COVID-19 and Essential Safety Measures

COVID-19 and Essential Safety Measures

During COVID-19, some building owners and facility managers have been asking questions relating to their Essential Services requirements, where there has been reduced occupancy levels and in some cases, completely vacant buildings.

Questions such as “Can systems run at reduced levels?” and  “Can systems be shut down altogether?” have been typical. The answer is usually NO.

At Essential Safety Solutions, we know that at times like these we actually need to be extra vigilant. In times where a facility experiences a significant change in activity or there is a change of normal operating pattern, fire risk is heightened.

Compliance Always Matters – Even During COVID-19

Building owners need to ensure their essential safety measures comply with all relevant regulations to protect life and property in the event of an emergency. COVID-19 does not stop the risk of fire or other emergencies.

All building owners are required to have an Annual Essential Safety Measures Report (AESMR) prepared each year under the Victorian Building Act 1993 and the Building Regulations 2018. Regardless of the building’s age, this AESMR must be undertaken by a specialist service provider such as Essential Safety Solutions.

The purpose of an AESMR is to ensure all essential safety measures, pieces of safety equipment, fittings or other safety measures that relate to the building are maintained in order to perform as designed. Examples include fire alarm systems, emergency lighting, mechanical HVAC ventilation systems, fire extinguishers, building occupant warning system, emergency power supply etc.

A legal requirement, the AESMR confirms that, for the preceding 12 months, the owner has taken all reasonable steps to ensure that each essential safety measure is operating at the required level of performance or is fulfilling its purpose. Additionally, Local Councils and fire authorities have the responsibility under current legislation to enforce building regulations for increased safety. It is also worth noting that under the Building Regulations 2018, penalties have increased for non-compliance.

Essential Safety Elements Work Together For Life Safety

A building’s Essential Safety Measures often rely on the integration of active Mechanical and Fire protection services and work together to provide a safety system for the entire building. Any reduction or shutting down of individual systems or elements may compromise the operation of other fire and life safety systems. This will also compromise the ability to maintain compliance certification.

Essential Fire Services Maintenance Regimes Still Need To Be Performed

Where a building is occupied to any extent, essential fire safety systems and their ongoing inspection and testing regimes are required to assure the health and safety of occupants. These systems should not be disabled or shut down.

A building without fully operational essential fire safety systems will have workplace health and safety implications. If systems are non-operational or have a reduced operational capacity, occupation of the building for any reason will not be permitted, e.g. security patrols.

Shut Down or Hibernation Risks

Lack of operation of systems such as alarm valves and fire pumps may result in expensive repairs or replacement upon re-operation.

There are likely to also be insurance implications if any essential fire services are disabled or maintenance is discontinued.

Maintaining your Assets

As you may be aware, most buildings never fully shutdown, even over extended holiday breaks. It is important for all your building’s Essential Services elements to be maintained to minimise costs and to ensure life safety and the protection of your building asset.

For any information how you can save costs on your Essential Services Measures during Covid-19 or any other time, please contact our expert team on 1300 151 056 or service@essaust.com.au.

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