AUST – Essential Property Services advises building owners and managers that there are a number of checks and balances required when selecting and engaging maintenance contractors to undertake maintenance and testing of essential safety measures. While sound maintenance contractor selection processes will not generate revenue, mistakes in selecting the wrong contractor for maintaining and testing your essential safety measures like fire protection systems could be costly.

Owners and relevant managers should make themselves fully aware of the minimum standards for essential safety measures and engage suitable specialist maintenance contractors (SMC) to provide inspections and testing at their buildings or facilities.  The first step is to implement a system that specifies your requirements of the contractor.

Implement a system for essential safety measures:

Always verify that the SMC you consider for engagement has the credentials to protect your interests:

References
Check that the SMC has references from current contracts at similar scale buildings.  Not all SMC’s have the experience or capability to test and maintain essential safety measures in larger scale industrial or high rise commercial buildings.

Licensing
Ensure that the SMC has appropriate trade licenses for the maintenance of the systems in your buildings or facilities.

Insurance
Ensure that the SMC has sufficient insurance coverage and provide certificates of currency for:

  • Public and Product Liability
  • Professional Indemnity
  • Workers Compensation

One Stop Shop Approach
Avoid using SMC’s that claim they can test, inspect, repair and certify all essential safety measures.  It is advisable to always ensure repairs and certification of essential safety measures is independently verified.  Many companies will primarily use sub-contractors for the delivery of maintenance services.  The risk exposure situation with using SMC’s that use sub-contractors is often unclear – for example, the insurances of the primary contractor may not be valid when sub-contractors are engaged.     
 
Annual Statements for Essential Safety Measures
Ensure that your SMC is contractually required to provide an annual fire safety statement sign-off for the level of testing and standards in order to ensure compliance, and to provide the documented evidence necessary to support your Annual Fire Safety Statement (AFSS), Annual Occupiers Statement, or Annual Essential Safety Measures Report. 

Contracts
Contracts or service agreements need to be drafted to include maintenance service delivery over a 12 month period.  

Annual, triennial, 5 year and even 24 year testing of essential safety measures and overhaul regimes are mandatory, and these periodical services are often overlooked for the following reasons:

  • They are not specified to the contractor
  • The SMC contract has finished and as a consequence, the service has not been provided.
  • Inadequate level of oversight and management of maintenance regimes

The importance of benchmarking SMC performance and creating an overlay essential safety measures monitoring and management program to ensure maintenance and compliance objectives are met is clear. What is measured can be managed, and management is about planning, organisation, leadership and control.