My introduction to the passive fire industry a bit over 5 years ago was a shock to say the least.

Having come from a compliance background I was astounded to see not only the lack of evidence being kept for decisions around certification but also that the information to ensure certification was not always freely available. That is, the key to the knowledge ‘IP’ around product compliance was held closely by suppliers.

Seeing many contractors at the end of the line and having to fix defects – not their own, but at the end of a poor decision chain of design from the start – they had to ‘find’ a solution, and in the changing time of accountability, no passive fire certifier was going to sign off on the compliance.

The escalating insurance for building certifiers started to heighten the problem even further, and the days of holding close your ‘IP’ was beginning to fall away.

The industry was and still is fairly reliant on the manufacturers as their consultant expert, those with no licence to advise and no accountability for the compliant installation in any situation whatsoever.

The firestopping level of compliance – or at least the robust documentation evidence – has improved significantly, in Queensland at least, and the level of knowledge and advice has also improved significantly.

Fire rated wall advice is way behind, and those in design and those constructing, need to be very aware of the potential use and the buildability of the systems they are choosing, and also not reliant on those with no accountability. Sales reps are not trained in the compliance, nor licensed to advise, but can still put up a good argument for ‘it should work’ – and in many instances make our job as an adviser even more difficult by arguing the point with an incorrect answer and changing their advice when they know we’re involved! Some of the Grenfell inquest stories come to mind here…..

But it’s the fire doorset industry that is the biggest laggard and in a bigger way! I’m sure every designer or certifier has experienced how difficult it is to tick the compliance box on a doorset…the door…..the hardware……the seals….the amount of tests needed just makes it too hard.

Not even the regulators know what they’re looking for, and it seems most in the industry are relying on lists provided by none other than the manufacturers. Lists to confirm what hardware and what seals are compliant on what doors, lists that even Google has a more up to date version of, lists that list many products and many report numbers.

AS 1905.1 also requires all hardware to be marked with the model details etc, but this is a common failure adding to the difficulty for those who are accountable at the end of the day.

So who has been checking this data? In one simple query of 3 types of standard commonly used hardware and 2 seal types, we turned up an out of date test, still waiting on confirmation for one certificate for over 2 weeks, a product with no test, and 1 assessment that had been out of date for 7 years…so who hasn’t checked this one in the last 7 years?!

With the new D & BP Act – at the end of the build – who is going to pay for this one? Sure there are ways around it, some fire engineering to justify, or evidence of suitability for the building certifier – but costly? Time consuming? Isn’t it better to check early in the design?

Please check your documents. Don’t rely on the local hardware store to tell you it’s tested for 4 hours. Be diligent. Don’t be caught out at the end and with a costly variation to chase or worse still pay for.

We’ve come a long way, and it feels good that we’ve been a party to the change, but there’s still a way to go. What will another year bring in the passive fire industry?

This is life safety, and near enough won’t cut it if you’re in a coroner’s court.

Written By Gina Patrick, Managing Director of Plus Systems