Did you know there is no actual requirement for anyone installing life safety devices such as fire doors, to be personally qualified?

Surprisingly, despite the relatively recent tragic fire-related events in the UK including the Grenfell Tower fire, an individual must be deemed ‘competent’ but not necessarily ‘qualified’ to install life safety devices, such as fire doors, explained Ian Cavanagh, Managing Director at Independent Fire Safety Services (IFSS) and FIS member, to David Crowson, Editor of SpecFinish.

Ian said: “This is a strange situation, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) suggests that we define ‘Competence’ as the combination of training, skills, experience and knowledge that a person has and their ability to apply them to perform a task safely. Other factors, such as attitude and physical ability, can also affect someone’s competence.

The word ‘Competence’ though, is vague, subjective, and difficult to gauge, in a similar way much the same as the term ‘Gravitas’, and I would suggest that at the very heart of true competence are clearly defined qualifications. Surely, a suitable and sufficiently robust qualification better defines competence as it will demonstrate and prove all of the above factors as stated by the HSE but also crucially ensure the person can carry out the task for which they need to be able to demonstrate competence”.

Ian explained that as we all know electricians must be qualified, and their knowledge kept up to date. Similarly, gas fitters need to be registered to be able to offer their services.

Sadly, Building Regulations 2010 Approved Document B – Fire Safety falls some way short in its requirements for those installing fire doors, suggesting only that Third Party Certification (TPC) of installers can provide confidence that compliance can be achieved.

Ian said: “TPC of course does not come cheaply, nor does it provide guarantees. TPC schemes generally work on the premise that one manager oversees up to 20 individual installers and ensures that each of those installers is suitably competent and monitors their work regularly. The installers themselves though do not need to be qualified – simply ‘competent’.

“I believe that personal qualifications may be a more suitable and practicable way forward, and as such IFSS has created The Fire Door Academy to offer the fire door installation qualifications (These are offered at a reduced rate to members of FIS)”.

Ian explained that the academy offers two routes to qualify which are both available nationwide.

Route 1

For those that hold any of the following existing National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) qualifications:

  • 603/5468/9 Level 2 NVQ Diploma in wood occupations (construction) – shopfitting site work
  • 603/5468/9 Level 2 NVQ Diploma in wood occupations (construction) – site carpentry
  • 603/4613/9 Level 2 NVQ Diploma in associated industrial services occupations (construction) – passive fire protection

An ‘add-on’ module can be offered:

M/616/5829 Installing fire-resisting timber door assemblies and doorsets in the workplace.

The aim of unit M/616/5829 is to illustrate the skills, knowledge and understanding required to confirm competence in installing fire-resisting timber door assemblies and doorsets in the workplace. The course includes a two-day attended course (maximum group of 15) followed by an on-site assessment of the delegate undertaking fire door installations.

Upon successful completion, the NVQ award is claimed by the assessor, and this can then be endorsed onto the delegate’s CSCS Card.

The whole process is endorsed and monitored by National Open College Network (NOCN) – the awarding body to provide a robust qualification.

Route 2

Running alongside route one and designed specifically for City & Guilds carpenters and joiners who are excluded from the NVQ route unless they undertake the full NVQ qualification, there is the Firequal approved qualification in fire door installation. This is owned and operated by IFSS under ‘The Fire Door Academy’ brand.

This course generally mirrors the NVQ module but rather than the two-day attended course, Part I is an online ‘home-study’ course that can be completed by the delegate at their convenience and leisure.

Part I. Firequal code QFD036

Part I of the course, the theory section, is extensive ranging. It explains briefly where and why fire doors are required in certain buildings. The course then goes on to look at each component that makes up a complete doorset or assembly and how they can in some instances interact with each other.

The course explains the different types of fire door constructions and how some are more suited to particular locations and perhaps how different frame materials can impact upon the finished product.

Legislation of course is touched upon and the relevant British and indeed European Standards related to fire doors.

A crucial aspect is looking at the actual certification of fire doors; understanding certification documents (these aren’t as scary as they may seem to be at first glance) and how to decide which options and configurations are possible in certain circumstances.

Part I culminates in two separate tests designed to ensure the person has absorbed the course information and retained it as knowledge to use moving forward.

In reality, anyone who is ‘involved’ in fire doors would possibly benefit from Part I in as much as it greatly improves fire door general knowledge and the importance of actually checking if something can or cannot be done with a fire door.

Part II. Firequal code QFD037

Part II, the onsite assessment (at a site of the candidate’s choice) again involves the candidate being assessed by a Certificate in Assessing Vocational Achievement (CAVA) assessor while installing a fire doorset or assembly during which a ‘professional discussion’ will take place during which the assessor gauges the knowledge and confidence of the candidate as well as their ability to react to unforeseen problems that may negatively impact upon a compliant installation.

Assuming a successful result the candidate is presented with a certificate of competence, underwritten by Firequal, and if they so wish an ID card that shows their qualification. They can then justifiably claim that they are competent, and qualified.

“We are currently working on making Route 2 even more robust with the intention of providing the highest level of personal competence. This an ongoing process with no definite end date, but it will be time well spent.”

Ian went on to explain that both courses are specifically centred around the installation of timber based doorsets and assemblies, they do not currently cover non-timber variations. He said: “One of the challenges with ‘non-timber’ fire doors courses is the lack of an applicable British Standard or Code of Practice (BS8214:2016 applies only to timber), so creating a definitive course is somewhat problematic and we are in effect limited to ‘follow the manufacturers installation instructions’ although we are actively working on a suitable course.”

“There are of course alternative fire door courses available in the marketplace, and potential delegates should consider their chosen route carefully. A suitably robust fire door qualification course will require significant effort and should not be undertaken lightly.

“Neither of the routes to qualification guarantee a successful pass – these are not ‘attendance’ courses, or ‘tick box’ exercises. Effort, diligence, and determination are required. The end result is a qualification that ‘certifies’ the candidate to install life-critical components in a building where hundreds of lives may be protected by the very products being installed and as such it must be robust”.

For further information or to register on any of the courses mentioned visit: