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8 - 10 APRIL 2025

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15 Apr 2024

Ensuring fire safety in commercial and industrial buildings: The role of access panels

Profab Access Stand: 4/H55

In the dynamic environment of commercial and industrial buildings, facilities managers are tasked with the responsibility of maintaining a safe environment for building occupants and crucial to that is minimising fire risks.

 

Phil Hewitt, Engineering Manager at Profab Access, a leading manufacturer of Certifire-accredited access panels, highlights the vital role which extensively fire tested access panels can play in fire safety, and how the accurate documentation of such testing for facilities managers can ensure the integrity of their building.

 

Following the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017, The Golden Thread concept was introduced as part of the Building Safety Act, which highlights the need for better documentation, transparency and accountability in the context of building safety and management.

 

Naturally, facilities management professionals are some of those with the greatest responsibility for ensuring that the Golden Thread of building safety information is maintained, accessible and up-to-date.

 

This requires the accurate documentation of any changes, upgrades or maintenance work carried out, which contributes to recording the overall building safety and regulatory compliance.

 

Commercial and industrial buildings will house numerous complex systems, including fire suppression systems, electrical installations and HVAC infrastructure; all of which require routine inspections and maintenance to ensure their efficiency and compliance with safety regulations.

 

One critical component that facilitates this maintenance is access panels. Beyond their functional purpose of providing access for maintenance personnel to inspect, service and repair systems, access panels play a significant yet often overlooked role when it comes to fire safety.

 

During the building’s initial construction, major contractors should seek to install fire rated access panels where third-party certification can be supplied.

 

An example of this third-party certification is the Certifire scheme, which ensures the quality and reliability of fire protection products, thus guaranteeing that these have been rigorously tested and comply with relevant safety standards within the Building Safety Act.

 

Certifire accredited access panels can ensure the highest standards of safety and protection against the spread of flames and smoke in the event of a fire through swift containment, which in turn, can minimise property damage and save lives.

 

The installation of these panels will ensure that facilities managers will always be able to provide third party certification for these products at the time of installation, which provides them peace of mind within the buildings they maintain, and ensures that adherence to the Golden Thread and legal compliance is achieved.

 

In order to achieve this, facilities managers should maintain an up-to-date record of access panel locations, which clearly specifies their purpose.

 

This information – which will be proactively shared by conscientious suppliers - helps in identifying access points which provide crucial entry to fire suppression systems, allowing easy inspection, repair and maintenance, as well as enabling emergency responders quick and efficient access during the event of a fire.

 

In addition, any modifications made to access panels, such as installations, maintenance, relocations or upgrades, should be promptly recorded. This documentation aids in tracking the history and condition of access panels, ensuring that maintenance is conducted timely and potential fire safety risks are swiftly addressed.

 

Finally, irrespective of the industry, compliance with fire safety regulations is essential.

 

Accurate documentation of access panels assists facility managers in demonstrating compliance to regulatory authorities during building inspections and audits. Outdated or inadequate documentation can lead to compliance issues, costly penalties, or in worst case scenarios, compromised fire safety.

 

Third-party Certifire tested and accredited access panels can ensure the highest standards of safety and protection against the spread of flames and smoke in the event of a fire through swift containment, which in turn, can minimise property damage and save lives.

 

Access panels stand as vital components in the broader framework of fire safety within commercial and industrial buildings, through facilitating routine inspections, efficient maintenance, and swift access during firefighting efforts in the event of an emergency.

 

The relationship between fire rated access panels and the Golden Thread highlights the necessity of meticulous record-keeping throughout the building’s lifecycle, which not only helps in maintaining regulatory compliance, but also enhances the overall fire safety management of the building.

 

As a leading supplier of Certifire-approved products, the presence of Profab Access’ access panels within a building’s structure can help facilities managers to play an essential role in fortifying the building’s fire safety resilience, create a safer environment for occupants and ensure that fire safety obligations are met. 

 

For further information on Profab Access and its range of riser doors, access panels, and steel doors, call +44(0)1827 718 222 or visit www.profabaccess.com.

 

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