The path to change: what it took to create the new Fire Sprinkler Standard AS2118.1 and include it in the National Construction Code

Andrew Lee (suit)

It has been a long and demanding journey towards implementing the recent changes to the AS2118.1 Fire Sprinkler Standard, a process which started nearly 8 years ago. Wormald, through its association with FPA Australia, has been a part of that journey and here we share some details on what it took to implement the changes and have them included in the National Construction Code (NCC).

The AS2118.1 and the NCC
The NCC currently references the 1999 version of the Fire Sprinkler Standard AS2118.1. This means that all buildings in Australia that require a Deemed To Satisfy (DTS) Fire Sprinkler System, must have a system that is designed and installed in accordance with the 1999 version of AS2118.1.

However, the 1999 version was only a minor update to the 1995 version and most of the technology at that time dated back to the late 1960’s or early 1970’s. One saving grace for the 1999 version was the “Special Sprinkler” clause which enabled new technology to be introduced into DTS sprinkler designs by leveraging overseas Standards. The industry has been using this clause over the last 18 years, predominantly for large warehouses where the use of Storage Sprinklers (formally known as ESFR Sprinklers) has long become the norm.

A new version of AS2118.1 was released by Standards Australia in 2006 and an amendment was later released in 2010. Unfortunately, neither of these versions were adopted into the NCC and therefore cannot be used as a DTS system. The Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) produce and maintain the NCC and have very strict protocols on how a NCC referenced Standard is structured.

They do not allow a NCC referenced Standard to delegate the design and installation requirements to an overseas authority, the fear being that any changes in overseas Standards would automatically impact our local Australian Standard without any opportunity for the Australian Industry or Regulators to assess any such change.

Back to the drawing board

After rejecting AS2118.1-2006, the ABCB decided to write their own Fire Sprinkler Standard which they had worked on for approximately 3 years. It was then subjected to a Regulatory Impact Statement in 2011 but failed. The project was subsequently scrapped, paving the way for Standards Australia to try to produce a new version.

After a year of preliminary work, the project kicked off in April 2012 with a technical committee consisting of 17 participating members representing 12 separate organisations. These organisations included the ABCB, AFAC, industry association groups representing the insurance industry, the fire protection industry, hydraulics consultants, Engineers Australia and many more.

The committee worked tirelessly at producing a modern version of the Fire Sprinkler Standard that would contain prescriptive requirements for the current day technologies and be structured in a format that complied with the ABCB protocols.

In February 2015, a Public Comment Draft was released which drew more than a thousand comments. These comments were individually considered and many were incorporated into a draft which, in January 2016, was accepted by the ABCB.

Everyone thought that the journey was over but unfortunately there was an unexpected set back.

The AS2118.1 is approved

The Lacrosse Tower fire in Melbourne in November 2014 had resulted in a lot of debate about the installation of sprinklers on balconies of high rise apartment blocks. AS2118.1 had always included a requirement to protect balconies larger than 6m2 and more than 2m deep, however the fire brigades were looking to tighten these requirements. In fact, the State of Victoria changed their legislation to ensure all balconies were protected regardless of what the Sprinkler Standard required. The draft was reviewed again and eventually resolved in July 2017 clearing the way to publish the 2017 version in September of this year.

It was initially hoped that the Standard would be published in time to be referenced by the 2016 version of the National Construction Code, however that was not possible with the committee resigned to the fact that the next opportunity would not be until 2019 as the NCC is only updated every three years. However, to everybody’s surprise the ABCB advised that they were releasing an out of cycle amendment of NCC 2016 to deal with the issue of combustible external wall cladding. Fortunately, they also decided to take the opportunity to reference the new Fire Sprinkler Standard.

The ABCB anticipates that the amended NCC 2016 will be published in March 2018, from which point forward it will reference the AS2118.1-2017 Fire Sprinkler Standard. Wormald’s Sales and Engineering team has worked tirelessly to update themselves on the new changes and are ready to assist clients with implementing the new AS2118.1.

I will be discussing some of the key changes in upcoming blogs.

Click here to read more about Stephen Caple.

Wormald signs exclusive agreement with Siebe Gorman

Wormald is pleased to announce it has signed an exclusive distribution agreement with Siebe Gorman, one of the world’s leading suppliers of respiratory equipment and self-contained breathing apparatus. Wormald is now the exclusive distributor of Siebe Gorman products in Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, and the countries of the Pacific Islands. The new agreement brings together two of the most trusted and experienced brands within the fire protection industry, each drawing on their respective heritage and long-standing industry expertise. siebe gorman logo

The exclusive distribution agreement heralds a new era for both Wormald and Siebe Gorman with Wormald re-entering the self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) market, and Siebe Gorman re-introducing its product portfolio to the Australian and other markets.

Siebe Gorman has been established for more than 200 years and has set new benchmarks in reliability, quality and innovation for the breathing apparatus industry.  Together with Wormald’s 125+ year heritage in Australia, this relationship is built on a firm foundation that will benefit the lives of those who work in fire protection and emergency services industries.

Visit Siebe Gorman and Wormald at stand #314 during the upcoming AFAC17 Fire & Emergency Management Conference & Exhibition in Sydney from September 4 to 7th, 2017 at the International Convention Centre (ICC) Sydney

 

 

Wormald reaffirms its commitment to sustainable fire suppression

tug-boat-remote-control-foam-monitor-discharge

In light of the recent announcement that the Queensland Government has restricted the use of firefighting foams containing PFOA, Wormald has re-affirmed its commitment to providing fire suppression solutions that limit impacts on the environment.

The use of firefighting foams remains an important element of effectively suppressing a fire quickly to help reduce substantial and lasting damage to the environment, people and property. However, Wormald recognises that the use of firefighting foams has impacts on the environment if not properly controlled and that there needs to be a balance between dealing with a fire event effectively using firefighting foams and what impacts to the environment the use of firefighting foams will create. Continue reading

Wormald’s Northern Territory and Wollongong technicians are formally accredited

Wormald Northern Territory team is now FPAS accredited by the Fire Protection Association of AustraliaAs part of our commitment to provide industry leading training to our field technicians, the Wormald teams in the Northern Territory and Wollongong are the first to be accredited under the Fire Protection Accreditation Scheme (FPAS).

This comes as the Northern Territory Fire and Rescue Service has issued an advisory note in relation to Australian Standard AS 1851-2012 Routine Service of fire protection systems and equipment, acknowledging that accreditation via FPAS demonstrates that individuals are competent, have relevant experience and insurance, and are committed to a professional code of conduct. Continue reading

Wormald congratulates winner of the Barry Lee Technical Excellence Award

Wormald, Fire Protection Industry Association of Australia, Fire Protection Industry Awards, Andrew Mierzwa

Scott Williams (FPA Australia CEO); Barry Lee and Andrew Lee (Wormald CEO) pictured with winner of the Barry Lee Technical Excellence Award, Andre Mierzwa (supplied by the FPA Australia)

Wormald was proud to sponsor the Barry Lee Technical Excellence Award at the inaugural 2016 Fire Protection Industry Awards, given its 125-year history in providing fire protection solutions for some of Australia’s most iconic industries and infrastructure.

The team at Wormald is pleased to congratulate the winner of the Award, Andre Mierzwa. Andre is the Operations Chief Engineer at global insurance underwriter, FM Global. He has made important contributions to technical standards in Australia’s fire protection industry, most recently to Australian Standard AS2118.1-2016 Automatic Fire Sprinkler Systems. He is an industry leader with more than four decades of experience across Australia, Europe, Asia and the USA. Continue reading

Wormald commits to industry accreditation scheme to raise the bar in fire safety

Wormald commits to FPASWormald has committed to a nationally-harmonised industry accreditation scheme to formally recognise the skills of its 600 plus team of inspect and test technicians by 2020.

The Fire Protection Accreditation Scheme (FPAS) is a two-stage accreditation scheme offered by Fire Protection Association of Australia (FPA Australia). It recognises the skills and competencies of individuals working in the fire protection industry across all state and territory jurisdictions in Australia.

The move comes as State Governments and the industry continue to push for stronger quality controls in the design, installation and maintenance of fire safety systems. Continue reading

Q&A with Kmart Australia: Implementing fire safety in the retail environment

Charles Hammersla, National Facilities & Compliance Manager at Kmart Australia answers our questions about fire safety in the retail environment. 

Charles Hammersla, National Facilities & Compliance Manager at Kmart Australia

Charles Hammersla, National Facilities & Compliance Manager at Kmart Australia

1. What fire protection challenges do retailers face?

Retailers have a duty of care to our teams and customers to protect them from fire risks when they visit or work in our premises. Generally, our stores are consistent in terms of merchandise mix and we also try to deliver a consistent shop floor layout. What this means is that our fire protection strategies can also be consistent across our stores.

The main challenge we tend to face is the human element – to keep the focus of our teams on maintaining general housekeeping standards, including those relating to sprinkler head or switchboard clearances, and egress path blockages.

Principally this means that we need to be consistent around our fire protection approach – and make it as easy as possible to control risks in our environments. Continue reading

Fire safety for retailers: servicing and maintaining systems and equipment in a changing store environment

Wormald retail_low resThe retail environment is constantly evolving to accommodate changing shopper behaviour and the need to drive sales. This can give rise to unique fire safety challenges, particularly in relation to the maintenance and servicing of fire safety systems and equipment.

Every time a wall is moved, store lay-outs are altered or stock levels increase, fire protection requirements may change. For example, moving displays at entryways may alter emergency exit paths, or storing excess stock in vacant change rooms can add fuel to a fire. These changes may require sprinklers to be moved or installation of additional sprinklers.

A fire in a retail environment can have devastating and costly consequences. Harm to staff and shoppers aside, a fire incident can permanently damage stock, bring operations to a standstill and have expensive legal ramifications. When an Asos factory in the UK went up in flames in June 2014, the retailer lost more than 20 per cent of stock stored on site and suspended orders for 48 hours. The blaze reportedly cost the retailer up to £30 million in lost salesContinue reading

Managing the transition to AS1851-2012: the benefits of a national fire protection provider

Wormald maintenanceAs Wormald urges national businesses to adopt Australian Standard AS1851-2012 as a standard operating procedure across all operations, facility managers and building owners are faced with the challenge of evaluating how their fire protection systems are being maintained and serviced.

While implementing a nationally consistent approach can help to deliver efficiency and cost savings, the transition may initially be overwhelming as new systems for fire safety audits, the categorisation of fire safety defects, record-keeping and reporting are introduced.

With so much to consider, it is important not to cut corners. AS1851-2012 lays out strict compliance requirements to ensure fire protection equipment is in proper working order when it’s needed most. Appointing a reputable fire protection provider can assist with developing, implementing and maintaining a comprehensive program to address the most stringent needs.  Continue reading

Five questions to ask your fire protection provider

WormaldAs procurement teams in the industrial, construction and mining sectors continue to streamline operations and rationalise suppliers, cost and efficiency are becoming the key drivers behind the purchase of fire protection systems.

While these are important considerations, this should never be at the expense of life safety.
Effective procurement of a fire protection provider involves a careful and consultative approach to establish the best fit for your organisation.

As a shared responsibility, it is essential that all those involved in fire safety (including procurement departments, health and safety teams, and on-site management) invest in quality fire protection solutions.

Appointing a reliable and quality fire protection provider requires careful consideration of a number of factors, including those set out below.  Continue reading