Enhancement program to drive ESM maintenance

Fire safety engineering
New initiatives to boost the compliance and performance of essential safety measures (ESMs) will be released later this year.

The Victorian Statewide Cladding Audit has revealed many deficiencies in the design, approval, installation and maintenance of ESMs in apartment and public buildings since it began in December 2017.

Through expert analysis of these buildings, responses to fire events such as the NEO200 building fire, and enforcement programs run in partnership with local councils, the VBA has gained unparalleled insight into the performance and compliance of ESMs across the state.

Coupled with evidence pointing to widespread confusion over the roles and responsibilities related to ESM maintenance, the VBA has seen firsthand the impacts that sub-standard installation and maintenance can have on public safety and confidence in our built environment.

That’s why the VBA has been working closely with industry to establish Victoria’s first ESM Enhancement Program – a set of initiatives to address public safety, enhance practitioner competency with wet systems and promote the importance of effective and compliant ESMs.

The objectives of the program are simple: to promote a culture of compliance, bolster the competency of those who maintain ESMs, and enhance the industry assurance activities governed by Victoria’s legislative framework for ESMs.

While much of the program remains in development, education and evidence will play a prominent part.

The VBA has already established working groups with industry and regulatory bodies to progress work on key deliverables, with education and training opportunities to be announced later this year.

The Fire Protection Association of Australia, National Fire Industry Association, Air Conditioning and Mechanical Contractors Association, and Master Plumbers and Mechanical Services Association of Australia are all involved.

Joining them are the City of Melbourne, Country Fire Authority, Fire Rescue Victoria, Victorian Municipal Building Surveyors Group, Strata Communities Australia, the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, and the Department of Justice and Community Safety.

Research will form a solid foundation for the initiatives, with the expected launch of a new program aimed at evaluating compliance with ESM requirements under the Building Act.

At the same time, the VBA will continue its own research evaluating industry skills and capacity to conduct routine servicing and maintenance of ESMs.

To give industry and building owners an early preview of some core themes of the Enhancement Program, the VBA has recently produced a guide to the roles and responsibilities associated with ESMs.

Written with the support of industry partners, the guide provides an overview of key functions within the ESM framework and explores the primary responsibilities that apply to those charged with maintaining the important safety protections that ESMs provide to building occupants.