AUST – HENDRY building surveyors provided the following comprehensive Building Code of Australia (BCA) report to a client concerning the use of fire isolated stairs by tenants for travelling between floors. The report raised some issues, and is a good read for those who have this Building Code of Australia related problem. An edited version of the report follows:

Attention Mr XXXX

Re:     XXXX

Building Code of Australia Fire Isolated Stair Compliance

Further to our site inspection of XXXX, the following are our comments and recommendations in relation to the compliance of the treads, landings and balustrading within the fire isolated stairs with the Building Code of Australia.

Building Act and BCA Compliance

The building was constructed in approximately 1980 and it is assumed that the construction of the fire isolated stairs complied with the Building Regulations at that time and it would appear that there have been no significant changes to the construction of the fire isolated stairs from when they were originally built.

We therefore advise that the Building Act 1993 does not specifically require the fire isolated stairs to be upgraded to comply with current Building Code of Australia requirements irrespective of whether they comply with current Building Code of Australia requirements or not.

The fire isolated stairs were however approved and constructed based on them being used primarily for emergency purposes since the building is provided with lifts to provide access between floor levels and therefore as with typical fire isolated stairs built under today’s legislation, they are generally poorly lit areas comprising concrete and steel construction.

We understand however that the fire isolated stairs are frequently being used by the staff on a daily basis to provide access between the floors instead of using the lifts, presumably because they offer quicker access between the floors than the lifts and also the opportunity for physical exercise. The intended purpose of the fire isolated stairs has therefore changed from when they were constructed. We also witnessed this while on our inspection observing a number of staff using the fire isolated stairs.

The Building Code of Australia now not only comprises deemed-to-satisfy provisions but also performance requirements and in particular performance requirement DP2 requires people to be able to move safely to and within a building and it must have in the case of a fire isolated stairs, “suitable safe passage in relation to the nature, volume and frequency of likely usage”. Extracts from the Building Code of Australia performance requirements are attached.

It is therefore on this basis that we recommend that if XXXX wishes to continue to allow the staff to frequently use the fire isolated stairs for general access between the floors for other than emergency evacuation purposes, appropriate upgrade works should be carried out to the fire isolated stairs to reduce the risk of slip and fall accidents occurring.

XXXX also needs to consider its duty of care requirements and obligations under the WorkSafe Victoria legislation that requires an employer to provide a safe workplace irrespective of the requirements of the Building Regulations 2006 and Building Act 1993.

Also there are duties and obligations under the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) regarding access for people with disabilities and we understand a separate report will be provided from the DDA consultant to address the DDA issues and also other design standards including the Premises Standards.

We have therefore provided our comments and recommendations in relation to the applicable requirements of the Building Code of Australia for the design of the fire isolated stairs.

We only inspected one upper level within the fire isolated stairs and therefore our comments are based on our observations and measurements of this level, however it appears that they are typical for all the flights within both of the fire isolated stairs.

1.  BCA Clause D2.13 Going and Risers (Fire Isolated Stairs).

BCA Clause D2.13 requires the dimensions of the going and risers in fire isolated stairs to be constant throughout the flight and the dimensions to comply with Table D2.13.