Why Passive Fire Protection Has Never Been More Important in the Healthcare Sector
The core purpose of passive fire protection is to protect lives, so there’s already a logical link between this service and the healthcare sector. As the home of literal life-saving procedures, hospitals have a heightened need for exceptional fire safety measures.
Hospitals and healthcare buildings pose unique challenges when it comes to fire safety, both in terms of the complexity of the building structure and also the needs of users. While this in itself exemplifies the critical nature of fire management in hospitals to safeguard patients, staff and visitors, recent changes to laws and regulations mean it’s never been more important.
If you own or manage a hospital or healthcare building, there are things you need to be doing now. As experts in all elements of healthcare fire protection, we’ve compiled this article to help you understand your responsibilities.
How Legislation Changes Affect the Healthcare Sector
Following the tragedy at Grenfell Tower in 2017, an extensive investigation was conducted by Dame Judith Hackitt into building regulations and fire safety measures. The review found “the current system of building regulations and fire safety is not fit for purpose”. More than 50 recommendations for improvement were published following the investigation.
Two of the most notable recommendations, which have since been actioned, are The Building Safety Act 2022 and the Fire Safety Regulations 2022. The Building Safety Act focuses on the construction phase, while the Fire Safety Regulations focus on the ongoing management of occupied structures.
These legislations add extra duties for the fire safety management of high-rise residential premises and “higher risk” non-residential buildings. Certain hospitals and healthcare buildings fall within the remit of these new regulations. To meet the threshold, your building must have at least 7 storeys or be 18 metres high.
If this is the case, there are now extra fire safety measures and responsibilities in place for the owner/manager of such buildings, or their dedicated “responsible person”.
Our recent article Fire Safety Regulations 2022: What They Mean for You covers the topic in more detail. Our consultants are well-versed in the intricacies of what these changes mean for those needing bespoke advice.
Fire Safety at the Hospital Construction Stage
Before hospitals can even receive approval to be built, fire consultants are required to oversee the designs. Any proposed healthcare building must obtain approval from the Primary Care Trust, which includes adhering to strict Health Technical Memoranda (HTM) standards. These surpass the regular levels of fire safety legislation.
Once constructed, all healthcare buildings must implement a strict fire management and maintenance system. Likewise, all existing hospitals have a responsibility to keep their patients and staff safe, so they must also pay particular attention to their passive fire protection systems. This can mean improving systems retrospectively or ensuring existing processes remain compliant.
These include all fire compartments and fire doors, which play an exceptional role in hospitals. For most buildings, they stave off fire, smoke and toxic gases to allow for evacuation, but the evacuation process is more complex in hospitals, as we’ll look at now.
Evacuation and Fire Prevention in Hospitals
Unlike other buildings, total or immediate evacuation isn’t always suitable or possible in hospitals. With complex patient needs, evacuation is sometimes a last resort. The need to safely keep people inside the buildings means fire compartmentation is more important than ever in the healthcare sector.
With extensive experience in hospitals and the healthcare sector as a whole, Adaston has a deep understanding of the complexities involved. Our bespoke plans involve strategically implementing fire walls and fire doors to safeguard all occupants in the event of a fire.
Hospitals tend to adopt a “horizontal evacuation strategy” rather than immediate removal from the building. In short, this is where people move out of the affected compartment into a “safe zone” and wait until it’s safe either to return or move to the next compartment or evacuation point.
When it comes to fire safety in hospitals, the whole system is only as strong as the weakest link. If you fail to properly maintain your passive fire protection and compartments, this evacuation strategy places people at risk in the event of a fire.
Fire Management in Hospital and Healthcare Settings
Fire doors, which form a fundamental part of the above strategy in hospitals, are typically used a lot more than those in, say, office blocks. With people passing through regularly, frequent opening/closing and hospital beds knocking into them, they take a lot of wear and tear. Fire doors have their own in-depth regulations and requirements, which we cover in our article, Fire Door Regulations: The Conclusive Handbook.
Maintaining doors and their frames is essential to keep them fully functioning. In fact, regular maintenance is proven to lower the overall costs of fire safety management in hospitals, as it generally allows for remediation rather than replacement.
Poor maintenance can lead to doors that are beyond saving and, instead, require full replacement in order for your healthcare building to remain safe and compliant. Acting now to ensure the quality of your passive fire protection could save time and money further down the line.
Healthcare Fire Protection With Adaston
At Adaston, we understand the challenges of working in occupied hospitals. With busy, open spaces, sensitive wards and the need to put patients’ safety first, our bespoke plans are designed to work around the unique needs of the healthcare sector.
We’ve had the privilege of working in private and NHS healthcare settings, both at the consultant and hands-on installation and maintenance stages. Our third party accreditation ensures we always go above and beyond the bare necessities to provide industry-leading fire management in hospital settings.
Passive fire protection has never been more in the spotlight, particularly in healthcare. With the ongoing legislation changes rolling out, knowing your responsibilities isn’t easy. We’re here to guide you through the changes, ensuring your people are kept safe and your building remains compliant.
Contact Adaston, the passive fire protection experts, to find out more about our services.
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