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  • Writer's pictureSCH Site Services

The Evolution of Fire Protection and New Legislations: Impacts on Steel and Fabrication Industries

A large building with metal fabrication surrounding it.

Over the past two decades, fire protection in the construction industry has seen significant advancements, particularly following the Grenfell Tower tragedy in 2017. Traditionally, fire protection involved on-site applications, often performed by a "man in a van" spraying fire retardants directly onto structures.

However, in the wake of Grenfell, there has been a strong shift towards off-site fire protection, fundamentally changing the responsibilities and workflows within the steel and fabrication industries.


New Fire Safety Regulations

The new fire safety regulations, especially the Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022, have introduced comprehensive changes aimed at preventing future tragedies like Grenfell.

These regulations mandate that building owners and managers in high-rise residential buildings (at least 18 meters or seven stories high) provide detailed information to local fire and rescue services, including electronic building plans and materials used in construction​. These measures are designed to protect in the event of a fire.

Additionally, the Building Safety Act 2022 establishes a new regulatory framework for building safety, focusing on high-risk buildings such as residential complexes, care homes, and hospitals that exceed specific height and storey thresholds.

The Act emphasises the creation of a Building Safety Regulator responsible for overseeing the safety and performance standards of buildings throughout their lifecycle​.


Red Metal Fabrication

Implications for the Steel and Fabrication Industries

The shift towards off-site fire protection has placed more responsibility on fabricators to ensure that steelwork is not only fabricated but also fire-protected before it arrives on-site.

This change means fabricators must now coordinate closely with fire protection specialists and adhere to stringent quality control measures to meet the required fire resistance ratings.

Fire protection coatings are categorised by their duration of protection, ranging from 30 to 120 minutes. For instance, high-rise buildings and stadiums often require 120-minute protection, while typical structures might need 60-minute protection.

This classification dictates the type of fire-retardant coatings used, such as intumescent paints, which swell to form an insulating layer in the event of a fire​​.

Practical Challenges and Solutions

The new regulations also bring practical challenges. For instance, the application of fire protection coatings requires adequate drying time, which can slow down construction timelines. Ensuring that these coatings are applied correctly off-site demands skilled labour and meticulous quality control.

The need for specialised workers to handle and apply these coatings adds to the logistical and financial burdens on fabricators.

Moreover, the regulations impose strict liability on those involved in the construction and maintenance of buildings. The Building Safety Act has extended the limitation period for claims under the Defective Premises Act to 30 years retrospectively and 15 years prospectively, increasing the potential for historic claims.

This means that fabricators and builders must maintain detailed records and documentation to defend against potential claims related to fire safety compliance​


A welder in pull PPE equipment

Advances in Fire Protection Coatings

Innovations in fire protection coatings have also played a significant role in improving building safety. Companies like PPG and Sherwin-Williams have developed advanced fire-retardant products.

Sherwin Williams have been leading the way in the fire protection market for years. Their latest edition series FX 6002 and the later FX 6010 has seen a vast improvemnt to drying times due to its new market leading properties.

The second generation of the FX6000 Series technology, FX6002 is a unique and innovative patented technology. It delivers unparalleled speed of drying, together with an extended range of approved fire scenarios and 20 years exterior durability to support design flexibility and creative exposure of structural steel surfaces in building design. This second generation extends the scope of protection to lighter steelwork than previously possible with FX6000 whilst at the same time reduces the required thickness. FX6002 ultrafast drying feature removes drying “bottlenecks” in the paint shop and develops rapid

weather resistance if applied on-site. Its excellent mechanical durability minimises transport and erection damage as efficiently as it resists the challenges of a busy and congested construction-site.

Key features of Sherwin Williams FX6000 series:

Faster drying

Dry to handle or overcoat in just one hour. Imagine, a 120 minute hollow section painted, dried, DFT checked and topcoated in a single shift!

It can be exposed to weather after just four hours. For site application, rain forecast later? No need to stop painting now.

Mechanically tough and resilient to reduce risk of damage.

Experience with FIRETEX FX6000 has shown substantial reductions in transport and erection damage

FIRETEX FX6002 has the same toughness and reduced DFT’s. Increased production throughput with quick drying that speeds up project timelines.

Environment dependent, it may be specified without primer or topcoat .

It has efficiency gains as more items are protected in a shorter time when you realise genuine cost savings.

A large building with metal fabrication surrounding it.

The latest innovation in fire protection, is the new PPG Steelguard 951, a flexible, 100% solid epoxy intumescent coating that offers up to three hours of cellulosic fire protection. PPG's new flexible epoxy intumescent paint demonstrates the industry's move towards more efficient and durable solutions.

This innovative product is a flexible, 100% solid epoxy intumescent coating that expands from a thin, lightweight film into a thick, foam-like layer during a fire. This insulating layer helps maintain the structural integrity of the steel, providing critical time for evacuation and firefighting efforts.


Key features of PPG Steelguard 951 include:

Durability and Flexibility: The coating is designed to withstand harsh conditions, providing long-lasting protection. Its flexibility helps prevent cracking, ensuring continuous protection over time.

Corrosion Resistance: PPG Steelguard 951 offers exceptional corrosion resistance up to ISO 12944 C5 without the need for a topcoat, making it ideal for both internal and external applications.

Fast Construction: The quick-drying nature of the epoxy intumescent paint accelerates construction timelines, enabling faster project completion without compromising safety standards.

Environmental and Aesthetic Quality: It meets aesthetic standards required for modern architectural designs, ensuring that structures are both safe and visually appealing.


The Future of Fire Protection

The evolving landscape of fire safety regulations and advancements in fire protection technologies underscore the industry's commitment to building safety. Fabricators and steelworkers must stay ahead of these changes to ensure compliance and improve the safety and resilience of modern buildings.

The collaboration between fabricators, fire protection specialists, and regulatory bodies is crucial in this ongoing effort to safeguard lives and property against fire hazards.

By adapting to these new regulations and embracing innovative fire protection solutions, the steel and fabrication industries can continue to play a pivotal role in constructing safer, more resilient buildings for the future.

At SCH Site Services, we are dedicated to ensuring the highest standards of safety through the application of advanced fire protection coatings. Our commitment is reflected in our meticulous approach to selecting and applying superior fire-resistant paints.

By incorporating such advanced materials, we not only meet but exceed regulatory requirements, providing robust corrosion resistance and long-lasting protection without the need for additional topcoats.

This proactive stance ensures that every project we undertake prioritises safety and durability, safeguarding both our clients and their assets.


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