The Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) has issued an urgent warning to all contractors over the safety of fire dampers.

Inspections by maintenance contractors found that a “huge number of dampers” had been incorrectly installed and would fail to work during a building fire.

BESA’s head of technical Graeme Fox has urged contractors to “alert their clients immediately” so that rectification works can begin.

The issue revolves around the use of self-drilling “tek” screws which have been used to install an unknown number of dampers in projects. The screws have a higher melting temperature and do not melt if a building is on fire.

“This means that spring-loaded dampers will not be released to contain the spread of fire within the zone and ensure the integrity of the fire stopping measure,” Fox explained.

“Dampers must be secured by fusible fixings that allow the duct to break away, otherwise the collapsing duct could pull the damper out of place and break the seal between the fire zones,” he added.

BESA published a special announcement on the subject. It includes updated guidance and statutory requirements covering installation, testing and maintenance of fire dampers and smoke dampers.

The document also highlights clients’ legal obligations to ensure their fire safety systems remain fit for purpose in line with the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 for England and Wales and the Fire Safety (Scotland) Regulations 2006.

Fox said: “While this is clearly a very worrying situation, we can take some reassurance from the fact that this problem is being brought to our attention by the increasing frequency of fire damper inspections and tests as awareness grows of this extremely important issue.”

The latest BESA technical advice can be found here.