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Improving building fire safety 

A number of priorities are being worked on to further strengthen protections in place for fire safety in buildings across NSW. Specifically work is being done to address risks associated with external wall cladding.

Stopping the use of non-compliant building products

New laws came into effect on 18 December 2017 that prevent the use of unsafe building products in building and construction, by identifying, restricting and rectifying building products which pose a safety risk in buildings. Find out more on Building product safety laws.

Requiring owners to declare and assess external wall cladding

New laws are being developed that will require building owners to register with the NSW Government if their building has combustible external wall cladding and undertake a fire safety assessment if needed. The draft regulation is on exhibition for public comment until Friday 16 February 2018 and more information is on the NSW Planning website.

Conducting a data audit and fire safety inspections

A data audit conducted by the NSW Data Analytics Centre is identifying the buildings that are most likely to contain aluminium and other types of cladding. The audit examined records of 178,000 buildings in NSW and slightly more than 1,000 buildings have been identified as potentially having aluminium and other types of cladding. FRNSW is visiting all of these buildings. As at 7 December 2017, 220 buildings, including 58 high-rise residential buildings, have been confirmed to have cladding in a quantity or configuration which requires further assessment.

Owners and managers of the identified buildings receive a letter alerting them to the issues related to cladding, and recommending that they take immediate action to check documentation and approvals of the building and if needed commission a fire safety assessment of the building by a fire protection expert.

Preparing pre-incident plans and conducting home fire safety checks

Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW) are now preparing pre-incident plans for the identified residential high-rises and conducting home fire safety checks. Pre-incident plans ensure firefighters have comprehensive knowledge of these buildings and are well placed to deal with an incident as quickly and effectively as possible. Home fire safety checks involve reviewing installed fire safety equipment (such as fire hydrants, hoses and emergency exits) as well as reassuring and supporting residents to be home fire safe (checking they have at least one working smoke alarm and providing relevant fire safety information). Residents who are not home during the checks will receive high-rise specific information in their mailbox.

Requiring local councils to inspect buildings

FRNSW will inform local council of identified buildings and require them to perform an inspection and report back.

A number of local councils are also taking actions to respond to fire safety risks associated with external wall cladding. Residents can find out if their local council has taken action by contacting their council directly. For contact information, visit the ‘Find my council’ page on the Office of Local Government website.

Reforming the building certification system

The Government has outlined a significant reform agenda on building regulation to address the issues raised by the Building Professionals Act Review. In addition to the amendments to the EP&A Act outlined above, the Government has already taken action on many of the other priority reforms on the building certification system. These include:

  • reforming certifier regulation by re-writing the Building Professionals Act 2005.
  • requiring councils and private certifiers to provide data about the work they certify.
  • integrating building and certifier licensing and accreditation functions under the one organisation — the Department of Finance, Services and Innovation.