In an industry sector that is governed by a myriad of regulations, acts and standards and one that is serviced by a wide range of operators with differing specialities and skill sets, it is not surprising that we often field questions from confused or misinformed customers.
Comparing Apples to Apples – it’s not always easy
Customers are often aghast at the difference in comparative quotes; comparing apples with apples is not always obvious! You need to check for inclusions, exclusions and the skill level and qualifications of the technicians who will be performing the services.
Differences in the level and breadth of service delivery by industry operators and incorrect assumptions by clients are very common. Building owners often make assumptions around compliance that expose them to risk and further assume that important servicing elements are being attended to when in fact they are not. We often learn of building owners being in breach of current regulations by using unlicensed plumbing technicians for fire sprinkler testing.
To set the record straight, in this article we explain three of the issues we regularly come across.
I have an Occupancy Permit so doesn’t that make my building compliant?
No, this is not the case. At the time when the Occupancy Permit is issued, it is evidence that a building, or part of the building to which the permit applies, is suitable for occupation at that particular time. It is important to look a little closer; the vast majority of Occupancy Permits issued have a note or disclosure segment stating that the occupancy permit does not provide evidence of compliance with fire safety inspections, maintenance and reporting requirements as per the Building Act 1993 or Building Regulations 1994.
To achieve compliance, it is important that you have a skilled and trained maintenance provider engaged from the very beginning of your occupancy so any defects or incorrectly installed fire systems can be identified and, importantly, so that any associated rectification costs can be passed back to the builder.
For most fire systems there is no licence or qualifications required so it is important that you do your research. Use a provider that uses specialised and trained technicians. Failure to do so can result in owners being left to burden the cost of systems that have been incorrectly installed or systems that have been installed using methods that are not approved by Australian Standards.
How can one company’s quote be twice the price?
In your role as a building owner, property manager or body corporate manager, you may be asked to obtain a number of comparative quotes for the maintenance of the building’s essential safety measures. How can you be sure you are comparing apples with apples?
When comparing various quotes, it is important to understand the Essential Safety Measures that may or may not be included. Many companies do not include all maintenance of each of the Essential Safety Measures listed on the occupancy permit. The OP dictates the frequency and type of inspection, testing and maintenance period required for each essential safety measure determined by the Registered Building Surveyor. Some exclude major servicing (annual inspections) and only allow for a sample of inspections in the proposal.
Whilst some quotes may appear a lot cheaper, there is likely to be a good reason for that.
Avoid nasty surprises with additional quotations for services you through were included. Have you currently got a service provider in place that is only partly servicing the ESM? If so, they will exclude certain services resulting in missed testing! Some providers lower costs by simply not inspecting or testing the equipment correctly in-line with AS1851, jeopardising the safety of occupants. It pays to check and get a second opinion to see if inspections are to be carried out correctly and at the required frequency.
Here are some questions to ask to ensure you will be getting what you think you are paying for:
- Are all major annual inspections included?
- Are all regular scheduled inspections included?
- Are maintenance services and defect rectification costs included?
- Are ALL the Essential Safety Measures (as per Occupancy Permit) included?
- Will my hydrant and sprinkler flow testing be undertaken by a credited and licenced professional?
- Will my fire pump be serviced by a pump specialist?
- Will penetrations be inspected and recorded annually by a trained specialist with extensive knowledge of passive products and test data?
- Will servicing adequately test and address all the service criteria of AS1851?
- What extra costs could I expect?
How do I know if Licenced technicians are used to test my fire sprinkler system?
It is a requirement under the Victorian Plumbing Regulations 2018 that only licenced technicians be permitted to undertake important monthly, 6 monthly and annual servicing of a building’s fire sprinkler systems.
Under Part 4 of the Plumbing Regulations 2018, Fire Protection work is:
a) the construction, installation, replacement, repair, alteration, routine servicing, maintenance, testing or commissioning of any part of a water service used for fire fighting, from the point of connection of the service to the water supply up to and including any fire protection equipment forming part of that service
A licenced sprinkler fitter understands the compliance requirements of AS1851 Routine Service of Fire Protection Systems and Equipment, AS2118 Automatic Fire Sprinkler Systems and relevant aspects of the National Construction Code that relate to fire protection plumbing.
When activated, fire sprinkler systems alert the fire brigade by conveying an alarm signal to the Alarm Signalling Equipment (ASE). A compliant and fully operational fire suppressions system significantly increases the chance of restraining fire; it could even extinguish the fire. It is so important to use a licenced fitter.
At Essential Safety Solutions, our all-inclusive maintenance of your fire and safety equipment will give you peace of mind that your building is protected. Our team of dedicated and experienced specialist service technicians will reassure you that you have chosen the right service provider.
For information how you can save costs on Essential Services Maintenance and gain greater value, please contact our expert team on 1300 151 056 or firstname.lastname@example.org.