Improving building safety management, essential safety measures and maintenance of wet fire safety systems

Hose reel inspection

From 2020, the VBA will seek to work with the strata industry to improve building safety management, particularly with regards to improving and upgrading management plans of essential safety measures.

Safety obligations also apply to buildings for which the VBA is the municipal building surveyor.

From 2020, owners of relevant buildings will need to design and implement a Building Fire Safety Management Plan to ensure all ESMs are progressively upgraded to required compliance standards.

Upgrades will be scheduled to coincide with any agreed cladding rectification work and are intended to allow residents to remain in their buildings while the works take place.

Action to improve the proficiency of persons who service wet fire safety systems has also commenced.

Following extensive consultation with key industry stakeholders, the VBA will introduce a ‘restricted’ class of plumbing work to move unregistered and unlicensed fire service technicians swiftly into the plumbing regulatory regime and manage the transition to higher qualifications and experience requirements.

Fire service technicians wanting to carry out routine inspection, testing and maintenance of these systems will be required to apply for registration with the VBA and demonstrate their technical knowledge and experience. This change is part of a broader initiative to improve the effectiveness and operability of ESMs.

Systems falling under this new restricted class would include fire hose reels, pumped and unpumped hydrants and valves, and fire sprinkler systems.

At the end of the transition period, which is expected to run from March 2020 to 31 July 2021, only plumbers holding appropriate qualifications will be eligible to inspect and test pumped hydrants and valves, and fire sprinkler systems.

The new restricted classes also form part of the transition approach adopted in late 2018 (when the Plumbing Regulations 2018 were introduced), which confirmed that the routine servicing of fire protection equipment is plumbing work.

The VBA has been working closely with fire industry stakeholders to finalise mapping of the transition pathway.

The new restricted classes expected to be available from March 2020 are:

  • Restricted class – routine servicing of fire hose reels
  • Restricted class – routine servicing of unpumped hydrants and valves
  • Restricted class – routine servicing of pumped hydrants and valves
  • Restricted class – routine servicing of fire sprinkler systems.

The VBA will be working with registered training organisations in the coming months to implement appropriate training and assessment pathways. Information on scopes of work and how to apply will be released in the coming year.

The VBA has also been working with stakeholders to develop a suite of initiatives to enhance the maintenance of ESMs and to ensure that:

  • owners and owners corporations understand their ESM maintenance obligations
  • practitioners understand how to comply with and complete ESM maintenance satisfactorily; and
  • systems and processes are enhanced to ensure that ESM installation and maintenance is completed properly.

The VBA has already begun an awareness campaign for owners and owners corporations and is amending the VBA ESM manual to provide guidance on ESM maintenance.

The VBA aims to issue a refreshed ESM manual for practitioners, together with an updated practice note, early in 2020 to assist practitioners to comply with ESM maintenance obligations.