Concerns have recently been raised about some builders’ failure to adhere to mandated fire-safety precautions during the construction process.
The Technical Standards Unit (TSU) within the Queensland Building and Construction Commission (QBCC) has sought to flag this issue with the construction industry, after identifying concerns with a small number of builders of multi-storey Class 2 to 9 buildings.
QBCC Commissioner, Brett Bassett, said that these builders had not ensured that the required firefighting equipment mandated under Part E1.9 of Volume 1 of the Building Code of Australia (BCA) was provided during construction.
The relevant clause of the BCA applicable to Class 2 to 9 buildings appears below:
Fire can be a significant risk during the construction of a building where activities such as welding, cutting or grinding of steel and the application of torches on materials such as waterproofing membranes could ignite rubbish, packaging, timber formwork and other materials commonly found on construction sites.
It is due to this risk that the BCA mandates having firefighting equipment available during construction to help site workers and emergency services personnel to fight fires, if required.
Mr Bassett has urged builders to not be complacent in ensuring that required firefighting equipment is provided and operational during construction.
Mr Bassett cited at least two fires at large buildings under construction in Brisbane in 2017 where fire services intervention was required. “Fires on construction sites do occur, hence the need for vigilance and compliance by building contractors,” he said.
Contractors also have obligations under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, which provides a framework to protect the health, safety and welfare of all workers and the public on or around construction sites.
Safe work method statements must be prepared to identify safety hazards such as fire, and describe how such hazards will be managed on a particular building site.
An example of an operational fire hydrant available for firefighting during construction.
“The QBCC’s Technical Standards Unit, which undertakes proactive audits of building work under construction in both the residential and commercial sectors, will pay particular attention to this issue going forward,” Mr Bassett said.
Building certifiers also have a role to play in the enforcement of Part E1.9 of the BCA. Certifiers must ensure that all aspects of building work comply with the building assessment provisions of the Development Approval.
During the construction phase of a building, certifiers should ensure that they regularly check that the required firefighting equipment is installed and compliant.
In Queensland, building certifiers have help on how to meet their responsibilities for sufficient inspections under the Building Act 1975 and the Building Regulation 2006 through a risk-based approach for the inspection of Class 2 to 9 buildings.
Due to the complexity of larger commercial buildings, this risk-based approach allows building certifiers to determine the need for, and timing of any inspection schedule.
Evidence of regard to the abovementioned guidelines made under the Building Act 1975 may assist a certifier in the event of any complaints or audits undertaken by the QBCC in relation to their performance.
The QBCC urges all stakeholders in the chain of responsibility to ensure compliance with Part E1.9 of the BCA when constructing a building to best ensure the safety of site workers, emergency services personnel and the public.