Under current fire regulations, which were brought in across the UK in 2006, owners of all buildings other than single occupancy private dwellings have a duty of care to achieve and maintain conditions in buildings that reduce the risk of injury, risk to life and damage to property.
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order (England and Wales) – often called the RRFSO - and the Fire (Scotland) Act require the identification of a responsible person – such as an owner, property manager or an employee – who has a duty to ensure that a fire risk assessment of the building as a whole is undertaken.
In coach, air and rail stations across the UK, the need for a Class 0 fire rating to walls and ceilings in circulation areas and escape routes is a requirement.
Within the UK, wall and ceiling lining materials are classified from Class 0 to Class 4 according to their level of resistance to flame spread and limitation of heat release, with Class 0 being the best performing material and Class 4 the worst.
Often, in mass transit sites where the public circulate throughout a building, this standard may be achieved through the use of Class 0 rated panelling systems.
However, wall and ceilings to these areas can also be painted - along with circulation areas and escape routes in staff-only locations – a situation that can mean the original Class 0 fire rating may have been compromised over the years. The use of a flame retardant coating in such environments can lead to a Class 0 rating being achieved or restored.
David Spicer is Specialist Products Manager at Crown Paints, manufacturers of the Crown Trade Timonox flame retardant coating system. He said: “Flame retardant systems are designed to improve fire performance rating.
“Timonox is capable of improving a rating from Class 4 to Class 0 and while they are unable to prevent a fire from starting - as paint is not normally the first thing to be ignited - they may provide valuable additional time for a building to be safely evacuated.
“Paints – even water based ones – contain resins or binders which may be flammable. Although a single coat of emulsion on a bare plasterboard surface is unlikely to form a hazard, over many years a build up of multiple layers of conventional paint over any surface can become a significant fire risk, particularly in corridors, stairwells and other areas forming part of a fire escape route.
“Generally, flame retardant coatings work by limiting the oxygen around the flames through the release of non-combustible gases and by using a formulation which provides a barrier to the flammable paint layers beneath.
“In some cases, an intumescent layer may be used, which produces a foamed insulating carbon char on burning, restricting heat rise in the surface beneath.
“Those using flame retardant coatings need not compromise the aesthetic appearance of their interior decoration. Paint based systems are often available in a wide range of colours and finishes including matt and silk vinyl and acrylic eggshell, with the option of anti-graffiti protection where necessary.
“A conventional application of two coats of a flame retardant finish over several layers of paint may be sufficient to restore the required Class 0 rating, or a higher performing system can be specified if the existing risk is greater.”