Fire and building safety
There are several main factors concerning building safety that need to be considered when planning to build.
Fire Safety Certificate and Annual Fire Safety Statement
All Class 2 to Class 9 buildings, which are subject to a building approval, construction certificate, complying development certificate, a fire safety notice or order by the Council, after 1 July 1998 need to have a Fire Safety Certificate and an Annual Fire Safety Statement. The statement does not apply to a single dwelling, villa, town house, garage or shed (Class 1 or 10 buildings)
The Department of Planning, Industry and Environment has advised that a new template form for annual fire safety statements is now available. The form must be used from Monday 1 March 2021. Access the form and guidance material on the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment’s website.
Buildings these requirements apply to include:
- Residential flat buildings
- Some dual occupancies.
- Townhouse developments.
- Shops and restaurants.
- Office buildings.
- Public assembly buildings.
- Nursing homes.
- Industrial buildings and warehouses.
- Places of shared accommodation.
- Places of public entertainment.
The Fire Safety Certificate is required to be submitted to Council for applicable new buildings or completed works, before occupancy. This ruling comes under the provisions of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation 2000.
New buildings will have a Fire Safety Schedule issued with the construction certificate. The Fire Safety Schedule will list the essential fire safety measures that must be installed in the building or on the land and the Standards to which they must be installed. A Fire Safety Certificate must be issued prior to the occupation of a building.
Existing buildings may not currently be subject to these requirements. However, many of these buildings will be subject to development consent, construction certificate or fire safety order in the future which may include these requirements.
Every twelve months after the Fire Safety Certificate is issued, an Annual Fire Safety Statement must be prepared by the building owner or manager and forwarded to Council. The Annual Fire Safety Statement must certify that a properly qualified person has inspected the building, assessed the fire safety measures, and found that the measure is capable of performing to the relevant standard.
A copy of the Fire Safety Certificate and Annual Fire Safety Statement must be displayed in the building, in a conspicuous position. A copy is also required to be forwarded to Fire and Rescue NSW.
Fire safety measures
The types of fire safety measures that may need to be installed include:
- Automatic sprinkler systems.
- Emergency lighting
- Exit signs.
- Exit systems and paths of travel to exits.
- Fire doors.
- Fire drenchers.
- Fire extinguishers.
- Fire hose reels.
- Fire hydrants.
- Smoke detection and alarm systems.
- Smoke exhaust systems.
- Solid-core doors.
Fire Safety Schedule
Upon approval of a development for Class 2-9 buildings (as defined under the Building Code of Australia) a Fire Safety Schedule is issued, generally with the Construction Certificate.
The Fire Safety Schedule lists all the essential fire safety measures that are currently installed or need to be installed in the building as well as the performance standard to which each of those measures must be capable of operating.
A Fire Safety Schedule can be issued with a development consent, construction certificate or complying development certificate. A Fire Safety Schedule may also be issued if Council conducts a fire safety audit of the premises. In some cases, existing buildings may already have a Fire Safety Schedule issued with a building application prior to 1997.
Who is responsible for fire certification?
The owner(s) of a building having a fire safety schedule is required to provide a Annual Fire Safety Statement (AFSS) to both MidCoast Council and to the Commissioner of Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW). Owners or managers must employ the services of an Accredited Practitioner Fire Safety (APFS) previously known as a Competent Fire Safety Practitioner to arrange for all fire safety measures to be inspected.
The building owner(s) or their manager must:
- be engaged in the fire safety statement process, as they are ultimately responsible for the legitimacy of the statement;
- engage an Accredited Practitioner Fire Safety (APFS) who is accredited in Fire Safety Assessment (FSA) and appropriately qualified to undertake assessment of each fire safety measure (Part 9 Division 5 of the EP&A Reg.) servicing the building. A list of APFS is available on the FPA Australia website https://connect.fpaa.com.au/FireSafetyAssessor. Once you have found an accredited practitioner you will also need to check that the APFS is also accredited to sign off on the specific fire safety measure(s) listed in the Annual Fire Safety Statement. To do this click on the details icon then click on the arrow to the left of the Fire Safety Assessor. If the person is not accredited for the specific fire safety measure you cannot use that person to certify that measure. For example, an APFS may only be accredited to certify portable extinguishers and therefore they cannot be used to assess any other fire safety measures listed in the AFSS;
- ensure all fire safety measures are maintained, in accordance with clause 182 of the EP&A Reg;
- declare that each fire safety measure has been assessed by an appropriately qualified APFS, then issue the annual fire safety statement accordingly.
The owner of the building must also ensure that:
- The Annual Fire Safety Statement together with a copy of the current Fire Safety Schedule is sent to Fire and Rescue NSW;
- A copy of the Annual Fire Safety Statement and Fire Safety Schedule is prominently displayed in the building.
Building owners or managers need to be aware of the date on which the Fire Safety Statement must be submitted to Council, to make necessary arrangements for the fire safety measures to be inspected and certified prior to the due date. Council sends out a request for the AFSS three months prior to the date it is due to be submitted.
In the case of residential flat buildings or other strata buildings, the owners' corporation is advised to make prior arrangements, including the allocation of funds, for a Competent Fire Safety Practitioner (CFSP) to inspect the premises and to provide the required certification and fee upon the due date annually.
Failure to comply with fire safety requirements is an offence and Council may issue a penalty infringement notice (on the spot fine) if the fire safety measure(s) are not fully maintained or if the Annual Fire Safety Statement submission requirements are not complied with. Council may also serve a Fire Safety Notice and an Order requiring compliance with these fire safety requirements.
The relevant provisions regarding Fire Safety Certificates and Statements can be found in Part 9 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation 2000.
Further information is available on the NSW Fair Trading website https://www.fairtrading.nsw.gov.au/ - search fire safety practitioners.
Legislation now requires all NSW residents to have at least one working smoke alarm installed on each level of their home. This includes owner occupied, rental properties, relocatable homes or any other residential building where people sleep.
About 144 people have died in house fires in NSW in the past five years. Research shows that 60 per cent of these fires happen during sleeping hours.
Advice about the type, location and number of smoke alarms that need to be fitted can be obtained by visiting the NSW Department of Planning website.