We all know that there is an increased focus in the construction industry on ensuring that materials and techniques are all used with fire safety in mind, particularly in blocks of flats, supported living and retirement homes — but it’s also important to make sure that furnishings are fire retardant. Installing entrance mats that might be classified as a fire risk can result in loss of life, belongings and property, and can therefore have a serious impact on your business’s reputation, your portfolio and your bottom line.
Fire test classifications
Fire safety is all about minimising the risk of a fire breaking out, preventing the rapid spread of fire and enabling easy and effective fire-fighting if the worst does happen. It is a complex subject but there are strict classifications in place to help you choose the right materials.
These classifications provide a way to ensure that all products and materials are tested to the same level, and so there can be a uniform understanding of the term ‘fire retardant’. Floor coverings labelled as fire retardant must have passed fire tests including exposure to both a naked flame and a radiating heat source.
This means that the material can then be classified according to EN 13501-1 (the European Standard for reaction to fire). The possible classifications for non-flammable and flame-retardant materials are:
- A1 fl — achievable only by non-flammable floor coverings with no risk of smoke formation
- A2 fl — achievable only by non-flammable floor coverings with low levels of organic binding agents
- B fl — flame-retardant product that has passed the radiating heat test with an intensity of 8 kW/m squared
- C fl — flame-retardant product that has passed the radiating heat test with an intensity of 4.5 kW/metre squared
A1 fl and A2 fl are impossible to achieve with most floor covering materials, including any textiles and vinyls. B fl and C fl are therefore the markings to look out for when choosing your entrance mats, as both are tested and classified as flame retardant. This does not mean that the mat cannot be set alight, it means that the material will not help the flames to spread.
Any other classification below C fl can be classed as a fire risk — using these has the potential to endanger your residents and tenants.
In conclusion, make sure any entrance mats that you choose for your properties are marked with either B fl or C fl — you’ll be protecting the health and safety of any people on site, as well as your property.
As part of the above testing conditions, the amount of smoke that a material gives out is also measured. Here you will want to look for products marked as ‘s1’, which means that they give out very little smoke in the event of a fire. Mats that fail this test are marked as ‘s2’.
Products should then be marked with both a floor classification (fl) and a smoke classification (s).
Any entrance mat or matting used in communal areas and hallways should be either Bfl-s1 or Cfl-s1.
Types of mats
Just because a mat has to be tested to those strict criteria to be suitable for use on your site, you don’t need to sacrifice other functionality. There are ultra-modern entrance mats available in a range of colour and size options that are classified as fire retardant but also have a nice comfortable pile, a long-lasting colour finish and high levels of water and dirt/dust retention.
If you have any doubts or concerns, or need any further advice, be sure to get in touch with your preferred matting expert. You’ll sleep safer knowing that you are minimising the risk of fire for your residents and tenants.
First Mats started life as safety matting specialists, but have since expanded to become a complete industrial and commercial supplies company. The focus of First Mats is to provide safety-focused products that improve the wellbeing of staff through quality approved products, backed up by extensive knowledge.