Annual Certification – AFSS FAQ’s

Does New South Wales regulate for maintenance and why?
Yes there is a regulation to maintain the Essential Fire Safety Measures within a building and this is defined in the EP&A Regulations and appropriate standards. Maintenance is regulated to ensure the Essential Fire Safety Measures serving an effected building are always in place and in a working condition. The Essential Fire Safety Measures are to be in an operable condition throughout the year.

What items are regulated for maintenance?
‘Essential Fire Safety Measures’ are defined to mean any measure, including any item of equipment, form of construction or fire safety strategy that is, or is proposed to be implemented in a building for life safety purposes in the event of a fire. The Act captures new and existing measures and also caters for performance based designs. The term ‘Essential Fire Safety Measure’ means it is a measure listed in the fire safety schedule for the premises. The schedule is prepared and issued by the relevant authority whenever a regulatory trigger is activated.

What type of buildings is this applied to?
The buildings that are required to be maintained in regards to Essential Fire Safety Measures are all buildings except Class 1a and 10 building as outlined in Part A3.2 of the National Construction Code. This is irrespective of the size of the building. What is the frequency of maintenance to be adopted for the Essential Fire Safety Measures in my building?

The frequency of maintenance of Essential Fire Safety Measures and the frequency of reliability inspections and tests throughout the year is not currently regulated in NSW. Affected owners have a statutory obligation to keep their Essential Fire Safety Measures in a working order throughout each year. Failure to do so is a breach of the legislation.

How do I maintain the Essential Fire Safety Measures in my building?
Is this regulated?

Currently no as per the answer to the above question. NSW legislation states that a buildings essential fire safety measures must be maintained throughout each year to the standard of performance expressed in the fire safety schedule for the premises. The legislation prescribes an administrative process which, among other things, requires the owner to forward evidence or certification they are meeting the statutory obligations at least once a year. The law currently does not prescribe a standardised approach to preventative maintenance and reliability inspection and testing for all essential fire safety measures of a particular type. The approach needed in order to maintain the essential fire safety measures in a building may vary according to a number of factors which may include environment, use and occupancy conditions. Owners will need to act on the advice of experts and it is recommended that owners contact their local council authority for further guidance and information. NSW law provides flexibility for owners. The most relevant standard to be adopted is AS 1851 – Maintenance of Fire Protection Systems and Equipment however, its use is not insisted upon.

What is the regulatory approach in NSW?

The regulations place an overriding responsibility on owners of affected buildings to keep their essential fire safety measures in place and in working order throughout the year. At least once each year they must provide evidence they are meeting these statutory obligations by way of submission of certification, known as an AFSS (Annual Fire Safety Statement), to the relevant council. A copy of this certification must be forwarded to the NSW Fire Brigades and displayed in the building.

An authority may require submission of fire safety statements more frequently than once each year for ‘critical fire safety measures’

    The legislation:

  • Applies to existing and new fire safety measures;
  • Provides triggers for capturing existing building stock gradually and making it subject to the law;
  • Caters for performance based fire safety designs by allowing design assumptions relating to management and use of premises to be included in the fire safety schedule.

 

    The key regulatory instruments under the legislation are the:

  • measures which are subject to the requirements and the standard of performance to which they must be maintained;
  • Fire safety certificate (in effect a commissioning certificate for new and existing measures); and
  • Fire safety statement (the owners routine certification verifying they are meeting their statutory obligations).

A fire safety schedule must be prepared and issued by the relevant authority whenever a regulatory trigger is activated The schedule lists all essential fire safety measures for a building and for each, the standard of performance they must always be capable of achieving. Before issue of any occupation certificate, or when specified in a fire safety order, a fire safety certificate must be submitted. This verified successful commissioning (for new measures) and current operational status (for existing measures). At least once each year thereafter, a fire safety statement must be provided to all relevant authorities.

The statement verifies, among other things, that the measures listed in the schedule have been assessed by an appropriately qualified person and the person engaged found them to be still in wording order (that is, capable of operating at the standard expressed in the schedule).

Are the maintenance requirements the same for new and existing buildings?

Yes the legislation in NSW applies to both new and existing buildings

What are the triggers to apply these provisions to existing buildings?

The trigger for application of the legislation to new and existing buildings is the issue of a fire safety schedule. A schedule must be issued with all approvals to construct a new building of a kind to which the regulations apply (where that building will be served by a fire safety measure). A schedule must also be issued with any approval to alter, add to, or change the classification of these types of buildings. Furthermore, a schedule must be issued with any fire safety order relating to these types of premises.

The schedule must be prepared by the relevant authority that issues approval or order. The schedule lists the fire safety measures applicable to the premises and, for each measure listed, a standard of performance to which the measure must be continually capable of operating. Where approval or order relates to an existing building it must list all new fire safety measures and those existing fire safety measures nominated by the authority. The above process achieves a number of things:

 

  • It captures all new buildings and makes them subject to the law;
  • It provides for the gradual capture of existing building stock;
  • It provides for the capture of existing fire safety measures;
  • It provides for the routine updating of the fire safety schedule as buildings are changed or improved over time.

Are there administrative controls for the maintenance of Essential Fire Safety

Measures and who is responsible for building maintenance? Yes there are administrative controls for maintenance in New South Wales and this is normally via the relevant council authority. The responsibility for ensuring that maintenance is carried out to a building rests with the building owner.

How often is verification required and who do I provide verification too?

Verification is required at least once a year. However, more frequent verification may be required for ‘critical fire safety measures’. Verification must be forwarded to the relevant council each year. A copy must also be forwarded to the NSW Fire Brigade.

Who can provide verification and are Practitioners required to be certified?

Verification can be provided by the building owner or an agent of the owner and no, currently they do not have to be licensed or have certified qualifications. The verification that must be submitted confirms that the owner has engaged an appropriately qualified person to assess the essential fire safety measures and the person engaged found them to be in a working order. They must also verify that no fire safety offence or breaches were found.

What does verification consist of?

The initial form of verification for a building subjected to a regulatory trigger is a fire safety certificate. Subsequent routine (usually annual) verification is referred to as an AFSS ( Annual Fire Safety Statement).

Are there prescribed statutory measures and can these measures be added to or subtracted from?

Yes there are statutory measures outlined in the legislation. The measures cannot be subtracted from if applicable to a building however, they can be added to.

Who is responsible for monitoring and enforcing maintenance?

The local council is primarily responsible. They will chase fire safety statements and may even inspect building if they feel necessary. They can prosecute breaches and certain offences may be subject to on the spot fines. The NSW fire brigade also plays a role. They may inspect premises and prosecute for any breaches found.

What penalty provisions can be enforced if my building does not comply?

If your building does not comply to legislation then penalty infringement notices (on the spot fines), orders and court action may be handed down by council of the fire brigade.

Who is empowered to serve and enforce non-compliance notices and actions?

Councils are primarily responsible for enforcement however; fire brigades may also take some action.

Are there any standardized processes or forms associated?

Currently no. The Regulation specifies what information must be contained in schedules, certificates or statements however; it presently does not provide standardized forms.

Once an order or notice has been issued are there any appeal provisions in relation to the compliance, enforcement and penalty requirements?

Yes.

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