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Fire Safety Compliance NSW
Information page What you need to know about making your workplace compliant for Fire Safety
What are the risks if you choose not to get an Annual Fire Safety Statement (AFSS)

In a nutshell, there are 3 reasons to get an AFSS:
You could be sued,
Your fire insurer won't pay out,
You risk being served with a Fire Order.


The rules for certification vary from state to state, and are administered by Local Government. What follows is for NSW, but much of the general information applies to other states. Please read the disclaimer at the bottom of this page.

You should have a service contract with a reputable company that involves a site visit, at least every 6 months, to test your fire products/services. The fire service company should issue you with an Annual Fire Safety Statement (AFSS) which you then sign and send to your local Council and the Fire Brigade. When you submit a development application (DA) your Council will require you to submit a Fire Safety Certificate. The Fire Safety Certificate makes you responsible for atesting that your premises complies with the relevant codes and standards (more later).

The law behind all this is a little vague. Basically the Council's power derives from the Building Code of Australia (BCA). Although the BCA doesn't directly reference it, the Australian Standards are used by Councils as the level of performance/compliance that must be met. The enforcing power given to Council is its ability to issue Fire Safety Orders and fines (read more here).

Fire Safety checkup

Many businesses and buildings do not have adequate fire protection, and many landlords do not submit an AFSS. Apart from the obvious danger that a fire might break out and people (and property) might be put at risk, you also have legal obligations to comply. Failure can result in fines. But probably the most problematic aspect for a landlord is the insurance implications, and the possibility of being served with a Fire Order. In a Fire Order, Council will be VERY thorough, everything will be looked at- emergency lighting, fire hydrants, fire doors, fire ratings for the ceilings, exits, alarms and extinguishers. Typically compliance can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, which Council will expect you to do within 3 months. Better to do this on your own timetable and budget, rather than have it forced on you.

You may also find that your insurance company already expects that you comply- ie you may be uninsured because you do not! Ring and ask your insurer if they will payout for fire damage if you do not have a current AFSS, or an on-going maintenance contract.

As far as Council is concerned it is the Landlord/owner who is responsible for submitting and signing the Fire Safety Certificate and the AFSS. Landlords may have clauses in their leases requiring the tennant to pay for fire compliance measures, but it is the landlord who will be held responsible. When you sign a Fire Safety Certificate or AFSS you are declaring that the premises has been "assessed by a properly qualified person" who has determined that adequate fire safety measures exist and that they meet, and are maintained, to the relevant Australian Standard.

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At the time of writing, there is no legal definition or certification that makes someone a "properly qualified person" (except in Queensland). What this means is that you have to satisfy yourself that the person you choose is qualified. This has not been tested in the law courts, so the criteria is what a reasonable person would think makes a person/company qualified to act.

Ask our fire service company to quote you on getting your premises up to standard, then work out a budget and timetable to get it done. We can help you with a Fire Safety Certificate, or Annual Fire Safety Statement in Sydney, Newcastle and Maitland.

FAQs

Can I buy a Fire Safety Certificate online?
No. Someone must visit your premises and make an assessment that you have enough fire equipment to meet the standards. Plus any existing fire measures such as exit lights, hose reels, extinguishers, and smoke alarms, have to be tested to make sure they are working.

How often does a fire inspection have to take place?
Typically every 6 months, but some fire equipment must be inspected more frequently. This does not vary from state to state, because it is specfied in the Australian Standards.

Where can I get the Australian Standards for fire safety?
They can be downloaded online, but they are not free. They are not easy to read, and there might be as many as a dozen that apply to your building. Find out more here.

More Resource Articles:
© Copyright Mar 2014 by John Carmichael
Disclaimer: The advice on these pages should not be relied upon for legal purposes, seek the services of a properly qualified solicitor, or fire engineer, if you need legal assistance for your fire safety measures.
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