Essential fire safety measures are installations in a building that assist in reducing risk to life and property in the event of an emergency. They include equipment and protective devices such as fire hose reels and fire doors. The following is a list of essential fire safety measures:

  • Access panels, doors and hoppers to fire-resisting shafts
  • Automatic fail-safe devices
  • Automatic fire detection and alarm systems
  • Automatic fire suppression systems
  • Emergency lighting
  • Emergency lifts
  • Emergency warning & intercommunication systems
  • Exit signs
  • Fire control centres and rooms
  • Fire dampers
  • Fire doors
  • Fire hydrant systems
  • Fire seals protecting openings in fire-resisting components of the building
  • Fire shutters
  • Fire windows
  • Hose reel systems
  • Lightweight construction
  • Mechanical air handling systems
  • Perimeter vehicle access for emergency vehicles
  • Portable fire extinguishers
  • Safety curtains in proscenium openings
  • Smoke and heat vents
  • Smoke dampers
  • Smoke and heat detectors
  • Smoke doors
  • Solid core doors
  • Standby power systems
  • Wall-wetting sprinkler and drencher systems
  • Warning and operational signs
  1. Who determines which essential fire safety measures are required?

Generally, essential measures are installed as required by Regulations that accredited building certifiers or Council enforce. There may be some measures, however, where other items of equipment or forms of construction not listed above can be included for the purpose of ensuring the safety of persons in a building in the event of fire.

  1. In what circumstances is the installation of essential fire safety measures required?

Essential fire safety measures are installed in the following instances:

(a) Building Work

In certain instances, a Construction Certificate or Complying Development Certificate may be issued with a Fire Safety Schedule. The Schedule must include the current and proposed fire safety measures to be implemented.

  • Change of Use of a building (e.g. from an office to a factory)

Where the use of a building is changed, the safety of persons to be accommodated in the building must be safeguarded. In considering the change of use, the essential fire safety measures to be installed must be identified.

  • Fire Safety Orders

The regulator (Council) may, at any time, assess the state of an existing building and if it is considered necessary, order the owner to carry out upgrading works. These works may include the installation of essential fire safety measures.

  1. Am I, as the owner of the building, required to do anything?
  • For existing buildings
  • If there are essential fire safety measures installed in your building, and you intend to-
  • carry out building work; or change the use of the building for which approval is required; or
  • have been issued with a Fire Safety Order,

you will be required to engage a competent fire safety practitioner [CFSP] to check the design standards to which those measures were installed. After this, a Fire Safety Certificate is to be completed, signed by you or your agent, and forwarded to Council. When an approval is issued by an accredited certifier or Council, the existing and any additional measures required will be included in the Fire Safety Schedule, together with installation design standards.

(b) For new buildings (to be constructed)

If you intend to construct a new building, approval is required. The approval must have a fire safety schedule attached where fire safety measures are required. The fire safety schedule will nominate those essential fire safety measures and the Australian and/or other Standards to which they must be designed by CFSP accredited with design and all such measures must be installed by installers that satisfy the requirements for Competent Fire Safety Practitioners (CFSP*).

(c) Certificates

Before the Principal Certifying Authority can issue an Occupation Certificate for the building, the owner or agent must issue a Fire Safety Certificate stating that the services have been inspected and performance tested by a competent fire safety practitioner and installed to and satisfy the performance required of the relevant Standards.

Once the Fire Safety Certificate is issued, a copy must be forwarded to Council. For this Fire Safety Certificate, a copy of the certificate and the current fire safety schedule must also be forwarded to the NSW Fire & Rescue, and another copy prominently displayed in the building.

Unless a critical fire safety measure has been identified, on or by the annual anniversary following the Fire Safety Certificate being issued, an Annual Fire Safety Statement must be prepared and forwarded to Council. A critical fire safety measure is a measure that is of a nature or is located in an environment or circumstances that requires certification at periods of less than 12 months. The critical measures are identified in the Fire Safety Schedule and the intervals at which Supplementary Fire Safety Statements are required (are also nominated in the Schedule). The Annual and Supplementary Fire Safety Statements must certify that a competent fire safety practitioner (CFSP assessor accreditation number) has inspected these measures and the building, finding that

  • that measure is capable of performing to the referenced Standard (this may mean a different CFSP for each measure or if they have the relevant skillset – all measures)
  • The owner of the building must forward copies of the Certificate or Statement and the current fire safety schedule to the NSW Fire & Rescue, and also prominently display them in the isolated exits and doors have appropriate signs on display, and
  • fire exit paths are not impeded or obstructed.

The fire safety certificates and annual fire safety statements can only be signed by the owner or his agent and not by any of the “CFSP” person or persons who conducted any of the assessments.

  1. As the owner of the building, what are my legal responsibilities with respect to essential services?

It is an offence to make a false statement, to fail to submit the certificates within the prescribed time, or to fail to maintain essential fire safety measures. You may be liable under common law if you-

  • do not ensure that the persons that you rely on for inspecting the services are acting within their level of competency, or
  • fail to maintain the essential fire safety measures and it can be shown that this had led to an injury, death or loss.
  1. What about my other legal responsibilities with which NDIBS can assist?

The building owner is responsible for the environment of the occupants and their guests (under WH&S) a number of Acts and regulations prescribe these for most buildings, including:

  • the Public Health Act (maintenance of air handling equipment)
  • the Clean Water Act. (pollution of storm water)
  • the Disability Discrimination Act (access and awareness), and of course
  • the Commonwealth Work Health & Safety Act & Regulations.
  1. Who qualifies the CFSP?
  • Until June 31st 2020 the building owner is deemed responsible in NSW for selection of the CFSP to assess their building but the prudent thing to do is to check the FPAA register of assessors and ensure that they are accredited for your measures.
  • From July 1st 2020, all submissions of AFSS’to regulators in NSW must have been endorsed by a CFSP accredited as an assessor (inspect & test accreditation is unacceptable) who must physically visits each facility to make the assessment.
    At present, assessors only path to accreditation for any measure, is via the FPAS training scheme administered by FPAA.

Who can I contact for assistance?

If you have any queries regarding the matters raised in this Information Sheet, contact NDIBS’ Ian Childs on (02) 9594 4477 / 1300-AS4655[1] or[2]

Revised 20th March 2020

[1] AS4655 is the Australian Standard for the Audit of Fire Safety Systems in Buildings – Our phone number is therefore 1300-274655.

[2] NDIBS have been providing Building Services & Compliance advice to Building Owners & their Managing Agents since 1998

About ndibs

Officially a senior citizen. Husband, Father & Grandfather.
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