What are Essential Services?

What are Fire Safety Measures?

Any measure (including any item of equipment, form of construction or fire safety strategy) that is, or is proposed to be, implemented in a building to ensure the safety of persons using the building in the event of fire is deemed by the Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulations to be a fire safety measure.

Which buildings are required to have fire safety measures installed?

Generally, all buildings other than private single dwellings (Class 1a) and sheds and garages (Class 10a) are required to have some fire safety measures installed. Some common fire safety measures included in commercial, industrial, multi-unit residential and public buildings are:

  • Automatic fire detection and alarm systems
  • Automatic fire suppression systems
  • Emergency lighting
  • Exit signs
  • Fire doors
  • Fire hose reel systems
  • Fire hydrant systems
  • Portable fire extinguishers
  • Smoke Alarms
  • Smoke and heat vents
  • Solid core doors
  • Wall-wetting sprinkler and drencher systems.

Although they are required by the Building Code of Australia, smoke alarms within Class 1a buildings are not deemed to be fire safety measures for the purpose of fire safety certificates.

What are essential fire safety measures?

Essential fire safety measures are any fire safety measures that are contained in a fire safety schedule for a building, or listed as Essential Services in an approval or order previously issued or given in relation to the building.

What is a fire safety schedule?

When approval is given for a change of building use, or a Construction Certificate is issued for a new building or proposed building work on an existing building, or a fire safety order is given in relation to a building, then a schedule specifying the essential fire safety measures that are to be implemented in the building are attached to the approval, certificate or order.

A fire safety schedule must deal with the whole of the building, not merely the part of the building to which the Development Consent, Complying Development Certificate, Construction Certificate or Fire Safety Order relates, and must include the essential fire safety measures currently implemented in the building, and those proposed to be implemented.

A fire safety schedule must also specify the minimum standard of performance for each essential fire safety measure. This is usually done by a reference to an Australian Standard that applies to the installation of the measure (e.g. AS 2444 for fire hose reels).

Who determines which fire safety measures are included in the fire safety schedule?

An assessment of the fire safety requirements for a building is undertaken as part of the development and building approval process. Various fire safety measures must be installed in order for a building to comply with the Building Code of Australia and relevant Australian Standards.

Council or an Accredited Private Certifier may issue a Complying Development Certificate for a change of building use or alterations and additions to an existing building.  Council or an Accredited Private Certifier may also issue a Construction Certificate for a new building. When issuing these certificates, a fire safety schedule is to be attached.

Only Council can issue a Development Application or a Fire Safety Order which may include an associated fire safety schedule.

What is a fire safety certificate?

Where building work has been carried out or a change of use has occurred that has one of the above approvals issued, the Principal Certifying Authority (Council or the Accredited Private Certifier) must not issue an Occupation Certificate to allow the building or part of the building to be used unless they have received a fire safety certificate from the owner of the building.

A fire safety certificate is a certificate issued by or on behalf of the owner of a building to certify that the essential fire safety measures have been installed to the appropriate standard as specified in the fire safety schedule for the building. It is done at the completion of the installation of the fire safety measures.

What is an annual fire safety statement?

This is very similar to a fire safety certificate except that an annual fire safety statement deals with the ongoing maintenance of the essential fire safety measures rather than the installation of them.

The annual fire safety statement is a statement issued by or on behalf of the owner of a building to the effect that each essential fire safety measure specified in the statement has been assessed by a properly qualified person and was found, when it was assessed, to be capable of performing to the standard as specified in these fire safety schedule. The standard for maintenance is usually a reference to an Australian Standard for maintenance of the item (e.g. AS 1851).

An annual fire safety statement must contain the following information:

  • the name and address of the owner of the building or part
  • a description of the building or part (including its address)
  • a list identifying each essential fire safety measure in the building or part
  • the minimum standard of performance in relation to each such measure
  • the date or dates on which the essential fire safety measures were assessed
  • the date on which the building or part was inspected
  • the type of statement being issued (i.e. that is, an annual fire safety statement)
  • a statement to the effect referred to in clause 175 of the Regulations, and
  • the date on which the statement is issued.

It is also important to note that the essential fire safety measures are to be tested no more than 3 months prior to the date of the statement and the person that assesses the fire safety measures cannot sign the annual fire safety statement.

This means that service providers that carry out maintenance work on fire safety measures cannot sign the annual fire safety statement. A test certificate from a maintenance service provider that services the equipment is not an annual fire safety statement.

What are my obligations in relation to annual fire safety statements?

As required by the Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation, each year, the owner of a building that has essential fire safety measure installed must provide Council with an annual fire safety statement for the building. A copy of the statement including the current fire safety schedule must also to be given to the Fire Commissioner and a further copy of the statement and schedule is to be prominently displayed in the building.

To assist property owners in meeting the above obligations and ensure the expectations of the community are met with regard to fire safety, Council operates a fee for service Fire Safety Program that includes:

  • a reminder notice two to three months prior to the statement becoming due;
  • the provision of a pro-forma statement for completion and return that fulfils the requirements of the Regulation; and
  • forwarding of the returned statement to the NSW Fire Commissioner.

If an owner or their agent chooses not to use Council’s reminder service, they will not receive any reminder notice or pro-forma statement to complete. They are still required to submit a compliant annual fire safety statement to Council and also forward a copy to the NSW Fire Commissioner within the required timeframe and display a further copy in the building.

What happens if I do not provide an annual fire safety statement on time?

Fire safety within commercial, industrial, multi-unit residential and public buildings is a serious matter and this is reflected in the severity of the legislated penalties for non-compliance.

In order to achieve an acceptable level of compliance, Council will enforce the requirements under Clause 177 of the Regulation to provide statements within 12 months after the date on which a statement was previously given.

Failure to provide a statement within the prescribed 12 month period constitutes an offence whereby a Penalty Infringement Notice (PIN) can be issued without any warning. Currently, the value of this PIN is $1,000. Additional PIN’s of up to $2000 per week may also be issued for continued failure to provide a statement.

Who is responsible for rented or leased properties?

Owners cannot contract out of their responsibility to provide annual fire safety statements.

If an owner has appointed an agent to manage the submission of their annual fire safety statements, it is still the owner’s responsibility to ensure a statement is provided. The agent also has a responsibility to fulfil their obligations to the owner. Should an annual statement not be provided on time, the PIN will be issued to the owner of the property.

How to avoid the issue of a Penalty Infringement Notice

  1. Have all of the essential fire safety measures that are installed in the building tested within three months prior to the expiry date of the current statement;
  2. Ensure that a fully completed annual fire safety statement that meets the requirements of the Regulation is submitted on time;
  3. If any work is required to be carried out on the subject property that is likely to delay the ability to provide the annual fire safety statement on time, advise Council in writing prior to the due date requesting an extension of time and stating the reason for the delay and an anticipated date by which a statement will be provided.
  4. Advise Council in writing of any changes to the property and/or agent’s details or if you wish to subscribe, or unsubscribe, to Council’s reminder service.
  5. Should you wish to use Council’s reminder service for the forthcoming year, payment of the annual fee is required to be made to Council.

Further enquiries 

Development and Environmental Health Group, Building Services Section, ph 02 6686 1415.

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