Maintaining Essential Safety Measures

Russ Porteous
CEO, Firewize
01 Aug, 2018

When the construction of a building is complete, the building owner is responsible for its upkeep and maintenance, particularly its safety features or essential safety measures.

The maintenance of essential services will ensure that the safety systems mainly dealing with fire situations within the building, remain at the required operational level throughout the life of the building. The type of maintenance depends on the complexity of the service, equipment or feature and the experience of the person carrying out the inspection or test.

What is an essential safety measure?

Essential services are the fire and life safety items installed or constructed in a building to ensure adequate levels of fire safety over the life of the building.

Essential services include all traditional building fire services such as sprinklers, mechanical services, but also include passive fire safety such as fire doors, fire rated structureand other building infrastructure items such as paths of travel to exits.

An essential safety measure not specifically defined under the Building Regulations in Victoria, however the Victorian Building Authority ("VBA") do publish a document called a "Practice Note" that gives the Relevant Building Practitioner ("RBP") guidance on the Essential Safety measures in a building.

The following list is a summary extract of the typical maintenance requirements for Class 2 to Class 9 buildings as set out in the Victorian Building Authority Practice Note PN-23-2016 - Maintenance of Essential Safety Measures.

Building Fire Integrity (Doors & Shutters)

  • Fire doors (including sliding fire doors and their associated warning systems) and associated self- closing, automatic closing and latching mechanisms
  • Fire windows (including windows that are automatic or permanently fixed in the closed position)
  • Fire Shutters
  • Solid core doors and associated self-closing, automatic closing and latching mechanisms
  • Smoke doors and associated self-closing, automatic closing and latching mechanisms

Means of Egress

  • Paths of travel to exits
  • Discharge from exits (including paths of travel from open spaces to the public roads to which they are connected) 
  • Exits (including fire-isolated stairways and ramps, non-fire isolated stairways and ramps, stair treads, balustrades and handrails associated with exits, and fire-isolated passageways) 
  • Smoke lobbies to fire-isolated exits
  • Open access ramps or balconies for fire-isolated exits
  • Doors (other than fire or smoke doors) in a required exit, forming part of a required exit or in a path of travel to a required exit, and associated self-closing, automatic closing and latching mechanisms

Fire Fighting Services & Equipment

  • Wall-wetting sprinklers (including doors and windows required in conjunction with wall-wetting sprinklers)
  • Fire hydrant system (including on-site pump set)
  • Sprinkler system
  • Provisions for special hazards

Lighting

  • Exit signs (including directional signs)
  • Emergency lighting

Signs

  • Signs warning against the use of lifts in the event of fire
  • Warning signs on sliding fire doors and doors to non-required stairways, ramps and escalators,
  • Signs, intercommunication systems, or alarm systems on doors of fire isolated exits stating that re-entry to storey is available
  • Signs alerting persons that the operation of doors must not be impaired
  • Signs required on doors, in alpine areas, alerting people that they open inwards
  • Fire order notices required in alpine areas

Fire Fighting Services & Equipment

  • Fire hydrant valves (including fire service booster connection)
  • Fire hose reel system
  • Portable fire extinguishers
  • Eye Wash Stations

Automatic Fire Detection & Alarm Systems

  • Smoke and heat alarm system
  • Smoke and heat detection system
  • Atrium fire detection and alarm systems

Occupant Warning Systems

  • Emergency warning and intercommunication system. Includes 
  • Building occupant warning system