Fire is a serious threat to workplace safety, owing to the number of people and flammable materials that may be present at a worksite or place of business. Not only this, but fire can severely impact business operations and threaten the livelihoods of hundreds of workers, should the damage be so extensive as to decimate a workplace and put a company out of business. For these reasons, Australia has stringent fire safety standards and regulations to guide and safeguard Australian businesses and workers.
Australian fire safety planning regulations and requirements
To comply with these fire safety standards and regulations, SafeWork Australia requires persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) to ensure that their workplace has adequate plans and procedures in place for responding to emergencies.
These emergency plans and procedures need to be based on a practical assessment of hazards associated with the individual workplace (site or building) or the work activities undertaken by the business, giving particular consideration to potential risks and consequences of emergencies that may occur in relation to those hazards. This includes:
- implementing proper fire safety practices,
- providing workers with thorough fire safety and evacuation training,
- undertaking regular maintenance of fire safety equipment,
- regularly reviewing safety procedures to ensure they are adequate and up-to-date, and
- performing periodical fire safety audits to ascertain whether fire safety practices, plans and equipment are sufficient to meet the current needs of the building or site.
Fire Safety Standards Australia
A variety of legislation, regulations, standards and codes determine the necessary design, installation and performance level, and the requirements for inspection, testing and preventative maintenance of a facility’s fire protection systems and equipment.
In order to comply with relevant legislation and regulations, building owners and the PCBU are required to:
- have an adequate amount of fire safety and extinguishing equipment of the correct type for their workplace and its particular hazards,
- regularly and routinely inspect, test, maintain and replace fire safety and extinguishing equipment,
- ensure there are reliable methods and adequate means of egress from a workplace, i.e., a sufficient number of reliable, unobstructed fire exits, which can be easily and safely accessed.
Australian standard for fire safety equipment inspection and maintenance
Australian AS 1851 – Routine service of fire protection systems and equipment specifies the minimum standards for the inspection, testing and preventative maintenance of fire protection systems and equipment, to ensure they continue to perform and operate at the necessary level from one service period to the next.
What is the best way to ensure you are meeting legal requirements for fire safety?
The best way to ensure that your workplace or business is compliant with the legal requirements and regulations associated with fire safety planning and fire protection equipment, is to conduct a fire risk assessment and have a knowledgeable, experienced, and suitably qualified person conduct a fire safety audit.
What is a fire safety audit?
A fire safety audit is a systematic, careful inspection of your workplace and review of fire safety and protection equipment and systems located within your building or on your worksite. Fire safety audits are undertaken to:
- check the adequacy and efficacy of a facility’s fire safety equipment and systems,
- document the performance of fire safety measures and equipment,
- determine whether these systems meet the benchmarks detailed in the applicable Australian Standards and building codes,
- enable suitably qualified individuals to make recommendations on areas for improvement.
Although Australian Standard 4655 (Fire Safety Audits) is no longer current, it is a useful document to refer to when determining the requirements of a fire safety audit. The Standard sets out a structured process for auditing the fire safety measures used in a facility and provides direction on the recommended fire safety audit process, including audit criteria, responsibilities, and reporting measures.
When should a fire safety audit be completed?
Fire safety audits are not static documents – rather they are intended to be dynamic, reflective of current fire safety regulations, the National Construction Code/Building Code of Australia, state-based building regulations and WHS regulations, and changing in line with variations to your building or workplace, changes to equipment or hazardous substances used or stored at the building, and in response to any fire-related incidents or accidents.
To ensure that fire safety processes, procedures and equipment, components and systems are adequate and functioning correctly, a fire safety audit should be completed at least annually. Fire safety audits may be undertaken more regularly, in response to:
- changes to the structure, size or layout of your building or worksite
- increases in the number of staff or visitors present at your workplace
- changes to the use and/or storage of new or existing hazardous substances at your workplace
- the introduction or removal of new equipment or machinery at your workplace
- changes to ability levels of employees – e.g. an individual living with a disability is hired, an existing employee returns to work following an accident or surgery or suffering from the effects of long-term illness or injury, which have had the effect of limiting their mobility or reaction times
- changes to relevant fire safety, WHS and building regulations.
Fire audit services offered by Adair Fire Audits & Certification
Adair Fire Audits provides highly specialised fire safety and building code audit and certification services to businesses of all sizes, across all industries. We offer expert advice and assistance with all aspects of fire safety systems – from design and specification of fire safety systems to project management of fire protection installations. We can even assist you with the provision of training to your staff in the use of fire safety and extinguishing equipment, to help you ensure the safety of your workplace and protect your assets and your staff in the event of a fire emergency.
For more information on fire safety audits, or to find out how Adair Fire Audits & Certification can assist you with your fire safety audit needs, call our friendly team today on (02) 8004 5142 or fill out our contact form to have an Adair Fire Audits & Certification representative contact you.