Overlooking Annual Fire Safety Statements can cost NSW businesses thousands

By Tony Jones, Regional Operations Manager with Wormald

Wormald_ Fire Panel AssessmentFaced with a multitude of health and safety compliance requirements, it can be easy for New South Wales building owners to let an Annual Fire Safety Statement (AFSS) slip down the priority list – an oversight that may cost thousands of dollars*.

Under the New South Wales Planning and Assessment Regulations (2000), building owners are required to submit an accurate AFSS for their premises every year. This must be provided to the local council and fire brigade.

Designed to ensure fire protection systems are adequately maintained and perform as intended, an AFSS certifies that each essential fire safety measure in a building has been assessed by a properly qualified person and is found to be capable of performing to the standard for which it was originally designed and implemented. It also assesses all emergency fire exit routes.

Building owners who fail to submit an AFSS on time may be liable for substantial penalties. The enforcement of such penalties may vary from one council to the next; however the costs can run into the thousands of dollars.  Penalties for non-compliant buildings owners are enforced on a weekly basis, and may begin at $1,000 for the first week late and up to an additional $4,000 for Statements that are four or more weeks late**.

Since each AFSS must be submitted to the relevant council, it pays to know what your local council expects.

Costs aside, an accurate AFSS is vital for protecting people and property from fire. Properly working fire protection systems can mean the difference between life and death in the event of a fire. In addition to maintaining equipment, emergency exits and evacuation paths should be regularly monitored to keep them clear and uncluttered. An exit blocked by boxes or furniture, for example, can impede safe and efficient evacuation.

Some may see an AFSS as a nuisance;however, as well as being a legal requirement, it’s critical that an AFSS treated seriously because it can have a big impact on how the people in a building deal with an emergency. For example, if sprinklers and alarms don’t work properly or if people can’t evacuate because exit doors are blocked, the outcome of a fire incident may be much worse than it could have been.

Annual Fire Safety Statements can be an opportunity to keep fire protection systems in good working order. The best policy is simply to carry out the process annually and correct any defects as quickly as possible, since this will result in a safer building. Don’t leave your audit until the last minute.

What happens if repairs are required?
Councils and the fire brigade may consider buildings which were originally subject to older fire safety standards to pose a risk to safety. In such situations, the building owner may have to undertake upgrades.

Any problems should be rectified in a timely manner.

If you require an extension on the AFSS deadline to carry out repairs, you can make a request to the local council and the inclusion of a works schedule is recommended.

Consult a professional
The law requires building owners to engage a qualified person to assess fire safety measures in buildings each year.  Engaging Wormald for the assessment meets this obligation.

Wormald can provide a comprehensive fire safety assessment to satisfy AFSS requirements. Its fire protection consultants can determine when the fire safety measures were installed in your building and research the performance standards that were applicable at the time the premises was built. A detailed report and Fire Safety Statement can then be prepared, ready to submit.

For more information, visit www.wormald.com.au/services/Annual-Fire-Safety-Statements or call 133 166.

* http://www.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/business/regulations/health-and-safety/fire-safety

** http://www.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/business/regulations/health-and-safety/fire-safety

 

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