Recently I received an email from a customer who instructed us to stop maintaining the essential safety measures in his building.
The customer was under the wrong impression that because the building was not occupied that it did not need to be maintained.
The reality is that Part 12 of the Building Regulations 2006 (Vic) do not distinguish between empty and occupied buildings and structures.
This week seems to be full of questions which have needed a bit of research in order for me to respond... Here is the hot question today...
I have an existing building with a fire panel, connected to the fire brigade and an emergency warning & Intercommunication system (EWIS) located in the foyer on the ground floor. The panels are hidden behind a set of labelled bi-fold doors.
We would like to enclose this space for use as a small office and keep the fire panels in the same location.
What codes and standards apply and can this be achieved?
This might be my most controversial blog yet, but if it can help start to improve the standard and quality of the Occupancy Permits issued and that I witness then it may be worth the criticism!
My contention is that many occupancy permits are poorly written and incorrectly identify items of equipment, features and measures that are not essential safety measures as prescribed in the Regulations. The results could be risking safety and costing building owners thousands of dollars.
If you are a building surveyor or building owner or manager then you should read this article.
In Victoria, an Occupancy Permit (OP) is a document (Form 6), specified in Part 10 of the Building Regulations 2006 (Vic) (the Regulations) as part of the building process.
The Relevant Building Surveyor is required to issue either an Occupancy Permit or Certificate of Final Inspection after the mandatory final inspection at the completion of building works.
The Building Commission (the statutory body responsible for the administration of the Regulations) describe the Occupancy Permit as;
Occupancy permits are documents that signify that a building surveyor is satisfied and has approved your building as being suitable for occupation. The Building Act 1993 requires the issue of an occupancy permit prior to occupation of a new building.
An occupancy permit is not a statement that all the building work is necessarily complete. Nor is it a certificate that states that all building work complies with the relevant legislation or contract. An occupancy permit is issued when your building is "suitable to occupy" from a health and safety point of view.
An occupancy permit will only be issued to you when items affecting health and safety are in place and capable of being operational. These include things such as the water supply, sanitary and cooking facilities, smoke alarms, safety glass, handrails and balustrades. It does not mean that all the painting is done or that the carpet is laid, for example.
In this article I am going to write about our observations regarding the Occupancy Permits, conditions for occupation comprising Part 1 - Essential Safety Measures and Part 2 Other Conditions Occupancy Permit or a document prepared by a Building Surveyor.
Building Owners and Building Occupiers responsibilities explained...
More and more often, I have been hearing stories about the confusion by building owners and their agents in regard to the maintenance of essential safety measures. Worse, I have also heard about some practices of 'audit & compliance companies' who are perpetuating the confusion either out of a lack of understanding or for financial gain.
First of all, there are six individuals or groups of people that could be considered in this discussion;
- The Building Owner (landlord)
- The Building Owners Agent
- The Employer (occupier)
- The Employer's employees
- The Municipal Building Surveyor
- The Public
In the event of a disaster, the buck usually stops with the Building Owner or the Employer!
For the purpose of this article I am focusing on the obligations of these two groups of people!