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November 30, 2021

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Sprinkler systems

Fire sprinkler systems: what’s required after installation?

According to the British Automatic Fire Sprinkler Association (BAFSA), fire sprinkler systems can reduce injuries by at least 80%, reduce property damage by 90% and substantially reduce damage to the environment from fire. Prinicipal Consultant at the FPA, Dale Kinnersley, shares the LPC’s guidance on their use. 

If those responsible for fire safety in a building are not aware of essential sprinkler maintenance and inspection requirements, buildings and their occupants can be placed under unnecessary risk.

Sprinklers have a proven track record in helping to preserve life, protect buildings, assist in business continuity, and protect assets. It is the responsibility of the building owner or manager to ensure that a sprinkler system is correctly installed and maintained.

Article 17 of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 imposes significant liabilities on the ‘responsible person’ who fails to maintain fire safety equipment, including sprinkler systems, intended to preserve life in the event of a fire.

The system must be serviced and maintained by a third-party certified and approved sprinkler servicing contractor under a maintenance contract. Where a service and maintenance contract is not in place, the certification issued by the installing sprinkler contractor under the third-party scheme would result in the system being invalid.

The LPC Sprinkler Rules

For sprinklers to operate as intended in the event of a fire, they must first be designed and installed correctly, and then be serviced and maintained in accordance with the requirements of the applicable standard. The FPA’s LPC Rules for Automatic Sprinkler Installations 2015 incorporating BS EN 12845 is the most widely used and recognised installation standard in the UK, and is aimed at anyone involved in the specification, design, installation, service, and maintenance of sprinkler systems.

The document is split into three parts:

  • Part 1 covers BS EN 12845 ‘life safety’ minimum standards identified within building regulations
  • Part 2 includes technical bulletins for ‘property protection’ approved by building insurers
  • Part 3 provides additional associated information relating to best practice for the longevity of the sprinkler system

Fire sprinkler testing

Commercial sprinkler systems form part of many buildings’ fire safety strategies and are highly effective in controlling, suppressing and sometimes fully extinguishing fires. However, over time sprinkler heads can attract defects which can impact their effectiveness in the event of a fire. It is therefore recommended as best practice in the LPC Rules for Automatic Sprinklers, incorporating BS EN 12845 Annex K and LPC Technical Bulletin TB203 (Care and maintenance of automatic sprinkler systems), that sprinkler heads should be tested by an independent third party.

Those responsible for fire safety within a building should look to engage with an accredited third party that has the knowledge and experience required to carry out sprinkler head inspections, and to provide a detailed report that outlines any issues found during testing (against BS EN 12259-1). Once the report is received by those responsible for the sprinkler system, further engagement with stakeholders including the building insurer can be realised and next steps can be planned based on the findings.

Sprinkler inspection

If modifications or alterations are made to a building’s layout, including storage arrangements or processes, it can have a significant impact on the ability of the current sprinkler system’s performance capabilities when called into action to tackle a fire. Annual fire sprinkler system inspections are an effective and safe way to ensure a sprinkler system is fit-for-purpose.

LPC Technical Bulletin TB203 ‘Care and maintenance of automatic sprinkler systems’, clause TB 203.2.4, states that sprinkler systems should be inspected yearly. These inspections should be undertaken by an independent third party and not the system owner, building occupier, system installer or maintenance provider.

Building owners and those responsible for fire safety are not expected to be experts on sprinkler systems, but they are expected to seek appropriate support. This should come from a qualified and competent individual who is suitably trained, has experience of all aspects of the LPC rules, and who possesses relevant sprinkler certification to help them understand and follow legal standards and best practice.

The FPA has recently published a sprinkler system guidance document endorsed by BAFSA for sprinkler system owners, users and specialist maintenance contractors. The guidance provides a minimum fully compliant service and maintenance schedule to meet the requirements of LPC Technical Bulletin TB203, and practical guidance on best practice to ensure the sprinkler system remains effective for many years.

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