Active fire safety

After the tragic Grenfell Tower disaster, fire protection has been on everyone’s lips. Dr Wolfgang Friedl, from TÜV Nord, explains the correct approach to fire safety in the coatings industry.

For active fire safety a custom appoach is key. (Image: yevgeniy1 - Fotolia -

What do custom fire safety concepts achieve?

Dr Wolfgang Friedl: We are talking here about a fire safety concept which is designed to prevent a fire and, failing that, ensures that the fire does not endanger people inside the building. A fire safety concept attempts to minimise the probability that damage will occur on the one hand and to contain the level of damage done on the other; it must identify, analyse and compensate for all realistic dangers, and will ideally eliminate them. Each building is different and so a custom approach is needed.

For that reason, a fire safety concept is not transferable from company A to company B – precisely because certain boundary conditions in company A will be different from those in company B. Nor is a fire safety concept transferable between the same types of company, e.g. between paint producers or between storage companies. Factors to take into account are the type and number of people effected, the materials used, as well as the immediate neighbourhood. After all these have been squared off against the building regulations, the next step is to devise structural, plant and organisational specifications, and then to implement them.

Who devises fire safety concepts?

Friedl: Basic hazard assessments of plant and coatings raw materials, for example, are done by the manufacturers, suppliers or marketers, the reason being that these companies, after all, want people to be able to work safely with their products and without any damage. The fire safety concept for a building, however, is drawn up by a qualified architect, an approved fire safety engineer or a fire safety specialist planner. Fire safety concepts have been mandated for new buildings since around the year 2000; some companies devise them retrospectively for pre-existing buildings. However, competent, highly qualified fire safety officers may also be capable of doing this themselves.

To whom can manufacturers of paints turn for a suitable concept?


Dr Wolfgang Friedl

TÜV Nord Akademie

Friedl: It makes no sense for everyone to reinvent the wheel. A centralised approach should be adopted by a company group to ensure that all the subsidiaries are at the same level. Then there are umbrella associations, which act as special interest groups to help members avoid existing problems. This means an umbrella organisation could also be contacted about a fire safety concept. After that, there are the relevant employers’ liability insurance associations and the trade inspectorate. Safety data sheets, too, contain a lot of what is needed for the hazard assessment and the fire safety concept.

And on the internet there is more information available than could ever be read. It might also be helpful to ask other companies where they obtained their information from. Again, fire insurance companies have good departments which are willing to help customers with safety issues. Or maybe even contact a good fire safety officer. In any event, the operating instructions or other information provided by suppliers or manufacturers of equipment and coatings raw materials will always prove extremely useful.

The complete interview is part of the October issue of the European Coatings Journal which will be released next week. Subscribers can also read the issue in European Coatings 360°.

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