurs. It’s a system that is built into the fabric of the building and once it’s in there, it stays there until that one day when you need it. The majority of firestopping systems are constructed in a way that they will drastically slow the hot, destructive nature of fire and contain it within the room of origin for a determined period of time.

The most common type of firestopping is penetration sealing. When you have mechanical or electrical services in a room, the wiring or pipes will need to leave the room and travel through the building. When they pass through a fire compartment wall they leave a“void”which provides opportunity for fire and smoke to spread through which could cause further damage, hinder escaping occupants, or worse. Penetration sealing will use tested systems like sealants and coated ‘batts’ which are installed around the service to close off any void or gaps. By doing this, the compartment wall is reinstated and fire cannot spread from that room to anywhere else. A simple solution which is so often forgotten about.

Do I need Firestopping?

Most of the time, the answer to this question is ‘yes’.

Unless you have a very small building with multiple escape routes which has been risk assessed to not requiring fire compartments (these are rare in this day and age), there is a likelihood that you will have fire compartments in your building. This might just be your escape staircase in your small office–escape routes are usually fire protected spaces–and even though it might just be a staircase it is likely you will have service penetrations through the walls; lights, heating, alarm cables, just to name a few. And where they pass through the walls, they need to be sealed to maintain the escape route and protect it from fire and smoke.

For larger buildings, such as high rise offices or residential buildings, the potential compartmentation you may have could be extensive. It could include staircases, floors, apartment walls, communal corridors, service risers, store rooms, bin stores, car parks, plant rooms and I could go on and on. Now imagine all of the potential mechanical and electrical services you may have, which are spread throughout the building; lighting, alarms, heating, air conditioning, data, drainage, rainwater. This means a lot of service penetrations, which means a lot of firestopping.

Who can carry out Firestopping?

The main thing to remember with firestopping is competency. You need to make sure what is being installed into your building is being done so correctly which means that the person doing it needs to be competent and know what they are doing. If you employ a contractor or person to carry out firestopping works and they fail to do it correctly, and you (as the employer) could not prove they were competent, you (the employer) are equally as responsible for the failure of the installed system as the contractor who installed it and will face any potential consequences. Playing ignorant and saying“you didn’t know they weren’t competent”is not an excuse.

Employing a third-party accredited contractor is one of the best ways to establish competency.These contractors have been audited and certified by an independent third-party organisation who have determined that they are competent to complete fire protection works. They undergo frequent assessments and reviews to continually prove they are keeping up with the high standards expected of them.

However, nobody is perfect and there are a wide range of things that could go wrong on a project with regards to firestopping. Even third-party accredited contractors make mistake. Most of the time this is purely accidental, but it can happen. With the wide range of potential services that could be passing through walls and floors, plus the wide range of available details and systems which could solve them problem (all of which vary from manufacturer to manufacturer), can sometimes lead to an incorrect installation, or a particular step being missed.

This is where Trident Fire Compliance come in to help ensure your project is being completed correctly with no failures or defects. Acting as your independent eyes and ears on the ground,Trident are able to carry out compliance inspections of completed firestopping works and identify where issues or defects may have occurred. This could be as simple as a missed opening or service which hasn’t been firestopped, or it could be that a detail has not been fully installed correctly and needs finishing. Our surveyors are trained to the highest standard and have in depth knowledge of all the firestopping systems on the market which allows them to identify problems and offer practical solutions.

Find out how Trident Fire Compliance can help you on your project today.

About the author

Ben Duggan

Managing Director Ben is passionate about helping clients achieve the highest standards possible with fire protection and ensuring they deliver safe and compliant projects every time.

Other Articles

Contact Us

Talk to us about your next project

Trident Fire Compliance strive to be the first port of call with regards to passive fire protection and fire safety. We want you to get it right first time.

Our expert consultants can work with you through design, construction and end-use of a building to ensure it is compliant to the regulations and guidelines.

Get in touch to see how we can help you. Let’s work together to achieve compliance.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply. By submitting this form you agree to our privacy policy.