Maintenance considerations in fire system design

Earlier today, I received an email from a reputable consultant in workplace safety. Their email outlined "Height safety by design - practical considerations"...

In the middle of the email was the following paragraph;

Prevention of Falls During Maintenance Tasks
Items of plant/equipment that could lead to a fall of more than 2 metres, even those mounted at ground level or below, are now required to be designed so they can be safely serviced and maintained. Maintenance must be able to be safely conducted on such things as items of roof-top plant (exhaust fans, air-conditioning, solar panels, header tanks, etc.), skylights, high-level lighting, security cameras and building perimeter guttering.

Previously I have discussed the matter of the maintenance of fire systems in particular, how can we (maintenance service providers) provide a safe work environment when designers install heat detectors and fire sprinklers in ceiling spaces.

I think (although not specifically referenced) Australian Standard AS1670.1 addresses areas of restricted fire service access as follows;

3.25.8 - Restricted fire service access
Where detectors are installed in areas to which fire service access is restricted, each area
shall be a separate alarm zone, or have a suitably labelled remote indicator installed outside
the entry to the area (see Figure 2.2).

NOTE: Examples of restricted access may include the following locked areas: shops (in arcades,
malls and plazas), vaults, strongrooms, lift motor rooms, lift shafts, cool rooms, freezers,
cupboards and electrical switch rooms.

AS1670.1 Goes on to also define locations where detectors are not required which addresses concealed spaces that meet specific criteria;

(b) Concealed spaces?as follows (see Clause 3.25.4):

(i) Concealed spaces that are less than 800 mm high, do not contain electrical lighting and power equipment and are not used for storage.
(ii) Concealed spaces to which there is no access and that are fire-isolated with a minimum fire-resistance level 60/30/?.
(iii) Concealed spaces to which there is no access and that are less than 350 mm high, irrespective of construction.
(iv) Concealed spaces that are less than 3 m3, do not contain electrical lighting and power and are not used for storage.

I often hear the argument that the answer is simple... install the heat detectors on a ceiling bracket or install a gantry or fall protection device...

In practical terms, in an existing building the likelihood that building owners will modify the building to accommodate some form of fall protection is extremely low, and to install ceiling brackets will require ceiling space access for a retrofit.

First things first...
While I don't have a simple answer for an existing building, perhaps engineers, designers should consider the maintenance implications of their designs.

Going one step further is it practical to address this matter as part of some future edition of the Australian Standards?

As a starting point, perhaps standards developers might introduce a new clause for inclusion in AS1670.1, somewhere around Clause 4.1.6 (Heat) and Clause 5.1.7 (Smoke & CO) - Spacing in concealed spaces requiring protection.

What would this new clause look like?

I would love your contribution perhaps we can draft up a new clause for submission to TC/2 or FP-002 for discussion....

Let me know what you think...


Does the BCA address this matter?
Submitted by Anonymous on July 22, 2008 - 20:39.

Does the Building Code of Australia address this matter?