Health Risks In Our Hospitals - Duct Work Fireproofing Materials

An article by John Rakic, Managing Director of Trafalgar Group of Companies

As engineering consultants we all have a duty of care to ensure our specifications do not inadvertently result in inferior product selection which may lead to serious illness or in extreme cases fatalities.

The requirements for correct specifications of materials are paramount for the construction and upkeep of our hospitals. We all have family members, friends or even ourselves that end up needing to spend time in one of Australia’s growing number of hospitals. 

During construction of these hospitals all contractors, in this case mechanical services, need to ensure installed products are fit for purpose. In the event that a detailed specification does not exist or is vague, it should not mean contractors install the lowest grade of product that ticks one box, but causes problems in other areas down the track. This is especially true on hospital projects.

Statistics from the USA indicate that infections account for almost 100,000 deaths per year. A very common area to pick such infections is in hospitals. I.e. Golden Staph and similar infectious diseases, which mate be attributed to some of the products being installed during construction works.

For this reason I ask myself, why are mechanical services consultants not writing tighter specifications for duct fireproofing materials to stop the use of spray applied fireproofing (water based) materials; commonly known as fire spray.

Fire spray materials as far as we can see will spawn the growth of mould which is known to be a common source of deadly pathogens. Generally, fire spray is factory blended from a gypsum and vermiculite mix. Let’s consider other applications for these two base products.

Vermiculite is also used to blend as a soilless growing media and for seed germination, with its primary objective to retain air, plant food and moisture. In other words “a perfect product for growth” -Including Microbial.

Gypsum is commonly used as a fertilizer, which will further promote growth within fire spray.

Even if so called “protective coating materials” called Hard Coats are used, there it is pretty much impossible to ensure that these will work, as fire spray is incredibly prone to damage such cracking and spalling.

Using such a fire spray product could be understood as we have not had a choice previously, but this changed recently.

Trafalgar’s FyreWrap product is a clean, green and safe way of providing fire protection to duct work.

FyreWrap has undergone strict Microbial Resistance Product Testing endorsed by the GREENGUARD Environmental Institute. This testing shows that FyreWrap is highly resistant to mould growth and as such will not harbour pathogens.

We know that the “installed” cost of FyreWrap is cheaper than fire spray (with the additional hard coat) so as a specification engineering consultant we all have a duty of care to specify a proven anti-microbial duct fireproofing material.  Identically the same as the anti-microbial specifications we see for the walls and ceiling linings in our hospitals.

A concealed duct, behind false and decorative ceilings, does not mean they will not be susceptible to mould and mildew growth.

I urge that clients, engineers and certifiers please check your specifications in regards to this serious issue for our hospitals, as not only a duty of care, but it could also affect you or somebody you love in the future. Please don’t let unproven, pathogen harbouring coatings be used for protection of our fire rated duct work.

Please help educate our industry as we need to be mindful of technological changes, more modern materials and systems designed specifically to meet the cleanliness standards this country simply must impose on our hospitals.


About John Rakic

John is one of Australia’s experts in passive fire protection. He is a qualified Fire Safety Engineer and a qualified Mechanical Engineer. He has been responsible for introducing many innovative fire protection materials and practices into the Australian construction industry over the last 20 or more years.  He says: “We are never too old to learn and we must learn from our mistakes and the mistakes of others. World’s best practices need to be shared and just because we are isolated here in Australia somewhat, does not mean we should not have world’s best products and practices in passive fire protection. At Trafalgar Products, John continues to innovate and improve our built environment to bring world’s best practices to Australia in passive fire protection.

Fyrewrap is a new revolution in duct fire protection so insist on Fyrewrap lightweight fireproofing for your next project. For more information call Trafalgar on 1800 888 714 or visit