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Bedroom doors opening on to stairs

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Paul1979
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Bedroom doors opening on to stairs

Post by Paul1979 »

Hi All, :D please can we ask for a steer on a query raised following a FRA for a residential care home on a property we manage.

Quite a normal scenario where a big house (1900's) has been converted into a residential care premises with approximately 30 bedrooms. L1 alarm and all the usual standard features such as emergency lighting, fire extinguishers, 24/7 staffing on site, etc. No sprinklers or AOV's (natural ventilation on stairs with openable windows).

Building sub-divided into 3 compartments on each floor for Progressive Horizontal Evacuation procedures.

2 x Internal stairs (protected) and 1 x external stair due to travel distances in 1 section of the building.

The query is that whilst the central compartment has bedrooms along corridors and a lobby approach to the stairs either end of the corridor, both internal stairs have bedrooms which open directly on to the stairs - is this correct / acceptable normally?

Premises have had FRA's carried out every year since 2006 and had a fire services audit carried out in 2018 which gave no rise of suspicion of this being an issue - the audit highlighted other concerns such as training, staff numbers at night, void detection, but these are all resolved.

The 2021 FRA has however quoted building regs (not sure which ones) and said that the bedrooms must be separated from each stair on a lobby style approach.

I can see the benefits of having a lobby approach, but practically and physically, I cannot see how this can be achieved as there is no space to fit another door between the bedrooms and stairs?!

We obviously don't expect anyone to risk assess this on the basis of the limited information above, but are just after a steer on whether the FRA can retrospectively insist that the bedrooms on the stairs are lobbied or whether this is just something that doesn't fit with current building regs but we have to live with it?! .scratch
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Re: Bedroom doors opening on to stairs

Post by bernicarey »

Paul1979 wrote: Sun Jun 13, 2021 8:20 am

The query is that whilst the central compartment has bedrooms along corridors and a lobby approach to the stairs either end of the corridor, both internal stairs have bedrooms which open directly on to the stairs - is this correct / acceptable normally?

Premises have had FRA's carried out every year since 2006 and had a fire services audit carried out in 2018 which gave no rise of suspicion of this being an issue - the audit highlighted other concerns such as training, staff numbers at night, void detection, but these are all resolved.

The 2021 FRA has however quoted building regs (not sure which ones) and said that the bedrooms must be separated from each stair on a lobby style approach.

Like you say, it can't be 'assessed' on the basis of your description, but I would say the key facts are quite simple.
1- There's been FRAs since 2006 which haven't raised this matter.
2- The FRS came out and checked in 3 years ago and didn't raise the matter.
3- Someone now quotes 'Building Regs' yet doesn't give you a reference to which Section/para they're claiming is relevant.
4- Building regs are not retrospective, they only apply to new build or substantial alterations like extensions.

Unless your Assessor is going to provide a proper explanation of their case, they're hopeless....
It may not be to the latest BRs, but they should be explaining it and making recommendations on how it can be mitigated, not just telling you to rebuild the place.
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Re: Bedroom doors opening on to stairs

Post by Paul1979 »

Thank you bernicarey - I am glad your comments supports our feelings to this.
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Re: Bedroom doors opening on to stairs

Post by andybz »

It is not unreasonable for findings from risk assessments to change over time as new information becomes available. I wonder if this new observation is the result of findings from Grenfell? Whatever the reason, the person doing the FRA should give you the information you need to decide if the risk is ALARP, which is the ultimate requirement.
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Re: Bedroom doors opening on to stairs

Post by witsd »

a) The reference to BR is just silly.
b) Bedrooms opening directly onto an escape stairwell is concerning though.
c) If there's no space for a lobby, then there's no space for a lobby.
d) What rating are these doors, and are they all fully functional and subject to robust, regular checks?

It does sound like it ought to be picked up, but so long as the doors are self-closing, not being propped, undamaged and have a rating that would provide an adequate duration within which any fire should be identified and a full evacuation completed (so probably FD60S rather than FD30), then I'd say that was probably reasonable.
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Re: Bedroom doors opening on to stairs

Post by Paul1979 »

Thank you witsd as always for taking the time to reply.

The assessor has not replied to our request to specify which BR's they are referring to...but agree, the doors opening directly on to stairs is a bit of a worry.

Whilst they are 'fire doors' (FD30s with s/c) they have not been looked after properly - the Premises Manager gives them a quick visual every month, but I wouldn't say he was 'competent' by any means (and so he would also agree). There are gaps (some quite significant such as 9-10mm) in places where doors are dropping from hinges...

As there is no space to 'lobby' these doors, I am guessing we need a proper fire engineered approach to see what can be done?
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Re: Bedroom doors opening on to stairs

Post by billinom8s »

wouldn't a loft conversion come under 'bedroom door opening onto staircase'?

we have a Dutch staircase in our house leading off of a small hallway to a downstairs room. we wanted a door on this as the old dog we have has fallen down there during the night - stop sniggering please you in the back.
we were told we couldn't have a door fitted as it would open onto a void and we couldn't have the door open back into the hallway as there isn't space.
in the end i fitted a childs stair gate. it does the job just doesn't look as pleasing.
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Re: Bedroom doors opening on to stairs

Post by witsd »

billinom8s wrote: Wed Jun 16, 2021 12:03 pmwouldn't a loft conversion come under 'bedroom door opening onto staircase'?
Sure, but there's a big difference between an internal bedroom opening onto an internal staircase (where you ought to have an LD2 fitted) and multiple of the "approximately 30 bedrooms" opening onto a stairwell that presumably may be needed by all 30 residents should there be a fire.
Paul1979 wrote: Wed Jun 16, 2021 6:22 amWhilst they are 'fire doors' (FD30s with s/c) they have not been looked after properly - the Premises Manager gives them a quick visual every month, but I wouldn't say he was 'competent' by any means (and so he would also agree). There are gaps (some quite significant such as 9-10mm) in places where doors are dropping from hinges...

As there is no space to 'lobby' these doors, I am guessing we need a proper fire engineered approach to see what can be done?
Upgrade the doors to FD60S, and put in a proper maintenance regime to prevent them from falling into disrepair again. No reason this couldn't be done by the premises manager so long as he is brought up to speed on the potential issues and why his previous checks that were not identifying the gaps were not adequate.

If you've already got ventilation on the stairwell, then I'm not sure if I'd really want anything more than that.
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Re: Bedroom doors opening on to stairs

Post by Messy »

Totally agree with wltsd

A FD60 door isn't as effective as a lobby with two FD30 doors, but it might do the job. Lets not forget that ADB really cannot be applied retrospectively and some older buildings just don't fit today's requirements so you have to be creative.

Can I say that I use previous FRAs as a pointer to explain rationale only and would never think that there's been 10 FRAs done here and they haven't mentioned something, so it must be right. That is a dangerous place to be. Go on your instinct and skills as it could be 10 erroneous FRAs done by someone with less competence.

And Billinom - lobbied staircases rarely involve the top floor as lobbies are designed to protect the staircases for people escaping from above
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Re: Bedroom doors opening on to stairs

Post by Paul1979 »

witsd + messy - thank you both again for your thoughts.
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Re: Bedroom doors opening on to stairs

Post by billinom8s »

.salut .salut .salut .salut .salut
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Re: Bedroom doors opening on to stairs

Post by hammer1 »

Interesting, FEDs opening onto stairs in a care home, not ideal, do we know when the building was converted?....Also installation of FD60 door would need to consider the vulnerability of the resident if they struggle using such a door. A lot of care homes have free swing doors these days, but would assume not the case here?

What is the height of the building?

Start with prevention - PCFRA for all residents, including those in these rooms, assess the risk presented and mitigate - S/D in each room or H/D? Doors would need to be top notch, cannot use 'notional' as acceptable in my view as I feel this would be reasonably practicable so FD30s (or 60 if practical) fitted by 3rd party and certified doors. As mentioned maintenance regime to follow, this would mitigate current non compliance issues

You say L1 install, what is the evacuation strategy if detection activates within one of these rooms? I presume the whole block doesn't go into simultaneous evacuation? Is there an investigation period? Is the AFD linked to ARC? this can mitigate as you ensure early warning/FRS attendance. Also leaves staff to deal with residents evacuation

It is the assessing how far removed from acceptable current guidance this situation is and if it so far removed you need to introduce mitigating measures to reduce likelihood/consequence, not easy at all in situations like you describe.

Sadly a lot of consultants argue on the side of caution (PI insurance), caveat the hell out the reports/contract agreements, there is less and less 'risk base approach' culture, will become even less once the statutory guidance is published later in year to follow fire safety act with other secondary legislation.

But then you can see why with the latest prosecution

As others have said, ask why what and when, your the client it is your right
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