Strata responsibility - building safety

A major tragedy in the UK this year saw 71 people perish in the Grenfell Tower apartment block fire. Because of this dreadful event, building safety standards have been under the microscope around the world.

If you are a strata member or property manager, it is important to understand the responsibilities of a strata when it comes to multi-dwelling buildings.

Fire safety in Australian buildings

The fire in London prompted wide reviews of fire safety in Australia. An inquiry in NSW and Victoria found there are over 2,000 buildings at risk due to defective cladding similar to that surrounding Grenfell Tower. Also highlighted were “dodgy sprinklers, aggressive profiteering and a lack of regulation.”

As a result, new laws have given officials the power to identify and ban unsafe building materials. Corporate builders cause knowingly using unsafe materials will face huge fines.

At a strata level, an up to date Fire Safety Certificate is a requirement for residential buildings. To obtain a certificate, an inspection must be carried out by a surveyor or Fire services contractor. This certificate should be provided to the local council, lodged with the local fire brigade and displayed prominently somewhere in the apartment block.

The fire safety measures your building should have include:

  • Working water supply services

  • Fire hydrants

  • Fire doors

  • Fire hose reels

  • Sprinkler systems

  • Emergency lighting

  • Exit signs

  • Smoke detectors and fire alarms

Having an annual fire safety inspection is a legal requirement.  As a building owner or strata manager, it is recommended to always call on a qualified and fully insured contractor.

Pools and windows

Swimming pools present a safety hazard, particularly for small children. Because of this, pools must be registered and subjected to regular council inspections. Apartment owners corporations have a responsibility to ensure pools or spas are have fences in accordance with state requirements.

To prevent falls, strata buildings also have window safety requirements. Owners corporations are required to install childproof devices which prevent windows being opened more than 12.5 cm on all common property windows above the ground floor. This applies whether you have children or not.

Flyscreens do not count as window safety devices. These are designed to keep insects out, not children in.

Other safety requirements

Apartment buildings and gardens need to be safe places to live and work. Two more regulations include:

  • Multiple occupancy dwelling owners must be given notice of pest controllers applying pesticides to the internal or external common areas of their residence.  

  • Common property should have risks identified and reduced in order to prevent on-site workers having accidents. Problems should be addressed as soon as possible in order to prevent law suits or fines.

Insurance

Building owners corporations should make sure buildings have public liability insurance as well as workers compensation insurance.

Building safety is about prevention rather than cure. Spending the money up front to ensure measures are in place will reduce the likelihood of catastrophic accidents or expensive lawsuits.

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