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Fire Safety Reform in NSW

 

In July, 2017, the New South Wales Government announced a series of reforms to fire safety regulation and certification, developed following recommendations made by the independent Lambert Review. 

 

To give effect to these reforms, an amendment was made to the Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation 2000 (the Regulation) in October, 2017, which introduced the concept of the 'Competent Fire Safety Practitioner'. 

 

A key aspect of the reforms is to recognise that only competent individuals should perform certain tasks regarding fire safety, and that a qualification alone is not the only acceptable method of demonstrating competency. 

 

 

Competent Fire Safety Practitioner

 

The 'competent fire safety practitioner' (CFSP) was introduced under clause 167A of the Regulation to replace the term 'properly qualified person'.   

 

This latter term was not defined, but implied that an individual must hold a qualification to conduct an associated task. 

 

This role of CFSP was introduced for practitioners who: 

 

  • develop performance solutions (some may also need to be fire safety engineers);
  • prepare or endorse plans and specifications for 'relevant fire safety systems';
  • apply to exempt a relevant fire safety system from compliance with the National Construction Code; or  
  • assess the performance of essential fire safety measures of a building for the purposes of an annual or supplementary fire safety statement. 

 

CFSPs are not currently required to: 

 

  • install or commission systems;
  • prepare interim or final fire safety certificates;
  • conduct routine service work; or
  • perform rectification maintenance. 

 

FPA Australia anticipates that future stages of the reform may introduce 'competent fire safety practitioners' for these latter roles, but that would require additional regulation.   

 

 

Relevant Fire Safety Systems

 

A 'relevant fire safety system' is defined under the amended Regulation as meaning any of the following:

 

(a) A hydraulic fire safety system within the meaning of clause 165. Clause 165 defines a hydraulic fire safety system as;

 

(i) A fire hydrant system;
(ii) A fire hose reel system;
(iii) A sprinkler system (including wall-wetting sprinkler or drencher system); or
(iv) Any type of automatic fire suppression system of a hydraulic nature installed in accordance with a requirement of, or under, the Act or any other Act or law (including an order or a condition of an approval or some other sort of authorisation).

 

(b) A fire detection and alarm system; or

 

(c) A mechanical ducted smoke control system.

 

This term 'relevant fire safety system' is only referenced in relation to planning and specification design activities, not annual or supplementary fire safety statements, or final or interim fire safety certificates.

 

 

Recognition of FPAS

 

Under cl.167A of the 2017 reforms, the Secretary of the Department of Customer Service is authorised to recognise accreditation schemes as evidence of competency, under the Department's co-regulatory framework. 

 

In February, 2019, the then Secretary advised that he would approve two classes of accreditation under FPA Australia's Fire Protection Accreditation Scheme (FPAS): 

 

 

This approval means that individuals holding either FSA or FSD accreditation will be recognised as 'competent fire safety practitioners' (CFSPs) under the reforms, once the Secretary's decision has been Gazetted. 

 

FPA Australia expects this Gazettal to occur on 1 July, 2020. 

 

This decision will mean that only people accredited under: 

 

  • the FPAS FSA class will be able to carry out the annual assessment of buildings for fire safety performance; and
  • the FPAS FSD class, or certifiers registered under the Building Professionals Board's scheme, will be able to endorse plans and specifications for relevant fire safety systems. 

 

The only exception to these is in the area of mechanical air handling systems, for which there is not yet a recognised accreditation. 

 

While the FPAS scheme is the only one being recognised at this time, the regulations allow for other schemes to be recognised in the future, subject to them meeting the requirements of the co-regulatory framework. 

 

 

No new regulation

 

It is important to recognise that the recognition of FPAS is occurring under the existing regulations. 

 

The requirement to be competent is already in place, and owners, managers, and certifiers are expected to confirm that someone is competent before hiring them. 

 

There is no new legislation or regulation being introduced into Parliament - the authority to decide on recognition rests solely with the Secretary. 

 

Come 1 July, 2020, if a practitioner does not have an accreditation number (or registration number for a recognised BPB certifier), they will be unable to endorse either plans and specifications or essential fire safety measures. 

 

You can read more about the reforms here

 

To see the Government's website about the reforms, click here.  

 

To see the Scheme Documents for the recognition of FPAS, click here