Fire safety regulations in NSW – How is your property faring under the new legislation?

22 March 2019

Properties in NSW are continuing to adjust to fire legislation changes introduced in late 2017 – with many reporting increases across capital expenditure and fire research & management to comply with the revised Annual Fire Safety Statement (AFSS).

CPS has a comprehensive understanding of AFSS compliance, from small industrial property types all the way through to multi tenanted, complex or lease hold properties.

To ensure a smooth transition following the fire legislation changes, Cerno Property Services (CPS) worked closely with Wormald (fire protection specialists) to effectively navigate the changes and manage the implications they have for buildings, property owners, clients and tenants. 

To recap, included below is a detailed outline of the changes.

On l October 2017, following changes to the Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation 2000, new regulations designed to improve fire safety in new and existing buildings came into effect.  The regulations specify how building owners get their fire safety statements undertaken and by whom.

Fire safety – a building owners’ responsibility
For owners of commercial buildings, the management and maintenance of a building’s fire safety systems is critical.

In New South Wales, the fire safety systems installed in a building are called Essential Fire Safety Measures. These ensure the life safety of occupants in the event of an emergency or fire and typically include installations, equipment or forms of construction such as:

  • Automatic fire detection and alarm systems
  • Automatic fire suppression systems, such as sprinkler systems
  • Emergency lighting and exit signs
  • Fire hose reels, fire hydrants and portable fire extinguishers
  • Fire doors and mechanical air-handling systems
  • Lightweight fire-resistant construction materials

Fire Safety Statements
Building owners must ensure all required fire safety measures are in place and in constant working order. This is documented on a fire safety statement.

The fire safety statement states that essential fire safety measures have been assessed and are capable of performing to the required standard. It also declares the building has been inspected and no fire exit breaches observed.

There are two types of fire safety statements - annual and supplementary. The annual fire safety statement is done each year and covers the maintenance of all essential fire safety measures in the building. The supplementary fire safety statement covers the maintenance of critical fire safety measures that must happen more frequently (e.g. every six months).

Fire safety statements must be submitted to the local council and Fire and Rescue NSW and prominently displayed within a building; failure to do so is an offence.

Issuing Fire Safety Statements – THEN
Previously, building owners could select ‘properly qualified persons’ to carry out assessments and inspections prior to the issuing of a fire safety statement.

The attributes of a ‘properly qualified person’ were not specified, leaving building owners to determine this on a case-by-case basis. If the necessary checks were not taken, owners may inadvertently select the services of someone not properly qualified. In this case, there would be no guarantee the owner was meeting their obligations under the regulations, potentially resulting in an unsafe building.

Issuing Fire Safety Statements – NOW
Building owners in NSW are now responsible for selectingcompetent fire safety practitioners’ to assess a building's essential fire safety measures and inspect for fire exit breaches before the owner can issue a fire safety statement. Where a range of fire safety measures serve a building, more than one competent fire safety practitioner may be needed.

Significantly, owners now also need to record their opinion regarding the competence of the selected person.

The NSW Government is currently developing an accreditation framework to recognise industry schemes that accredit individuals as competent fire safety practitioners. Once established, building owners will then have access to a register from which to select a competent fire safety practitioner.

Until then, building owners remain responsible for selecting competent fire safety practitioners.

New regulations, new paperwork
From 1 December 2017 owners have been required to issue a fire safety certificate or fire safety statement in a new form which includes details of the person issuing the statement, and the competent fire safety practitioner/s who endorsed it. The new form is available on the Department of Planning and Environment’s website.

Overall, we have welcomed the introduction of the accreditation scheme, as we believe this can greatly simplify the process of selecting competent fire safety practitioners for owners. Since the legislation has been rolled out, there has been some concerns raised about the additional capital expenditure required, and the time and resources needed for building owners to adequately boost fire research & management to a level able to comply with the revised AFSS.

As building owners we need to make sure we are adhering to the Government’s guidelines on selecting competent practitioners, irrespective of the incidental costs that may incur. This ensures buildings continue to be safe for all occupants and avoids falling foul of regulations. 

Cerno Property Services offers high-quality, customised and reliable property and facilities management services. For more details please contact Donovan Moodie on 0425 240 776 or visit our website