Competent Fire Safety Practitioner NSW

Engineers Australia
Accreditation Scheme for Competent Fire Safety Practitioners

Engineers Australia’s Society of Building Services Engineers welcomes this scheme by Engineers Australia and looks forward to providing appropriate support.
Ian Childs NSW Chair Soc.Building Services Engineers.

A scheme for approval by Secretary of the Department of Finance Services and Innovation NSW Government

The Proposed Scheme

The scope of the proposed scheme is to be expressed in terms of functions, under the  NSW Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation (regulatory functions), to be performed by the competent fire safety practitioners that EA accredits under the scheme.  The range of regulatory functions, as proposed by NSW Fair Trading, is reproduced at Annex A.  The scheme can also state restrictions.  Restrictions can apply to the scheme as a whole or to individuals accredited under it.

The primary objective is to keep the scheme as simple as possible.

NER is to be the vehicle for the operation of the scheme.  However, it is proposed that the scheme be available only to members of Engineers Australia on NER to simplify rules and processes associated with professional conduct, complaints handling and disciplinary requirements.

In Annex A, NSW Fair Trading sets out four groups of regulatory functions to be covered by accreditation schemes.  No scheme is expected to apply universally to all functions.  Each proponent is expected to define which regulatory functions its scheme applies to and how accreditation is to be managed.  The proponent is to outline its evaluation of competence methodology and to specify the names and positions of personnel involved in the management and operation of the scheme.

Proposed accreditation

A new area of practice on NER, Competent Fire Safety Practitioner, could be added and taken to apply to any, or a combination of, the regulatory functions that are available under the EA accreditation scheme, when taken in conjunction with existing NER area(s) of practice.

For example, NER Fire Safety Engineer taken in conjunction with Competent Fire Safety Practitioner (CSFP) would qualify to endorse a fire safety alternative solution report under Clause 130 and 144A of the EP&A Regulation.  Assessment for the CFSP area of practice would be automatic, based on a declaration that the member was working in the building industry and familiar with the Building Code of Australia.

However, the scheme could provide for other regulatory functions to be carried out by NER Building Services Engineers, Electrical Engineers, Mechanical Engineers, Civil Engineers or Structural Engineers.

For example, an Electrical Engineer may wish to endorse plans and specifications for fire detection and alarm systems as a relevant fire safety system under Clause 136AA and 146B of the EP&A Regulation.  To provide such an endorsement, the NER Electrical Engineer would also require to be NER Competent Fire Safety Practitioner.  In this case also, assessment for the CFSP area of practice would be automatic, based on a declaration that the member was working in the building industry and familiar with the Building Code of Australia.

A Competent Fire Safety Practitioner may also endorse non-compliance with BCA standards for minor works to existing relevant fire safety systems under Clause 164B or EP&A Regulation.  Accreditation to perform this regulatory function must assess competence with the BCA and the Australian Standards it calls up as well as relevant fire safety systems.  Members seeking this accreditation are likely to be Professional Engineers, but may also be Engineering Technologists or Engineering Associates within the appropriate specialist sub-discipline or area of practice.

Application to all Occupational Categories

The scheme could quite reasonably be extended to include Engineering Technologists and Engineering Associates who are registered on NER.  Many Engineering Associates work in the plumbing design space that includes fire hydrant systems, fire hose reel systems and the like.  Engineering Associates and Engineering Technologists may also undertake assessment of the performance capability of existing essential fire safety measures (annual fire safety statement) for Division 5 of Part 9 of the EP&A Regulation.

Scoping the EA accreditation scheme

It is proposed to engage with the Society of Fire Safety Engineering and the Society of Building Services Engineering in order to ascertain which regulatory functions are typically performed by their members.  Also, suitable spokespeople from the various College Boards should be consulted about their members’ engagement in such regulatory functions.  The objective of this consultation will be to reduce the list of functions to those typically or potentially performed by our members and to identify the competence required for each function under EA’s proposed scheme.

The scheme will become extremely complex if EA chooses to include restrictions to practice.  The accreditation decision should be “the applicant is competent” or “not yet competent” to perform the regulatory function in question.  Differentiation on the basis of size and complexity of projects, such as in Clause 130 (5) of the EP&A Regulation is considered unwieldly and should be avoided in our scheme.

Accordingly, the major part of scoping the accreditation scheme will involve deciding:

  • Which NER Areas of Practice should be required to endorse plans and specifications for relevant fire safety systems in relation to functions under section 2) in Annex A; and
  • Which NER Areas of Practice should be required to undertake assessment of the performance capability of existing essential fire safety measures (annual fire safety statement) under section 4) of Annex A; and
  • The extent to which previous knowledge and application of the BCA requires to be assessed for accreditation purposes; and
  • The extent to which the accreditation scheme can apply to Engineering Associates and Engineering Technologists registered appropriately on NER.


Consultation along the proposed lines is a matter of urgency and should be conducted by e-mail and telephone during the next week or two at most.


Prepared by
Michael Bevan MA FIEAust CPEng NER
Engineers Australia’s Competency Advisor
22 February 2018



The following list of functions has been compiled by the NSW Department of Fair Trading.  The functions are required to operate the Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulations (EP&A Regulations) 2000 after the Environmental Planning and Assessment (Fire Safety and Building Certification) Regulation 2017 [NSW] commenced 1 Oct 2017.  Engineers Australia has been invited to submit an accreditation scheme under Clause 167A of the EP&A Regulation.

Functions that may be covered by the EA accreditation scheme include:

  1. Endorse a fire safety alternative solution report –
    (clause 130 and 144A of EP&A Regulation)
  2. Endorse plans and specifications for relevant fire safety systems –
    (clause 136AA and 146B of EP&A Regulation)

    1. A hydraulic fire safety system (as defined in clause 165 of EP&A Regulation):
      1. Fire hydrant system
      2. Fire hose reel system
  • Sprinkler system (including a wall wetting sprinkler or drencher system)
  1. Any type of automatic fire suppression system of a hydraulic nature that is installed in accordance with a requirement of, or under, the Act or any other Act or law
    (EA must specify which systems are covered)
  1. A fire detection and alarm system
    (EA must specify which systems are covered)
  2. A mechanical ducted smoke control system
    (EA must specify which systems are covered)
  1. Endorse non-compliance with Building Code of Australia standards for minor works to existing relevant fire safety systems –
    (clause 164B of EP&A Regulation)
  2. Undertake assessment of the performance capability of existing essential fire safety measures (annual fire safety statement)
    (Division 5 of Part 9 of EP&A Regulation)

    1. Access panels, doors and hoppers to fire-resisting shafts
    2. Automatic fail-safe devices
    3. Automatic fire detection and alarm systems
    4. Automatic fire suppression systems
    5. Emergency lifts
    6. Emergency lighting
    7. Emergency warning and intercommunication systems
    8. Exit signs
    9. Fire control centres and rooms
    10. Fire dampers
    11. Fire doors
    12. Fire hose reel systems
    13. Fire hydrant systems
    14. Fire seals protecting openings in fire-resisting components of the building
    15. Fire shutters
    16. Fire windows
    17. Lightweight construction
    18. Mechanical air handling systems
    19. Perimeter vehicle access for emergency vehicles
    20. Portable fire extinguishers
    21. Safety curtains in proscenium openings
    22. Smoke alarms and heat alarms
    23. Smoke and heat vents
    24. Smoke dampers
    25. Smoke detectors and heat detectors
    26. Smoke doors
    27. Solid core doors
    28. Standby power systems
    29. Wall-wetting sprinkler and drencher systems
    30. Warning and operational signs

Other – Please list:


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Prescriptive format of AFSS & problems

Sent to NSW Planning,

As part of our consultancy business conducting independent fire safety assessments based upon AS4655 We’ve just had a couple of AFSS submissions knocked back by City of Sydney Building Compliance under the regulatory changes for submissions from 1 December 2017, because we did not complete the AFSS form exactly as required (as we didn’t have the owners signature on the form as required in Sect.9).

So I’m making this representation as a representation of our membership and for the sake of others similarly afflicted by your form as we have identified that the prescriptive nature of this form is also impacting upon members of various other associations such as the Property Council of Australia, Institute of Strata Title Management, etc.

Firstly – We’re quite ok with sections 1 to 5 (Type of Statement, Building address, building description, owner & owner’s address, schedule of fire safety measures detailing measure, date assessed, nominated assessor, and minimum performance requirement)

Whilst Section 6 (details of each competent fire safety practitioner/assessor) is partially ok in that CFSP’s are identified, we would be knocked back for the lack of signature (even though we can produce separate supporting service records and / or reports signed by these CFSP assessors – can you remove this mandatory requirement for signatureswe suggest that the CFSP simply be initialled on the AFSS in Sect.5 and named in Sect. 6 but that a referenced document and having the name, contact number, email and signature be acceptable – this would allow CFSP assessors checking a portfolio of buildings to use this one document as a point of reference.

We also approve of the competency matrix example published by NSW Planning and suggest that such a competency matrix would be completed by anyone claiming to be a CFSP, and this be provided to the AFSS Issuer with or as the CFSP signed document.

 If the submitter of the AFSS are required to obtain the signatures on each AFSS and for each CFSP conducting performance tests, as well as the requirement to have the building owner provide signed authorisation on every AFSS form, this shall blow the AFSS preparation costs way out without any enhancement of a delivered complying and performing building.

We’re so far ok with Section 7 (signed AFSS Declaration by issuer) and ask if, on an AFSS (not supplementary), Section 8 be deleted or simply have n/a rather than including the full text as on the form.

Section 9 (owner’s authorisation) is a real problem as regulators such as City of Sydney will not currently accept any attached authorisation letter, stating that Planning’s Form requires each AFSS to have the owner signed authorisation.

We suggest that such a referenced letter should be deemed acceptable and that such a letter nominate:

  • detail the Building owner details to include: building or for a portfolio of buildings (such as City of Sydney owned Property Portfolio),
  • Entity (Building Owner) Name, entity representative, entity representative title,
  • declaration that the entity representative is duly authorised to make this authorisation,
  • the ABN of the entity if applicable, the contact mailing address of the entity, the contact phone number of the entity representative, the email address for the entity,
  • the agent subject to the authorisation, the ABN of the agent, the representative of the agent,
  • the expiry date for the agency agreement whence the authorisation becomes void unless replaced by a new authorisation letter, the signature of the entity representative and date of the authorisation.

We also see Section 11 as a duplication of Section 5. The Regulator (Council) already have a copy of the Fire Safety Schedule of record for the building and usually issue this with their 90-day reminder letters. We simply see no real purpose in requiring as demanded by the AFSS form a separate copy of the FSS as part of the AFSS when Section 5 clearly replicates that same schedule.

Another alternative would be to remove the prescriptive requirements for some of the form content such as is the case with EP&AR2000 cl.181

Note that EPAAR2017 ref to this clause (181) requires the change: A fire safety statement for a building or part of a building must “be made in the form approved by the Secretary and must” contain the following information:

  1. the name and address of the owner of the building or part,
  2. a description of the building or part (including its address)
  3. a list identifying:
    1. each essential fire safety measure in the building or part(for an annual statement),
    2. each critical fire safety measure in the building or part (for a supplementary statement),

together with the minimum standard of performance specified in the relevant fire safety schedule in relation to each such measure,

  1. the date or dates on which the essential fire safety measures were assessed,
  2. The date on which the building or part was inspected,
  3. The type of statement issued (Annual/Supplementary),
  4. A statement to the effect referred to in cl.175 for an Annual or cl.178 for a Supplementary
  5. The date of issue of the statement.

So the real trigger for all of this angst is that we may now only use that PRESCRIPTIVE form as approved by the Secretary for submission after 1st December and all other forms of the AFSS conforming to EP&AR2000 cl.181 such as those previously developed and which were previously in a format approved by the Secretary are now deemed as voided.

Please call with any queries.


Ian Childs | NSW Chair – Society, Building Services Engineers |
Member – Engineers Australia Learned Society Advisory Council

Representative – Standards Australia, Technical Committee ME/62 |


The response received by NSW Planning was that they would give consideration to amendments at a future review.
Most NSW Councils acting as the Planning Regulator’s Agent have recognised the difficulties and are allowing copy of a signed register of incumbent CFSP’s accompanying and referenced the statement, as well as a copy of the letter of authority from the schedule one owner – also referenced in the statement and following the format (but not necessarily the actual form) of the new planning form (Sectional layout and Sectional numbering/ content).
We know of one council (Katoomba) who insists that only the “Form” from Planning can be used.

So still a lot of confusion, misdirection and misinterpretation by these regulators.
The intent of the format of the form was to provide consistency and accountability by the CFSP’s – we agree this is a good thing, but that this NEEDS to be simplified.

So what is a Competent Fire Safety Practitioner (CFSP)?
This is the person who has verified, tested, etc. that the performance of that particular fire safety measure as identified on the fire safety schedule, does in fact meet or exceed the performance specified in that fire safety schedule as defined in EP&AR2000 cl.176(3).

A new clause has been added (CL.167a) regarding recognition of what a competent person shall be and this includes:

  • Those registered with the Building Professionals Board, and
  • a person who has undergone particular training or assessment carried out by a specified professional or industry organisation.

Once these professional/industry schemes are recognised by Government, these individuals can act as CFSP’s for the specific skills that they have been accredited with.

Note that there has always been a requirement to be competent, however, such competency is now being scrutinised and verified.

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Are older buildings really safe (Fire Dampers & Duct Breakaway)

In Australia once a building is built, there is little requirement for retrospective upgrading (except when major work mandates upgrade using the 50% refurbishment within a 3-year period rule, whereupon it is required to update to those code requirements or equivalent at that time – though many do whatever is possible to avoid this and most goes unnoticed).

We have observed that many hi-rise building with HVAC installations pre-dating AS1682.1&2-1990 are without appropriate breakaway on the ductwork.

Why is the breakaway requirement so important?

  • > Because if there is a fire, there is every likelyhood that the duct shall collapse and this shall result in the duct without breakaway pulling the fire damper from the wall as well as that action leading to partial wall collapse.
  • > If there was breakaway, the duct would collapse but the fire damper would be retained within the firewall and provide the required protection.

It is my personal belief that whenever there is the opportunity (vacant possession, refurbishment, etc.), that every opportunity is made to update these systems in that accessible part of older buildings to reflect current performance requirements (or deemed equivalent).ImageIt should also be recognised that those maintaining and assessing these systems are referencing them back to the performance standards associated with their installation (operational check) and this means that the assessment reporting fails to identify non-conformance to what is current “minimum best practice“.

It has also been observed that inappropriate practices by other trades are not being reported by service technicians/ maintainers and this degrades the performance from that of the original installation (cables and pipes adjacent to duct penetrations of firewalls, etc).

It needs to be known that the assessors are actually obliged to endorse performance based entirely upon the standard of installation and such a process while conforming to the legislative requirements (and covering the assessor from liability), still leave a residual risk until that building is fully upgraded.
The building owner/building controller, remain as the responsible entity for the safety of those in occupation and should give consideration to management of those risks as well as any risks introduced by those occupants.

Building owners require that any new works reflect current requirements but are under no obligation to elevate the base building.


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AS1851-2012 Service & Repair of Essential Services in Buildings – finally published


Ok – so it’s only some 5 months latter than expectations. It’s still great to see this standard finally appear.

AS1851 provides a task schedule and scope to those who service and repair essential services measures in buildings (except those which for some idiotic reason weren’t included).

It clearly defines the requirements and expectations required of the building owner (base building data, alternate solution documentation, tactical plans and procedures) as well as the how and when to service.

The essential services measures which were inappropriately excluded were: Emergency Lifts, Emergency Lighting & Exit Signs, and Standby Power Systems. Hopefully the next review can see these included.

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Some things we do

Contact us at if you see where we could be of use to your team.Image

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Premises Access

In Australia, we have had legislation put in place since May 2011 requiring access for those with impairments into buildings where they shall enjoy not less than that same level of access provided to the unimpaired.

Any new or refurbishment of the whole or any part of a public accessed building must provide satisfactory access from public space (street) through the entry and to the new work area as well as throughout that new work area.

Exemptions are available where it can be established that the provision of such access would cause and these is evidence to support undue hardship for the stakeholder/s.

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Legionella can be controlled

Forced draft counterflow cooling tower

In Australia, we’ve completed our review of the Australian Standard for microbial control in cooling water systems and HVAC including a new part for performance based maintenance on air-handling plant.

To assist in this, we at NDIBS have developed a presentation talk to briefly explain the history and readily identify observable failings in systems as well as some of the more advanced methods that we use to mitigate such risks and elevate plant efficiency.

The talks are currently freely available to our current and prior customer base with presentation at the customer’s premises. We will also consider offering the same to others where practicable.

Anyone interested should contact us at

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