The new fire safety regulations that came into effect on 1 October 2017 require all fire safety assessments to be carried out by a competent fire safety practitioner. As part of the reforms, the NSW Department of Finance, Services and Innovation will establish a framework for accrediting individuals as competent fire safety practitioners in the months ahead.
In the meantime, it’s up to accredited certifiers like Modern Building Certifiers (MBC) to ensure the person fulfilling the role of fire safety practitioner is competent in relation to the development they are certifying. We take this responsibility very seriously and undertake due diligence to ensure all aspects of fire safety are completed to the highest standards.
The specialist functions performed by the competent fire safety practitioner in the new reforms include:
- endorsement of fire safety alternative solution reports
- endorsement of plans and specifications for certain fire safety systems
- endorsement of limited exemptions from compliance with the Building Code of Australia for minor fire safety system works.
To determine a fire safety practitioner’s competence, our accredited certifiers must first identify the function to be performed. We then consider whether the person has sufficient knowledge, skill and experience to perform these tasks.
All competent fire safety practitioners need to provide adequate documentation or evidence to prove they have the following:
- sufficient technical knowledge related to the specific function
- knowledge of relevant codes and standards
- knowledge of relevant laws and statutory responsibilities
- skills to perform the specific function
- experience directly relevant to the specific function
- professional indemnity insurance.
The Australian Fire Association recommends that fire safety practitioners have a minimum of four years verified experience in the specific functions they are looking to perform in the development. In addition, they need to demonstrate knowledge and skills, such as tertiary qualifications, accreditation or registration with a relevant industry body.
If the practitioner doesn’t have any qualifications, they may be able to demonstrate competence by other means, such as a relevant license or professional membership bound by a code of conduct. This would need to be supported by more extensive experience than would otherwise be required if they held formal qualifications.
To endorse a fire safety alternative solution report, the Australian Fire Association recommends a degree or graduate diploma in fire safety engineering.
To endorse plans and specifications for relevant fire safety systems, and/or endorse non-compliance with Building Code of Australia and Australian Standards for minor works to existing fire safety systems, a degree in building services or a diploma in fire systems design or hydraulic services design is required. To endorse mechanical ducted smoke control systems, a degree in building services or mechanical engineering is required.
Once competency is determined, our accredited certifiers must then record their decision in writing to confirm whether the person is a competent fire safety practitioner for the function that will be performed.