In the UK, fire safety regulations and standards play a crucial role in ensuring the protection of life and property. It is essential for architects, contractors, and individuals involved in fire safety specifications to understand the key points regarding fire curtain regulations to comply with the law and mitigate liability. This article provides a summary of the important considerations related to fire curtain regulations in the UK.
Firstly, it is important to note that adhering to standards does not automatically guarantee compliance with relevant laws and regulations.1 While the British Standards Institute (BSi) provides valuable guidance, compliance with a British Standard alone cannot confer immunity from legal obligations. Therefore, it is essential to not only follow standards but also ensure compliance with applicable regulations.
Architects and companies involved in fire safety specifications often face challenges related to liability. According to a survey, 51% of architects consider liability in fire safety as one of the significant challenges, with 43% constantly worried about liability in specifying fire safety systems.2 This highlights the importance of ensuring compliance with regulations and standards to mitigate liability.
The Government’s guidance on Construction Products Regulations (CPR) outlines the requirement for construction products to have CE marking. CE marking is necessary if a product is covered by a harmonised European product standard.3 Where applicable, failure to affix the CE marking is a legal breach of the CPR, the penalty of which is imprisonment or fines.4
BS EN 16034 is the only harmonised standard that covers fire curtains. Vertical fire curtains must be CE marked to BS EN 16034, demonstrating compliance with the CPR. The legal requirement to CE mark vertical fire curtains to BS EN 16034 since 1st Nov 2019 regardless of other tests or certifications can be seen by:
- The Group of Notified Bodies for the Construction Products Regulations, Steering Group 06 (GNB-CPR-SG06), determined in November 2018 that BS EN 16034 covers fire curtains. This was after attempts by some in the UK to rebut (claim or prove as false) the application of BS EN 16034 to fire curtains.
- Earlier, in October 2016, EN 16034:2014 was recited in the Official Journal of the European Union. This meant CE marking of operable fabric curtains would be legally mandatory under the CPR from 1st November ’19 (after the 3-year coexistence period)
- The position taken by the Notified Bodies, and
- CE marking for vertical fire curtains being available to BS EN 16034 (if it didn’t cover the product it couldn’t be available from a Notified Body).
BS 8524-1 is not harmonised so cannot be CE marked to. This means it can only be used in an ancillary capacity to BS EN 16034. Being a largely duplicate product standard could be why Notified Bodies such as Warringtonfire and IFC have withdrawn support for BS 8524-1.
Considering the absence of valid third-party certification and the indefinite timeline for new certification to be established for BS 8524-1, relying on this product standard poses significant risks. The industry consensus is that valid third-party certification is a mandatory reliability measure for passive fire protection systems.
It is crucial for consumers to seek indemnity backed by an AAA-rated insurer against adverse consequences if advised to purchase non-compliant fire curtains. Additionally, Government guidance on EU Construction Products Regulation (CPR) and CE marking can provide assistance in cases where concerns arise regarding fire curtains purchased or installed after 1st November 2019.5
Lastly, it is worth noting that BS 9999:2017, which provides guidance for fire safety in the design, management and use of buildings, is outdated. ‘Dangerously outdated’ guidance was referred to as contributory by Richard Millet, KC, in the Phase 2 Module 7 closing statements of the Grenfell Inquiry. BS EN 16034 has been harmonised since the publication of BS 9999 and the GNB-CPR-SG06 determined in November 2018 that fire curtains are covered by it, making it a legal requirement to CE mark vertical fire curtains to it. This was despite an attempted rebuttal by some in the UK. The UK is still part of Europe as far as the CPR is concerned. Additionally, third-party certification for BS 8524 has been withdrawn. As such, it is essential for stakeholders to stay updated on the latest regulations and standards to ensure compliance and enhance fire safety measures.
In conclusion, understanding and complying with fire curtain regulations in the UK are vital for architects, contractors and individuals involved in fire safety specification. Following appropriate standards, such as BS EN 16034, and ensuring CE marking on all vertical fire curtains are essential steps to comply with the law and mitigate liability. Additionally, seeking third-party certification and staying informed about updated regulations are key to maintaining a high standard of fire safety within the industry.
1 BSI (n.d.). Standards and regulation. [online] www.bsigroup.com. Available at: https://www.bsigroup.com/en-GB/standards/Information-about-standards/standards-and-regulation/#:~:text=It%20certainly%20speaks%20volumes%20about [Accessed 5 Jul. 2023].
2 Mark Allen Group (2023). Fire safety liability is one of the biggest challenges for most architects, study finds. [online] Roofing Cladding & Insulation Magazine (RCI). Available at: https://rcimag.co.uk/news/fire-safety-liability-is-one-of-the-biggest-challenges-for-most-architects-study-finds [Accessed 5 Jul. 2023].
3 Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (2022). Construction Products Regulation in Great Britain. [online] GOV.UK. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/construction-products-regulation-in-great-britain#:~:text=and%20other%20stakeholders- [Accessed 5 Jul. 2023].
4 Legislation.gov.uk. (2013). The Construction Products Regulations 2013. [online] Available at: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2013/1387/regulation/4 [Accessed 5 Jul. 2023].
5 Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (2013). EU Construction Products Regulation and CE marking, including UK product contact point for construction products. [online] GOV.UK. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/eu-construction-products-regulation-and-ce-marking-including-uk-product-contact-point-for-construction-products [Accessed 5 Dec. 2019].