Body Corporate Committees – Your Fire Safety Maintenance Obligations?

The Building Code of Australia sets out the definitions of the different classes of buildings. Bodies corporate must ensure the following compliance requirements are met as per the Building Fire Safety Regulation 2008 and Queensland Development Code, MP6.1.

  • All fire safety installations must be tested and maintained

In Queensland, a fire safety installation is the term given to fire safety measures and includes:

  • Structure features such as fire windows, fire doors, dampers
  • Fire protection systems such as sprinklers, and stairwell pressurisation systems
  • Firefighting equipment such as fire extinguishers, hydrants, and reels
  • Occupant safety features such as fire signage, emergency lighting and vehicle access

All bodies corporate (the occupier) must ensure all fire safety installations are maintained as per AS 1851/2012 and Queensland Development Code, MP6.1.

The Building Fire Safety Regulation 2008 sets out the penalties for non-compliance with the code – up to 30 penalty units.

In the event of a fire your building’s Fire Safety Installations must be capable of operating to performance standards.

When performing routine maintenance for prescribed fire safety installations, Strata Umbrella are often met lots of questions from what the fire safety installations are, and how often these need to be maintained in buildings.

As a body corporate committee, it is vital to know what  your building prescribed Fire Safety Installations are and understand and carry out your obligation to maintain them.

Prevention through quality services is a better alternative to the risk of serious damage and loss of life if there is a fire incident.

Below we answer some of the most common questions we got from strata committees on Routine Maintenance of Fire Safety Installations and how to avoid defects at your premises.

Routine Maintenance

Prescribed Fire Safety Installations need to be maintained and inspected regularly.

Having regular routine maintenance checks carried out will ensure your fore safety equipment is reliable, safe to use and less likely to require expensive repairs down the track.

Routine Maintenance is made up of such items:

  • Exit signage
  • Emergency Lighting
  • Fire Extinguishers
  • Fire Hose Reels
  • Fire Hydrants
  • Fire Indicator Panels
  • Smoke Alarms

These prescribed Fire Safety Installations must be kept in accordance with the Queensland Development Code, MP6.1 by a qualified technician and a company with both holding a QBCC Licence.

Who is responsible to ensure that my property is compliant?

The body corporate (the occupiers as collective owners of the property) has a legal obligation to ensure the safety of any person in the building in the event of a fire or other emergency.

Am I allowed to alter my Fire Door?

No, you are best to seek advice from you’re Fire Safety Contractor.

Do we have to keep records/document of maintenance?

Yes – All records/documents must be stored for easy referencing

Records of maintenance must be kept on-site and available for QFRS inspection, and a copy of records must be also kept off-site.

Defects

Defects can arise when routine maintenance is not carried out frequently or correctly.

There are three defect categories as per the Building Fire Safety Regulations 2008

  1. Critical Defect: likely to have an adverse impact on the safety of either the occupants and the building and must be addressed within 30 days.
  2. Non-Conformance Defect: a missing or incorrect feature that does not affect the system but is required to facilitate the ongoing routine maintenance.
  3. Non-critical defect: a system impairment or faulty component not likely to critically affect the operation of the system.

Do we have to fix all defects noted onsite?

Yes, the only items you do not have to address are items that come through as a recommendation.

How do we avoid costly Passive Fire Defects?

Understand the legislation surrounding Passive Fire and ensure that any contractor that performs works on your site does so with the legislation in mind. If there are any doubts seek advice from a Licenced Contractor before works commence.

Strata Umbrella are experts in routine maintenance, rectification works related to Routine Maintenance Defects and Fire Safety Advisory works.

The (other) costs of non-compliance

It is vitally important that bodies corporate take fire safety seriously and ensure their building is always compliant.

Aside from the heavy financial penalties imposed by Building Fire Safety Regulations, committees should also consider the other implications for non-compliance like:

  • Requiring a special levy to pay for the fine as it would not be budgeted for
  • Insurance may not cover fines imposed
  • Insurers may decide not to renew the insurance policy or set a higher premium to take account of any perceived increased risk.
  • If a fire occurred and it was evident that the fire safety systems were not maintained, the body corporate may be open to liability, and the insurance may be voided for failing to comply with fire safety legislation, leaving owners to pay for the cost of rectification works.

Body corporate committees should seek QBCC licenced professionals to ensure systems are, installed, serviced and maintained.