Emergency exit in former factory converted to flats

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    Emergency exit in former factory converted to flats

    Hi all. Looking for some advice related to safety regulations.

    Have had a number of problems with management of building which has 20 self contained flats, of which I own 1. These were converted from a factory around 10 years ago.

    The latest issue is that residents in the building were using an emergency exit to smoke outside of and then leaving the door open. There was no overhead closer on the door so it would remain open until one of the residents closed it. We asked the management company to address the problem. It seems they have done so by disconnecting the switch to the door (the door has a magnetic lock) so the door cannot now be opened, which seems like a worrying way to resolve the issue.

    A group of us are about to form a right to manage company in order to take over and appointment our own management, but this will take a while. In the meantime I’d like to write to the free holder about what I would think was dangerous practice.

    Are there any regs they might be in breach of and is there anything in particular I should be mentioning to the free holder, like whether the buildings insurance is invalidated by effectively blocking an emergency exit? Should I be asking for copies of the last safety report?

    Thanks in advance

    #2
    This is a criminal offence, rather than an insurance issue, as it is about protecting life, not property. (In practice you will only get prosecuted if someone dies as a result.)

    Has there ever been a professional fire risk assessment. It is an offence not to have an assessment at all, but they don't have to be done by consultants. However, I suspect this one should be done by a consultant. That should tell you whether the door is needed as an emergency exit. If it is not one, I think it will need to be signed as such, otherwise people might waste time by trying it in an emergency.

    How important it is will depend on whether there is more than one other route and the travel distance from the fire door at the entrance to the flats to the outside world.

    Comment


      #3
      Thanks for your reply.

      For those in the basement flats, currently the only way out of the building is via a stairwell which leads to the main entry door. The aforementioned emergency exit would provide the only other way out, if it wasn’t locked. People were using it, I guess, because it’s much quicker to use this exit than the one via the stairwell.

      Is there any particular law I should be mentioning to the freeholder? I don’t intend to take legal action, I just want them to rectify the problem and remind them of their obligation to the residents.

      I will check through my documents for a fire risk assessment and request one from them if I don’t have this.

      Comment


        #4
        If it is a fire/emergency exit then it must have a 'crash bar' that overides any lock and allows it to be freely opened from the inside.

        You could always ask the local fire service to come and take a look.
        They'll usually do that for free and chase up anything potentialy life threatening.

        Comment


          #5
          The law is the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. However, it won't say whether or not you need the secondary exit. The offence is failing to provide satisfactory means of escape, not failing to have a second fire exit.

          If the conversion was recent, the building regulations at the time may be the best guide.

          As I already mentioned, if you don't need and can't use it, you should put up No Exit signs on routes leading to it.

          Comment


            #6
            Originally posted by nukecad View Post
            If it is a fire/emergency exit then it must have a 'crash bar' that overides any lock and allows it to be freely opened from the inside.

            You could always ask the local fire service to come and take a look.
            They'll usually do that for free and chase up anything potentialy life threatening.
            Thanks for the info. The door doesn’t have a crash bar on, but the switch that opens the door is labelled “emergency exit” and has been referred to as an emergency exit by the management company; When I asked why this door didn’t have an overhead closer fitted or key code entry I was told this wasn’t possible as it was an emergency exit.

            Comment


              #7
              There is no general requirement for crash bars, and in particular, you wouldn't expect to find them on the main doors to blocks of flats, even though they are also emergency exits. The normal requirement is that there be a single and obvious action, without a key, basically the same as best practice for front doors on rented flats and houses. In fact, for most blocks of flats there is no requirement to open outwards; that only apples to doors were rather larger number of people use them.

              I would think an emergency exit button would be acceptable as long as it fails to unlocked, and was adequately lit, even when there was a power failure.

              However, if it is labelled "emergency exit" it needs to work, and needs to be regularly checked to confirm that it works, as people may rely on it in a fire and end up trapped, when they could have escaped using the primary route.

              Comment


                #8
                Thanks for the correction leasholder64.

                (I had been thinking of the fire service requirements from when I was living in the pub/hotel - where the external emergency exits from public areas had to have crash bars, and the letting room doors had to be openable from the inside without a key).

                Emergency exits on flats would not have the same requirement, but as you say emergency exits should be easily openable without a key, and definitely not locked.

                It may be from the OP's description that the electric lock may be 'fail safe' (automatically disengage) if there is a fire alarm or if the power fails?
                https://www.safelincs.co.uk/blog/201...on-fire-exits/
                Simply disconnecting the 'open' button/switch would not affect that function, just mean that no one could open it manually at other times.
                Of course you would need to check that the lock is in fact linked to the alarm system.

                Comment


                  #9
                  There would have to be a linked smoke alarm system for it release during a fire. I would have thought that a recent conversion would have had to have been done using a stay put policy design, so communal alarms would be discouraged.

                  Comment


                    #10
                    Originally posted by nukecad View Post

                    It may be from the OP's description that the electric lock may be 'fail safe' (automatically disengage) if there is a fire alarm or if the power fails?
                    https://www.safelincs.co.uk/blog/201...on-fire-exits/
                    Simply disconnecting the 'open' button/switch would not affect that function, just mean that no one could open it manually at other times.
                    Of course you would need to check that the lock is in fact linked to the alarm system.
                    That’s a good point. Now you mention it, I was here when all the alarms in the building went off (I think they were being tested) and a door on the top floor did automatically disengage and open (this door has a similar switch to the basement door).

                    I’ll have to ask if the basement door is set up to do the same. I imagine it would have been originally, but given the shoddiness of other work they have had carried out, it’s a possibility that it doesn’t.

                    Comment

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