Melbourne Earthquake Uncovers Building Safety Flaws and Defects

Four construction workers in high visibility vests and hard hats at a post-earthquake site.

Melbourne Earthquake Uncovers Building Safety Flaws and Defects

A magnitude 6 earthquake affected a large area of Victoria on 22 September. As a result, numerous buildings throughout the state were inspected due to concerns surrounding structural integrity, damage assessment and overall safety.

In the aftermath, our experts have received reports from across the industry highlighting several severe building compliance issues. Additionally, natural events like earthquakes can exacerbate these compliance issues. Let’s review the most significant issues uncovered or caused by the Melbourne earthquake (2021 Mansfield earthquake).

Table of Contents

Top 3 issues uncovered by the Melbourne earthquake

1. Cracking in fire-rated wall systems

The compromised integrity of a structure like a firewall can constitute non-compliance. Non-compliance presents two distinct and potential consequences. First is the possible failure of the structure to contain the spread of smoke or fire, which would, in turn, endanger occupants in the event of a fire. Secondly, any issues of non-compliance can result in significant penalties or fines.

2. Issues with fire and smoke doors system operations due to frame distortion and movement in associated walls

Much like the previous point, potential occupant exposure to fire and smoke is an issue that cannot be left unresolved. The cost of non-compliance here could mean injury or death.

3. Potential issues with equipment associated with active fire protection systems

Environmental factors can compromise the condition or function of active fire protection systems like smoke detectors and fire alarms, sprinkler systems, thermal detectors and automated fire doors. As a result, these active fire protection systems may not function correctly in the event of a fire or other emergency.

Issues with mechanical system functions in fire mode

The consequences of the previous issue can produce a flow-on effect, impacting mechanical building systems such as HVAC controls. Then, this affects their ability to manage airflow or restrict the spread of smoke and airborne contaminants during a fire or other emergency.

It is fair to say that you should address each of these risks as rapidly as possible. To do this, we recommend that clients take the following three steps.

1. Bring forward annual system interface testing

Accelerating the time until your annual System Interface Test will help you identify fire and mechanical services issues more quickly.

2. Conduct a full audit of all fire and smoke door systems

These two steps will minimise the time a particular component of the building structure or safety measure is compromised and poses a risk to occupant safety.

3. Conduct additional annual passive fire rating systems inspection to identify defects in fire and smoke walls

Adding this measure on top helps ensure that these components are certified compliant. Or returned to a compliant condition as quickly as possible. Additionally, this measure ensures they will work effectively with the building’s active and passive safety measures.

By moving each of your auditing and testing inspections forward, we can uncover defects and deterioration caused by the Melbourne earthquake or similar environmental factors. Thus avoiding exposure to non-compliant safety measures.

We encourage all building owners and managers to act quickly to ensure that any non-compliance issues are detected and rectified as soon as possible. The quickest way to do that is to contact our Essential Safety Measures Team to walk through your requirements and arrange inspection and certification as quickly as possible.

Check your safety measures

Get in touch with our Essential Safety Measures Team to walk through your requirements and arrange an inspection.

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