Carbon monoxide testing, July building reforms, draft plumbing regulations and much more

VBA Mail banner

A message from the Acting Chief Executive of the VBA

Welcome to a new-look VBA Mail. This month, and every month, we will endeavour to bring you the most important news and updates from the Victorian Building Authority.

With the start of a new financial year now upon us, it has been an incredibly busy time for the industry and the VBA. There have been many changes to the way we register building practitioners, as well as new regulations and reforms coming into force across the industry.

Today’s VBA Mail highlights these changes and also provides a preview of upcoming changes affecting the plumbing community.

We look forward to speaking to you again, soon.

Mark Rossiter
Acting Chief Executive Officer
Victorian Building Authority


Carbon monoxide testing and video

The VBA is embarking on an extensive carbon monoxide safety program to retrain all registered or licensed plumbers, making sure they know how to conduct a carbon monoxide spillage test, and understand the effect of negative pressure on the safe operation of a gas appliance.

This is the best way of knowing if a gas appliance is leaking dangerous carbon monoxide.

Training sessions will be held in Melbourne and major regional centres across the state throughout August. Experts from the plumbing industry will be on hand to talk about the latest information and procedures for carbon monoxide spillage testing and gas appliance maintenance.

The VBA will soon be releasing a short video on its website and social media channels about carbon monoxide spillage testing. The video gives gasfitters a step-by-step guide to completing effective negative pressure and carbon monoxide spillage tests, and also provides safety tips to follow when carrying out these important tests. The video also shows what to do if an appliance is unsafe. All plumbing practitioners registered with the VBA will soon receive an email with a link to the video.

If you are following the VBA’s social media channels, please keep an eye out for our #CarbonMonoxideAwareness campaign.


Victoria’s building laws have changed

Changes to Victoria’s building laws came into effect on Sunday, 1 July 2018.

The reforms affect all building practitioners in Victoria, as well as some plumbing contractors and suppliers.

The new reforms are designed to achieve compliance and transparency in the building industry, as well as increased consumer protection, so that anyone engaging a building practitioner can do so with confidence.

The VBA is responsible for implementing these reforms through amendments to the Building Act, the Regulations and other relevant legislation.

The reforms are part of the State Government’s ongoing building industry reforms program and come just one month after the commencement of the Building Regulations 2018.

Fact sheets, frequently asked questions and other resources explaining the July building industry reforms are available from vba.vic.gov.au/reforms.

To find out more about the Building Regulations 2018, visit vba.vic.gov.au/br2018.


Important information about professional indemnity insurance

The VBA understands that some practitioners are experiencing difficulties obtaining the required professional indemnity insurance (PII).

The current legislative framework means that relevant practitioners must be covered by PII meeting the requirements of the Building Practitioners’ Insurance Ministerial Order in order to maintain their registration and carry out their functions as a practitioner in Victoria.

PII policies that exclude coverage of liability arising from the use of products may not meet the requirements of the Ministerial Order and may mean that practitioners do not hold the required insurance. The consequences of not being covered by the required insurance can include suspension of registration.

The acting chief executive of the VBA Mark Rossiter said the issue was affecting multiple states across Australia.

“The VBA is already working with government policymakers and the building industry to understand the changes in the insurance market that are affecting the building sector,” Mr Rossiter said.

The VBA will continue to keep all practitioners up to date with the latest information on the complicated issues around professional indemnity insurance.

If you have any questions about this issue, please contact the VBA by emailing insurance@vba.vic.gov.au.


New requirements for building registration

All Victorian building companies (Pty Ltd only) must be registered with the VBA from 1 July 2018 to enter into major domestic building contracts or be named as the builder on a building permit for building work costing more than (in most cases) $10,000.

The move gives consumers greater certainty by allowing them to check the integrity of a company they intend to engage on a project. It also offers greater protection by ensuring the builder named on a contract or permit matches the name listed on the certificate of insurance.

The VBA also reminds practitioners whose individual and company registration expires in July, August or September to complete the registration renewal process and annual fee and insurance check as soon as possible.

Visit the VBA website to renew your individual registration or download the Company Registration Renewal Form.


Registration renewals now due three months before expiry

Building practitioners are now required to submit their registration renewal application form at least three months before their registration expires.

The requirement applies to all Victorian building practitioners and commenced on 1 July 2018.

Practitioners who submit their renewal application after their three-month deadline are at risk of their registration expiring and must also pay a late fee.

The VBA will contact practitioners approximately five months before their registration expires to advise them of their registration expiry date and renewal due date. Renewal information will be sent via email and post.


Plumbing Regulations 2018 Regulatory Impact Statement available

The Victorian Government released the Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS) for the State’s proposed Plumbing Regulations 2018 late last month.

The Government has undertaken an extensive review of the Plumbing Regulations 2008 prior to their expiry in November this year, and considers the existing regulatory requirements supporting the plumbing industry to be broadly appropriate.

The proposed draft regulations largely continue the current regulatory framework, with some changes seeking to modernise existing requirements and improve the quality of plumbing work for consumers and the community.

Following an early public consultation process in March 2017, as well as targeted industry engagement and consultation with the Plumbing Advisory Council and its subcommittees, the Government has prepared draft plumbing regulations and a RIS and released them for public consultation.

The public consultation period closes at 5pm on 27 July 2018. At the end of the consultation period, the Victorian Government will review all submissions received and take this feedback into account when finalising the Plumbing Regulations 2018.


Unregistered or unlicensed plumbers unable to profit from contracts

Contractors and suppliers working under a contract can now recover monies owed in court as a debt when an unregistered or unlicensed plumber has carried out work.

The change ensures that anyone undertaking work or supplying goods or materials in good faith will be protected from unregistered or unlicensed plumbers making a profit from these arrangements.


Designing ceiling installations for earthquake action

The VBA is aware that ceilings in buildings may not be designed to meet the requirements of AS 1170.4 – 2007 Structural design actions Part 4: Earthquake actions in Australia.

Volume One, Clause B1.2 (c) (ii) and Volume Two, Clause 3.11.3 (c) (iv) of the National Construction Code require buildings to be designed to resist seismic loads calculated to AS 1170.4 - 2007 Structural design actions Part 4: Earthquake actions in Australia as appropriate.

Section 8 of the Standard requires ceilings to be designed to resist earthquake forces, except where they are located within domestic structures less than 8.5m tall and “Importance Level One” structures. The Standard also applies to walls, partitions and other non-structural elements.

Designers, contractors, installers, builders and building surveyors are reminded that the requirements of AS 1170.4 – 2007 need to be considered when designing ceilings, walls, partitions and other non-structural elements within a building.


June plumbing audit findings

The VBA’s risk-based Plumbing Audit Program has published its latest monthly report, including the top three causes of audit failure for June 2018. Throughout the year, VBA compliance auditors conduct on-site audits of a sample of plumbing work across the state for which a compliance certificate has been lodged, to ensure work complies with all relevant plumbing laws.

Top 3 Causes of Audit Failure in June 2018

  1. Failure to provide the minimum clearance between the highest part of the burner and the rangehood or exhaust fan at the rangehood. (25)
  2. Failure to demonstrate that the static pressure to any outlet other than a fire hose outlet, within a building, does not exceed 500kPa at the building. (22)
  3. Failure to install appropriately marked toughened safety glass, where used as a splashback, at the gas cooktop. (15)

View these results and the report overview on the VBA website.


Referring directions to fix to the VBA – Attention to detail is the key

A large proportion of directions to fix (DTF) referred to the VBA by relevant building surveyors are being found to be unenforceable.

Data gathered by the VBA shows that a range of issues, including simple oversights and poor administration and paperwork, are responsible for the high number of DTFs that have been closed for being unenforceable.

In the period from November 2017 to February 2018, 47 DTFs were referred to the VBA. 35 were deemed unenforceable for a range of reasons, while the remainder were still under assessment at that time.

Find out more about the requirements for DTFs by reading Practice Note 70-2016.


Annual increase to plumbing fees

Fees for compliance certificates, plumbing licences, registrations, endorsements and examinations increased on 1 July 2018. This increase is in line with the Victorian Treasurer’s annual increase to fee units.

View the new fee amounts on the VBA website.


New versions of the AS/NZS 3500 series published

New versions of the AS/NZS 3500 series for plumbing and drainage work were published on 29 June 2018. The new standards are:

  • AS/NZS 3500.1:2018, Plumbing and drainage Part 1: Water services
  • AS/NZS 3500.2:2018, Plumbing and drainage Part 2: Sanitary plumbing and drainage
  • AS/NZS 3500.3:2018, Plumbing and drainage Part 3: Stormwater drainage
  • AS/NZS 3500.4:2018, Plumbing and drainage Part 4: Heated water services

All plumbing practitioners must comply with the requirements in these new versions.

The new standards are available for purchase on the SAI Global website.

A summary of the key changes will soon be available on the VBA website.


An update from the Victorian Cladding Audit team

The VBA has recently contacted more than 700 builders, developers, surveyors and owners to request information on newly-commenced and upcoming projects, as well as the possible use of combustible cladding in these developments.

Thank you to those who responded to our request. This information is vital for ensuring the improper use of combustible cladding is avoided.

For those who received a request for information, but are yet to respond, you should do so now. Please follow the instructions provided in the letter you received from the VBA.

Several buildings already under construction have been inspected. These pre-occupancy inspections ensure Minister’s Guideline MG-14 is followed.


Want more information from the VBA? Follow us on social media

Get the latest news and information from the VBA via social media. Look for us on Twitter @VicBuilding, Instagram @victorian_building_authority and YouTube @BuildingCommission. We’ll also be on Facebook soon.

For more news, or to contact the VBA, visit our website at vba.vic.gov.au.