Understanding fire exit door regulations

People escaping using the fire exit door

At DEM Fire, we provide complete and compliant fire protection solutions, but as employers are responsible for employee safety, it is useful for you to have some awareness of fire exit door regulations.

In Australia, these regulations are enshrined in the Building Code of Australia (BCA) and in state legislation, which in NSW is the Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation (2000). Occupational Health Services Australia (OHSA) further states that failure to provide employees with safe working conditions may result in a complaint, inspection and legal prosecution.

Fire exits and doors play a crucial role in fire prevention solutions. Here’s what you need to know about fire exit door regulations – and why solution design, system installation, asset management and fire compliance are key to safe and effective fire exits.

About fire exit doors

Also referred to as emergency doors or sometimes fire escape doors, the primary purpose of fire exit doors is to provide a swift escape route for staff or building tenants in the event of an outbreak.

Fire exit doors are one component of a fire exit route, which consists of three parts:

  1. Exit access – a portion of an exit route that leads to an exit.
  2. The exit – a portion of an exit route separated from other areas – such as a corridor or stairwell – that provides a safe way to exit the building. Fire exits must be at least 1m wide.
  3. Exit discharge – part of the exit route that leads directly outside or to an open space with access to the outside of the building.

The Building Codes Australia (BCA) lists three types of doors in a fire exit route:

  1. Fire door – a door that enters a fireproof stairway or tunnel. Both the door and frame should be made from fire rated material.
  2. Exit door – a door that allows for an emergency evacuation of a building. Non-fire exit doors do not need to be fire rated or steel framed.
  3. Path of travel door – a door in the line of exit leading to, or between, a fire door or exit door. Path of travel doors must be able to be easily opened without a key and with a single hand push or downward action.
Man pushing the Fire exit door

Fire exit door requirements for businesses

Every fire protection system is composed of multiple systems, such as passive fire systems, sprinkler systems and detection systems that together help extinguish and/or prevent the spread of an outbreak. There are requirements specific to each component in order for it to fulfil its primary function.

As outlined under BCA AS1428.1 (Disabled Compliance) and D2.21 (Emergency Exits), in order to provide a fast exit route, fire exit doors must meet the following criteria:

  • The door must have a push bar or handle that can be pushed or pulled down easily by all occupants including the elderly, those with arm or hand-related disabilities and anyone who might have sweaty hands or burns to their hands.
  • Exit doors must be able to be pushed open outwards by anyone carrying or assisting another person.
  • Aisles and passageways must be easily accessible without obstructions.
  • A fire exit door can be locked from the outside but must be fitted with an emergency push bar (or other emergency access device) to allow occupants inside the building to escape quickly without the use of a key.
Green emergency exit sign showing the way to exit

Other fire exit door regulations

In addition to the construction of and access to fire access doors, there are additional regulations for employers that include clear and adequate signage of exit doors and all passageways along exit routes, adequate space around fire doors to provide visibility and a clear exit, and at least one fire exit on every floor of a building.

Large properties may require more than one fire exit per floor.

In accordance with BCA D2.21 (Emergency Exits) and AS1905.1 (Fire Resistant Doorsets), all fire exit doors must also be fitted with fire-rated locks, installed to specific heights dependent on business function (child care centres for instance have lower height locks), and the locks must be automatically self-latching with an automatic door closer to prevent the movement of smoke and/or back drafts.

It is compulsory for all employers and/or building managers to provide a safe, functional and BCA compliant workspace – which is why ongoing asset maintenance is also a crucial component of your fire prevention system.

Man operating fire alarm system controller

Holistic fire prevention

At DEM Fire, we take a holistic approach to fire prevention. We provide tailored solution design and system installation to ensure your property is safe and fully BCA compliant. We provide regular asset management to maintain the quality of your fire prevention solution.

And we oversee all fire compliance, including the inspection and testing of your fire safety measures in order to complete and submit Annual Fire Safety Statements.

With an industry-leading team of accredited practitioners and fire safety experts, we also understand compliance requirements for diverse industries and property types, including schools, shopping centres and stadiums.

Please contact us for information on fire exit door regulations, and for comprehensive fire prevention solutions.

Contact DEM Fire & Essential Services Group

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