There has been a change to Clause 21 of EN 12845 in respect of sprinkler system inspections.
An amendment has been passed which clarifies who should be carrying out checks. The amendment removes the requirement for annual inspections to be carried out by third parties. However, the need for the inspection remains and, in an annexe to the change, it is recommended checks are still carried out by a third party. All inspections must be undertaken by a ‘qualified person’.
Clause 21 has been replaced by the following wording: “The sprinkler system shall be periodically inspected by a qualified person at least once a year (see Annex Q). The inspection report shall assess whether the system is in accordance with this standard, with regard but not limited to maintenance, operation and adequacy for the risk involved. A list of deviations shall be issued for action.”
However, the new Annex Q states: “When performing periodic inspection, it is recommended that the system inspections are undertaken by an independent body, e.g. not the system owner, building occupier, system installer (or competing installer) or service and maintenance provider (or competing service and maintenance provider).
“The qualified person is a designated individual, suitably trained, competent through knowledge and practical experience and with the necessary instruction to enable the test and examinations to be carried out.”
In this article, we focus on sprinkler tank inspections only.
Experts say very few property owners and managers with a sprinkler tank, an essential part of many systems, have people with the necessary experience or equipment to carry out a thorough check. In particular, they cite the need for ROV equipment to ensure full checks can be carried out without the need for a tank to be drained.
Why ROV inspections?
The Remotely Operated Underwater Vehicle (ROV) is a smart piece of kit. Designed to move around under water, it requires expert control – along with diagnostic equipment to check the condition of a tank’s internal surfaces. Specialists point to their comprehensive benefits, which include the conservation of water. In the grand scheme of sprinkler system inspections, they can help to identify defects before they cause a leak or contamination.
Anyone undertaking such an inspection should know how to attach and operate HD camera and ultrasound equipment. They also need to be able to understand the data they return. In addition, they need to be fully aware of sprinkler tank components and their functions. This includes valves, pumps and the inlet, along with the internal structure of the tank.
A competent third party will offer conclusions and recommendations that can be relied upon. They are based on qualified data – all fully illustrated in written reports. Would you trust the safety of your people and property to someone without extensive knowledge of how a sprinkler tank works?
Anyone inspecting a sprinkler tank will need to be able to recognise:
- The presence of rust
- Weak spots in any section of the tank’s surface
- Signs of corrosion or oxidisation
- Bacteria growth
- Worn seals
In addition, they need to be able to check and recognise potential issues with ancillary equipment. This can include tank lids and access areas.
Sprinkler system tank inspections
A sprinkler system tank inspection should always be carried out with the water in situ. Not just to conserve water and save money but to ensure sprinklers remain fully operational throughout. Draining a tank for an inspection is unnecessary and potentially very dangerous. Using ROV equipment makes this possible. It is site and insurer-friendly and delivers accurate data that can be reliably used for planned maintenance.
It is worth noting that this type of sprinkler system inspection can be carried out on any type of tank, regardless of its location and size. Annual inspections should always be carried out by a specialist, say experts. Many problems are not obvious and require the use of high-tech equipment to properly identify and diagnose – hence the importance of retaining the services of an independent inspection expert.
The change to requirements in respect of one clause in EN 12845 does not mean an unqualified, untrained person can carry out an inspection. It makes clear they need to have the necessary qualifications. Neglecting to ensure a suitable person carries out the checks can have far-reaching and even tragic repercussions. It is worth noting that if negligence is suspected to have contributed to an emergency, criminal proceedings can follow.
Booking a sprinkler tank inspection
You can book a third-party or independent inspection with a nationwide specialist, who will travel anywhere in the country to perform this task. As well as having the necessary knowledge, they will have the essential equipment (outlined above). If your sprinkler tank is leaking, you can find out what to do here.
If you are not sure what your obligations are as a building owner or site manager, you should seek expert advice. Life preserving equipment must always be ready to kick in during an emergency situation. That means, it should be maintained to regulatory standards, so it is fit for purpose.
While not all buildings benefit from the sprinkler system, it is always worth reminding ourselves how common fires are.
Recent fires in public, commercial and industrial buildings:
- A commercial garage in County Donegal has been badly damaged in an overnight fire (reported November 21).
- A hooded gang set a fire at Bransholme playground close to Biggin Hill Primary School – Hull (reported November 20).
- A supermarket, closed for over a year after a fire in the flat above, has been reopened and revamped – Reading (reported November 20).
- Multiple fire crews attended to a blaze at an industrial property in a Somerset village (reported November 16).
- Investigation launched after blaze at an industrial unit which took eight fire crews to put out – London (reported November 13).
- People living or working near Manor Way, Swanscombe were advised to close windows and doors due to smoke coming from a fire in an industrial building – Kent (reported November 16).
The advice from experts is to continue to use fully qualified independent inspectors. Especially for sprinkler system water tanks.