It is dangerous to wedge or prop open a fire door as the safety of occupants cannot be guaranteed if there is a fire. Fire doors need to be closed to prevent the spread of fire and smoke.
Legally, if a building’s responsible person is judged to be putting someone’s life at risk by wedging open fire doors, they could suffer penalties, including some hefty fines.
Why are fire doors necessary?
Fire doors prevent the spread of fire and smoke through a building. They are specially designed to withstand fire for a certain amount of time. This will protect the safety of building occupants and provide a safe route to get out of the building.
A closed fire door is usually achieved with a self-closing device or free-swing device. Fire doors are a vital part of a building’s fire strategy, and can only do their job if they are closed. A door wedge prevents a fire door from closing, causing fire to spread faster, putting all occupants in danger.
In the event of a fire, it is quite possible that an insurer would be unwilling to pay for damages when a door has been held open by a wedge, or propped open. The majority of fire doors will hold a fire in a room for 30 minutes by which time the Fire & Rescue service will be on site. Wedging open doors can, and has, caused a chimney effect, which causes fire to spread rapidly, destroying entire buildings.
£250,000 fine for Co-op
In 2007, the Co-operative Group was fined £250,000 for fire safety offences at its Sussex stores. An environmental health officer had found various breaches in one of the group’s stores, including an inactive alarm, fire doors wedged open and escape routes used to store combustible stock. After inspecting other branches, and finding further failings, the fine was issued.
Fire safety starts with a thorough risk assessment to assess the individual needs of a building.The Fire Safety Advice Centre has a good guide to risk assessments here.
When fire doors are propped open, businesses are at risk of fines, but more seriously, it it puts people’s lives in danger. Don’t pay the price of the door wedge.