In October 2017, amendments to the New South Wales Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation came into effect which place stricter requirements on the design, approval, inspection and maintenance of fire safety systems.
The below information is important for all property managers, property owners, tenants and business operators who own, occupy or manage buildings ranging from various types of residential properties to commercial, retain and industrial premises.
The NSW Department of Planning and Environment has published a fact sheet on the new fire safety requirements.
Legal Obligations of an Owner
The owner of a building has a legal obligation to ensure that all Fire Safety Measures installed on the premises are maintained in good working condition at all times.
Owners, or their agent, are required to verify that this responsibility is being fulfilled by issuing routine Fire Safety Statements to Council and Fire and Rescue NSW.
As of 1 October 2017, a Competent Fire Safety Practitioner should be engaged to prepare the Fire Safety Statement. The Fire Safety Statement and Fire Safety Schedule must be displayed in a prominent location within the premises.
It is an offence not to submit an annual Fire Safety Statement and penalties apply.
Essential Fire Safety Measures and Fire Safety Schedules
Essential Fire Safety Measures are defined as the fire and life safety systems installed or constructed in buildings to ensure adequate levels of safety for occupants in the event of a fire or other emergency. Some measures include but are not limited to:
- Fire extinguishers
- Fire hose reels
- Fire hydrants
- Fire doors
- Smoke exhaust systems
- Smoke alarm and detection systems
- Exit signs and emergency lighting
- Fire resistant materials
- Automatic fire suppression systems (eg sprinklers)
The Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation 2000 (NSW) contains a list of statutory fire safety measures that must be installed in a building.
Essential fire safety measures may be contained in a Fire Safety Schedule. The schedule lists all essential fire safety measures which exist and are proposed in a building and will describe the performance standard to which each of the measures must be capable of performing to.
Fire Safety Schedules can be issued by:
- Council or a privately Accredited Certifier with an application for a Construction Certificate
- Council (in some cases) with a Development Application for a change of use in an existing building
- Council with a Fire Safety Order
Fire Safety Statements
An Annual or Supplementary Fire Safety Statement is a document which is issued by a building owner or their agent which certifies each of the essential fire safety measures are currently operational, have been tested and maintained in accordance with the Building Code of Australia requirements and Australian Standards.
An Annual Fire Safety Statement Form must be provided to Council and Fire and Rescue NSW on an annual basis within 12 months after the date on which the previous certificate was completed by Competent Fire Safety Practitioner. Council charges an administration fee as prescribed in our list of fees and charges for the submission of an Annual Safety Statement.
A Supplementary Fire Safety Statement Form must be provided to Council and Fire and Rescue NSW on a more frequent basis as specified in the Fire Safety Schedule for the building. The submission of a Supplementary Fire Safety Statement does not currently attract a fee.
Fire Safety Statements can be lodged to Council via email, post or in person at out Customer Service counter. For lodgement of Fire Safety Statements to Fire and Rescue NSW, please visit their website.
Fire Safety Orders
Council can issue Fire Safety Orders to building owners, directing them to carry out improvements. The Order will list and specify the reasons for issuing the Order, what needs to be done and a deadline. The building owner is responsible for guaranteeing the Order is complied with. Tenants may have certain legal obligations under various lease/contract arrangements. For further information, please refer to our Fire Safety Orders Fact Sheet(38KB, PDF).
It is an offence to fail to submit an Annual Fire Safety Statement. Substantial, compounding weekly Penalty Infringement Notices apply:
||Current Infringement Amount
Further to Penalty Infringement Notices, failure to submit the Annual Fire Safety Statement can lead to legal proceedings with a maximum penalty of $110,000.00.
Authorised Council Officers may, with or without notice, inspect premises believed to be at risk. Fire Safety Inspections do not include domestic single dwellings.
Council Officers will conduct the inspection as soon as possible. They have the legislative power to enter and inspect premises, and will carry photo identification that can be produced on request.
Subsequent inspections can be organised to suit the requirements of the owners and/or occupiers of the building. Inspections are generally carried out between 8:30am and 4:30pm Monday to Friday.
Council Inspections attract a fee as prescribed in our list of fees and charges.
Competent Fire Safety Practitioner
The NSW Department of Finance, Services and Innovation is currently developing a framework to recognise competent fire safety practitioners. Once this has been completed, a building owner can select a competent fire safety practitioner from a register of accredited practitioners.
Until this register is established, it remains the responsibility of the building owner to determine if a person is a competent fire safety practitioner.
The NSW Planning and Environment has published a guide to assist building owners in selecting a competent fire safety practitioner.
For a list of frequently asked questions please refer to the NSW Planning and Environment's publication Frequently Asked Questions - New requirements for fire safety statements – for building owners and practitioners