VIC – Essential Property Services advises that building owners and tenants are governed by the essential safety measures provisions contained in the Building Regulations 2006, these provisions including the signing each year of the annual essential safety measures report (AESMR) in many cases pass unnoticed. Few building owners and occupiers are aware of the obligations that have been enacted in June 2009 on building owners, namely that all buildings old and new will require the owner to sign an ‘annual essential safety measures reportfor the previous 12 months every year.

All buildings (except houses) will require the AESMR every 12 months, starting in June 2009, for the proceeding 12 months, regardless of when it was built stating that all essential safety measures have been inspected and are functioning.

Who Mandates Essential Safety Measures?

When a building is constructed or altered, upon completion of the building works, the building surveyor will either issue an Occupancy Permit or a Certificate of Final Inspection. Both of these documents will contain a list of essential safety measures.

Where do Essential Safety Measures Come From?

The Building Regulations 2006 in Part 12 nominate TableI1.1 to I1.11 of Volume 1 (Commercial Buildings) of the Building Code of Australia (BCA) as the essential safety measures applicable for all buildings except for artificial lighting. Also included are mechanical ventilation systems, items specified in alternative solutions by the building surveyor and items nominated under previous regulations.

What are Essential Safety Measures?

Essential safety measures can either be active or passive, examples of active systems are sprinkler systems, emergency lighting, mechanical ventilation and smoke alarm systems. Examples of passive systems are fire resisting materials, fire windows, paths of travel to an exit and fire isolated stairs.

Building Regulations 2006, Part 12 Maintenance of Buildings

Owner

Agent

Occupier

Person

Requirement

1205 . . . Must comply with maintenance determination
1207 . . . Must ensure maintenance schedule available
1208 . . . Must prepare the AESMR annually
1209 1209 . . AESMR must contain certain criteria including signature.
1211 . . . AESMR and maintenance records must be made available to authorities on request.
1214 . . . AESMR required for building built before 1 July 1994.
1215 1215 . . AESMR content building built before 1 July 1994
1216 . . . AESMR and maintenance records must be made available to authorities on request for building built before 1 July 1994
1217 . . . Responsibility for maintenance for buildings
built before 1 July 1994
. . 1218 . Maintenance of exits, efficient condition, clear etc.
. . 1220 1220 Maintenance / operation of swimming pool fences, gate etc.

Most passive essential safety measure items in a building are not well known, since there can be design safety features or structural elements built into the fabric of the building such as fire control joint and fire indices, or building element safety features such as discharge from exits into a public space, that are not often used, but are still incorporated in the AESMR.

What Does the Law Require?

The Building Regulations 2006 are very specific relative to essential safety measures and carry punitive measures for non compliance, a building owner or occupier who ignores the regulations or who is ill advised will be exposed very quickly in the event of injury or death in a building caused by poor maintenance of essential safety measures.

The table above is a brief summary of the obligations of the building owner, building owner’s agent, occupier or person nominated in the regulations concerning the maintenance of essential safety measures.

It’s all in the Timing

All new buildings and buildings constructed before the 1 July 1994 which have had subsequent alterations occur after this date are all currently subject to the requirements of obtaining an AESMR. All new and existing buildings, whether altered or not, will require a signed AESMR by the 13 June each year.

To be able to sign the AESMR by the 13 of June each year, building owners must also be capable of providing the essential safety measures inspection/ maintenance records for the preceding 12 months (13/6 to 13/6) to either the municipal building surveyor or chief fire officer upon request.

Building owners responsible for a number of buildings need to be mindful of not falling into the trap of organising a single date for the AESMR on all their buildings. The logistics of preparation, sourcing contractors, performing maintenance on all essential safety measures and the issue of providing multiple AESMR on the one day is an horrendous task. Remember you are certifying for the preceding 12 months of compliance relative to essential safety measures maintenance, and your systems, contractors and verification methods in your essential safety measures logbooks must be up to scratch for you to sign each AESMR each year.

We recommend building owners stagger their 12 month commencement dates for each building well before the 12 month period commences, which in turn will allow for staggered dates for the signing of AESMR’s. This will allow the building owners, consultants, contractors and employees sufficient time and capability to provide the services needed in a professional manner.

When it comes to collating all the relevant essential safety measures information required to sign off the AESMR, and understanding the legal obligations of the building owner from a statutory and workplace safety point of view, it is wise to have a system in place to verify whether all items have been maintained to the correct level.

Essential Property Services assessors performing essential safety measures audits on buildings are finding numerous cases of shortcomings when producing evidence and records on essential safety measures to prove that the appropriate maintenance has taken place over the preceding 12 months. Effectively this means that although someone may sign the AESMR, if the maintenance has not been done (or not proven to have been done) the AESMR won’t be worth the paper it is written on. Municipal building surveyors and fire brigade officers are cracking down on incomplete AESMR’s. Additionally signing the AESMR will not afford you any legal protection should something go wrong.

A number of our clients advise that ‘Verified’ has the hard evidence to back this up.  Verified has been managing and tracking fire safety maintenance delivery on essential safety measures  for thousands of buildings nationally for a number of years. Their accumulated data proves that simply engaging a specialist maintenance provider to perform the required essential safety measures maintenance (whether through a managing agent, facility manager, or directly) is not going to deliver the outcome for which building owners are likely to be charged. There is a significant gap between what is required and what is being delivered in the marketplace.

Such a gap exists that the Australian Standard for fire protection maintenance AS 1851-2005Maintenance of fire protection systems and equipment’ has attempted to address the situation by tightening up the requirements significantly, to ensure the standard of service for inspection and maintenance of essential safety measures provided by the contractor is to a high level. Irrespective of these requirements however, Verified continues to see a high percentage of tests not being completed for a significant number of essential safety measures.

The comparison of results from actual routine essential safety measures maintenance delivered against the requirements of the Building Regulations 2006 and the Australian Standards show a consistently poor level of compliance. When Verified initially implemented management of the process across a property portfolio, most building owners and managers were shocked to learn that there were huge gaps in the maintenance, even though they had paid for it to be done and had unwittingly signed the AESMR every year.

Why is My Maintenance Not Performed Adequately?

It is the total reliance on the specialist sub-contractor to deliver the requirements that are right for your building. It seems that due to the complexity and specialist nature of fire protection maintenance on a number of essential safety measures, most building owners and managers rely on the provider to do the right thing, and it is proving not to be a good tactic. Building owners cannot measure if, when, or how the maintenance is being delivered, and are assuming the work has been done just because the invoices are paid, and thus signing the AESMR.

Across thousands of sites, Verified essential safety measures statistics paint a quite different picture:

Monthly Tests Completed

70%

Quarterly Tests Completed

30%

6 Monthly Tests Completed

9%

Yearly Tests Completed

69%

3 Yearly Tests Completed

65%

INVOICES PAID

100%

Definitive measurement of the process is required, since, as the management dictum says – “you cannot manage what you cannot measure.”

Building Legislation Table

Refer to our Building Legislation table for further information on the building control process.