What do the NSW fire safety reforms mean in practice?
The New South Wales Government introduced a number of new fire safety regulations last year, through amendment to the Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation 2000 (NSW), which came into effect on 1 October 2017.
These reforms are some of the most important changes to the fire protection industry in decades, and have significant implications for building owners and developers, building certifiers and fire safety system designers.
A key aspect of the reforms is to recognise that only ‘competent’ individuals should perform certain tasks regarding fire safety, primarily in the design stage, but also in assessment of essential fire safety measure performance. Annual fire safety assessments must now be carried out by a ‘Competent Fire Safety Practitioner’ (CFSP), which is a term introduced under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Amendment (Fire Safety and Building Certification) Regulation 2017(NSW), and if the inspection is not performed properly, the building owner may be held liable.
The NSW Government is currently developing a CFSP accreditation scheme or schemes, however, until it does, it is up to building owners and certifiers to satisfy themselves who will act as their CFSP.
New templates for Fire Safety Statements and Fire Safety Certificates have also been introduced.
So, what do these changes mean in practice?
The new legislative changes are not related to the routine inspection and maintenance undertaken on your behalf by your incumbent fire protection company.
The new legislation for existing buildings now requires CFSPs to be involved in the completion of fire safety statements,which are submitted to Council and the Commissioner of Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW) by the building owner.
Fire safety statements are a record of maintenance of a building’s fire safety systems. There are two types: 1) The annual fire safety statement, which must be done once a year and cover the maintenance of all essential fire safety measures in the building; and 2) The supplementary fire safety statement, which covers the maintenance of critical fire safety measures that must be done more frequently (e.g. every six months).
Until the NSW Government recognises an accreditation scheme for CFSPs, the building owner is responsible for choosing their CFSPs to carry out inspection and performance review of all of the building fire life safety systems listed on the building’s occupancy certificate; more than one CFSP may need to be involved with different expertise to cover all the systems listed on the occupancy certificate. Building owners must provide a written opinion when lodging the fire safety statement to confirm that the CFSPs that are chosen are competent.
Annual Fire Safety Statements certify that:
- Each essential fire safety measure in the building has been assessed by a CFSP;
- Each essential fire safety measure in the building was found to be capable of performing to a standard no less than that to which the measure was originally or subsequently designed and implemented; and
- The CFSP has assessed all paths of travel to the exits including the exit doors, and advised of the status as per the Regulations, at the time of the inspection.
Building owners are now also required (since 1 December 2017) to use new standard forms developed by the NSW Government to submit their Annual and Supplementary Fire Safety Statements. The new Fire Safety Statement form, and further information, is available on the NSW Planning and Environment website.
Copies of the certified statement must also be sent to the Commissioner of Fire and Rescue NSWand to the local council, who are the regulatory authority. This is a requirement under clause 177 and clause 180 of the Regulations. The building owner must also provide a copy of the current fire safety schedule when lodging the fire safety statement with FRNSW. Both the fire safety statement and schedule should be emailed to email@example.com and must also be prominently displayed within the building.
For information on using the new form please contact NSW Planning and Environment, Building Code Advisory Service on (02) 9274 6529. Alternatively, you can contact your local council.
The NSW Government has a fact sheet for building owners on new fire safety requirements and a guide for building owners on selecting a competent fire safety practitioner, including an example form to document competence.
Under the reforms as part of the Construction Certificate approval, before installing, extending or modifying a “relevant fire safety system” (a hydraulic fire safety system, fire detection and alarm system and a mechanical ducted smoke control system), plans and specifications for the work must be confirmed in writing as being compliant to an approved design, and endorsed by a CFSP for submittal to the building certifier.
Until the NSW Government recognises an accreditation scheme for CFSPs, the building certifier is responsible for satisfying themselves with due diligence that their CFSP is competent, relevant to the “relevant fire safety system” they are certifying the design for the development.
Before issuing construction certificate approval, the certifying authority must check the submitted documentation from each CFSP is complete and accurate. Current copies of the endorsed plans and specifications are required to be kept on the construction site and made available for inspection on request by the certifying authority, the consent authority and FRNSW during the construction period. The principal contractor is responsible for making sure this occurs.
The plans and details for these works can be submitted with the application for the Construction Certificate (CC) or Complying Development Certificate (CDC), or afterwards, but must be submitted before the works commence. If submitted after the CDC/CC application has been determined, they must be submitted to the Principal Certifying Authority (PCA).
A competent fire safety practitioners guide for building certifiers, including an example form to document competence, a planning circular on the new and changed fire safety regulation requirements, and the new form for Interim/Final Fire Safety Certificateare available from the NSW Government.
Competent Fire Safety Practitioners (CFSP)
The amendment to the Regulations requires that a CFSP must endorse plans and specifications for the work before installing, extending or modifying a relevant fire safety system, and submit them to the certifying authority.
Until recognition under a NSW Government approved accreditation scheme, a CFSP should provide adequate documentation to building owners, developers and building certifiers to demonstrate they are competent. This should include evidence of knowledge, skills and experience and can be demonstrated with qualifications and through training.
Practitioners can also demonstrate competence by other means, including any relevant licences and accreditation or suitable professional membership that is bound by a code of conduct, in addition to extensive suitable experience.
The FPAA has an Interim Fire Safety Assessor Register, which connects building owners and industry looking for assistance with FPAA corporate members in New South Wales. Companies and individual practitioners on the register, including Wormald staff, have demonstrated/declared a specific set of requirements. For a list of Wormald CFSP’s please click here.
For practitioners conducting design work, the FPAA also has the Fire Systems Design class of accreditation.
Comprehensive information on how the reforms impact fire safety practitioners is also available in the FPAA’s NSW reforms FAQ.
For further information on AFSS visit www.wormald.com.au/afss.