‘Wood has been my life’
Richard Kowalski is technical manager for doors at Stairways Midlands. What he doesn’t know about fire door safety isn’t worth knowing. He breathes, eats and sleeps doors (“yes, I do wake up in the night sometimes with ideas.”) But what else do you know about him?
Richard, aged 42, has been married for 10 years (but together with his wife for 22) and has two children, aged 10 and four. He is a Fire Door Alliance committee member and a registered member of the Guild of Architectural Ironmongers
A native of the Derbyshire/Nottinghamshire borders, he still lives close to where he grew up. From an early age, he knew he enjoyed the more practical pursuits and, initially, sought a career as a bricklayer – but fate intervened. As there were no bricklayer apprenticeships at the time, he took one as a carpenter and joiner, and has never looked back.
Richard secured an NVQ in carpentry and joinery and, during his apprenticeship, spent a year fitting kitchens, then a year repairing caravans!
After joining a leading fire door company he occupied various roles, including bench joiner for six years, then in the technical department for four years and went on to work on such prestigious projects as Manchester Hospital, Hope Hospital and BBC’s Media City, in Salford.
After moving to another company, again specialising in fire doors but, this time, metal ones, Richard worked on the Tottenham Court road Tube Station refit, then moved to a similar firm when the recession hit. After two years there, he was sitting at Edinburgh Airport after completing a CPD course when he got a call enquiring whether he would be interested in joining Stairways Midlands.
Richard remembers: “When I joined Stairways in 2018, I set about putting in place robust processes to support the good work they were doing on door sets and fire door safety. I love creating rules and drawings and processes, so it suited me perfectly.
“Perhaps one of the most challenging parts of the role is explaining fire door certification terminology to customers. Often it is apparent they are not clear what they are asking for. However, my approach is always to try and teach our customers about certification when assisting in answering their questions.
“The biggest thing, I think, that could help the sector is builders switching completely to door sets rather than using traditionally hung doors. It helps fitting, it helps integrity and it helps fire safety.
“Also, what we could really do with is an accredited fire door fitter scheme, like the Gas Safe (formerly CORGI) scheme for gas fitters. It can seem a bit like the Wild West out there sometimes for door sets and fire door fitters. There are many different accreditation schemes and many different skill levels among fitters. Having just one universal scheme would help drive the industry forward.”
Outside of work, Richard still likes to keep his core skills honed. With a shed full of woodworking tools, makes sure he keeps on top of the DIY jobs at home.
Spending time with his family is the top priority though and, particularly during the recent restrictions, taking walks with his wife and children is a welcome break from the day job.
Not a massive fan of sports, where he does compete is on the computer. He is an avid fan of PC gaming, with an impressive set-up at home, spending a lot of time online in virtual worlds and is part of a clan in World of Warships.
So now you know!
You can contact Richard on 07887 821329 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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