Fire initiatives launched in Australia as a result of Grenfell tragedy

Published:  21 July, 2017

Government probes will investigate the compliance and enforcement challenges facing fire safety in building and construction sector.

The Victorian Government has established a taskforce to investigate the public safety threat from buildings with combustible cladding, particularly high-rise apartments.

The taskforce will speed up the assessment of thousands of buildings across Victoria for unsafe cladding and make recommendations on improving industry compliance with building acts, regulations, codes and standards.

The Victorian Government embarked on Australia’s first ever audit to identify buildings fitted with cladding following the Lacrosse Building fire in Melbourne in 2014. The original audit and subsequent investigations assessed more than 220 Victorian buildings.

The taskforce will oversee the continuing audit to identify where cladding has been used inappropriately and ensure buildings are rectified more quickly.

It will also make recommendations to the Government on how to improve compliance and enforcement of building regulations to better protect the health and safety of building occupants.

In another initiative launched in response to concerns raised following Grenfell Tower, the Building Ministers' Forum has commissioned a report to examine the broad compliance and enforcement problems within the building and construction sector.

The Building Ministers' Forum, which consists of all the country’s ministers with responsibility for building and plumbing regulation, meets periodically to review the outcomes and progress of the Australian Building Codes Board.

Under the direction of the BMF, the Australian Building Codes Board will fast-track implementation of measures through the National Construction Code to prevent future non-compliant use of building cladding.

The BMF has also implemented a one-stop shop website providing general information on non-conforming building products, including a feature allowing members of the public to submit a complaint or enquiry about a product or material.

The initiatives have been welcomed by Australia’s fire sector, which hopes that the new probes will prompt a much-needed discussion about the fire safety of Australian buildings. Fire Protection Australia’s CEO Scott Williams commented: "It's important we have a rigorous process to identify these buildings, mitigate the risk they pose in the short term, and rectify the problems over the longer term. Through the ABCB and the NCC, Australia has some of the best building codes in the world. The key challenge for the industry is the compliance and enforcement of those codes, which needs minimum competency requirements and ongoing education in industry."

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