QLD – Essential Property Services advises managers of buildings that the Building Fire Safety Regulation 2008 (BFSR), have a number of requirements and penalties for fire safety installations, exits and other critical defects in relation to providing safe means of escape from commercial buildings.
Main Objects of the BFSR
(a) to ensure persons can evacuate buildings safely and quickly via exits if a fire or hazardous materials emergency happens.
(b) to ensure prescribed fire safety installations for buildings are maintained (this includes aspects of means of escape, namely exits, that are prescribed fire safety installations.)
The following 5 terminologies used in the regulations are fundamental to understanding the regulations that are intended to better identify areas of responsibility between occupiers and owners/managers and legislate to improve overall building fire safety.
Examples of BFSR Terminology
1. Terminology “managing entity” in respect to a multi-occupancy building, means the entity that is the occupier of, or in control of, the general access areas (exits) of the building. This specifically identifies building owners and managers and places increased onus to maintain and operate buildings in compliance with Queensland law.
Examples of entities that may be “managing entities” of buildings—
- The Body Corporate of a community titles scheme identifying scheme land on which a building is situated
- The owner of a building or their nominated representative
2. Terminology “common area” of a building means a part of a building that is designed or constructed to be used as a thoroughfare (an exit space). Examples such as a hallway, corridor, passageway, landing, stairway or ramp are all either exits or path of travel leading to an exit.
However, a “common area” of a building does not include a part of a building that is used entirely or mainly as a residence and occupied by a person who owns, or is a tenant of, the part of the building.
3. Terminology “critical defect” and “critical defect notice” A defect in a prescribed fire safety installation for a building is a “critical defect” if is likely to render the fire safety installation inoperable. The defect is reasonably likely to have a significant adverse impact on the safety of occupants of part or all of the building if a fire or hazardous materials emergency happens.
Examples of a defect becoming a Critical Defect under the BFSR.
- A defect making a fire detection and alarm system inoperable
- A defect in a pump making the fire hydrants for a building inoperable
- An obstruction to an exit rendering it impassable
Reporting of critical defects is incumbent on any person who is carrying out, or has carried out, maintenance of a prescribed fire safety installation for a building, becomes aware, or ought reasonably to be aware (owners, facilities/property mangers) of a critical defect in the installation. The person must give the occupier of the building a notice about the defect in the approved form a “critical defect notice” within 24 hours after the person carries out the maintenance of the installation.
This aspect of the regulation builds on the increased reporting requirements of the fire safety installation equipment maintenance adopted in AS 1851-2005 Maintenance of fire protection systems and equipment.
4. Terminology “evacuation route”. The BFSR has extensively increased the requirements of what an “evacuation route” (path of travel to an exit) is and places number of restrictions on their design and how they should be maintained.
The regulation prohibits the locking of exit doors on evacuation routes and makes special exemptions for child care centres and places of lawful custody. The provision only applies to exit doors on evacuation routes. That is, doors on the path of travel from a common area of a building through a final exit door to a place of safety outside a building.
For example, the prohibition does not apply to:
Doors not in thoroughfares (e.g. exit doors to individual residential units; doors on individual classrooms); and
Exit doors from a building that are not approved or signed exits, or specified in the building’s fire and evacuation plan as an exit.
The regulation provides that a door is not to be deemed locked if it can be opened from the internal side using a device that can be operated by one downward or pushing action using one hand. This is now in line with the provisions of the Building Code of Australia (BCA) Volume 1 – Part D (BCA).
Doors that have locking mechanisms that do not pass this test will have to be replaced or modified otherwise are deemed illegal and penalties apply for non compliance. This amendment recognises that the BCA sets the building standard. If the locking mechanism complies with the BCA it is deemed acceptable.
5. Terminology “final exit door” makes it clear that it applies only to exits required under a development approval; exits that are signed with an exit sign or exits that are shown on evacuation diagrams for the building. For occupancies where there may be a practice of locking doors for the safety of patients – for example dementia units – the locking mechanism used will have to comply with the BCA and receive the necessary building approval to be acceptable.
Clauses also specifically legislate against unauthorised modification to evacuation routes (exits). Modifications such as the installation of unapproved mechanical ventilation systems, holding open of fire doors and smoke doors or failing to seal holes in a wall of a fire isolated passage or compartment become critical defects, since these are all fire safety installations. This clause makes it mandatory for building owners/ managers/ occupiers to repair deficiencies in fire resisting construction under the BFSR.
Building Legislation Table
Refer to our Building Legislation table for further information on the building control process.