As a business owner, commercial property owner or tenant, are you holding legal responsibility in the event of a fire without realising it? Let’s have a look at how to ensure your premises comply with the Queensland Development Code and are protected in the event of a blaze…
Fire legal liability is an issue many businesses and owners unfortunately overlook. Building owners AND managers either push aside the responsibility or aren’t exactly sure how to deal with it.
Don’t rely on excuses like “What are the chances of that happening?”. In Queensland, facing fire is a very real possibility, with around 5630 property and equipment fires occurring in 2020. This includes fires in buildings, structures, storage and mobile properties.
All it takes is one bad accident, and your business can be slammed with legal action and its leaders could be faced with jail time. Even if you didn’t start the fire, your business could be held liable and dealt harsh penalties if your fire safety measures aren’t up to scratch.
This article will outline the legislative requirements of the Queensland Development Code for business owners and educate building owners on their responsibilities regarding fire maintenance for their premises to evaluate their current state of compliance.
When in doubt, the best course of action is to always consult a professional, such as HTC Group, to help you protect your company’s assets and reputation by taking the time to have your fire protection measures regularly serviced and maintained.
What Standards Must Your Business Meet
The Queensland Development Code Mandatory Part 6.1 outlines compliance with the Building Act 1975 and the Building Fire Safety Regulation 2008.
Several prescribed fire safety measures are listed by the QDC Guideline to “safeguard occupants from illness or injury while evacuating during a fire, and to provide facilities for occupants and Queensland Fire and Rescue Service (QFRS) to undertake fire-fighting operations”.
These safeguards are made to protect the building occupants and also prevent the spread of fire between floors or compartments of a building. As a checklist, your business or any facility you own must meet these requirements as a minimum:
Fire protection systems:
- Air-handling systems
- Fire detection and alarm systems
- Smoke and heat venting systems
- Smoke exhaust systems
- Special automatic fire suppression systems (including foam, deluge and gas flooding systems)
- Sprinklers (including wall-wetting sprinklers)
- Stairwell pressurisation systems
Fire fighting equipment:
- Fire extinguishers (portable)
- Fire hose reels
- Fire hydrants (including hydrant boosters)
- Fire mains
Occupant safety features:
- Emergency lifts
- Emergency lighting
- Emergency power supply
- Emergency warning and intercommunication systems
- Exit door hardware
- Exit signs
- Fire doors
- Smoke-proof doors
- Solid core doors
- Services provided under conditions imposed under section 79 of the Building Act 1975
- Services required under the Building Code of Australia (BCA), clause E1.10
- Features required as part of a building’s alternative solution
- Vehicular access for large isolated buildings
Maintaining Your Fire Protection Measures
The Queensland Development code states that “it is a requirement of the Building Fire Safety Regulation 2008 that the occupier of a building must ensure that the maintenance of each prescribed fire safety installation for the building is carried out by an appropriately qualified person”.
The installation and maintenance of prescribed fire safety measures must be completed by a person that holds the correct licence from the Queensland Building and Construction Commission (QBCC) or the Plumbing Industry Council (PIC).
We say appropriately qualified because a plumber who holds a PIC licence is eligible to work on a fire hydrant or sprinkler system but cannot legally work on an air handling system unless they hold the relevant licence from the QBCC.
Consequences Of Non-Compliance
Failures to comply with the Fire and Rescue Act 1990 and the BFSR all include significant monetary penalties. Jail terms may arise if death or injury occurs due to failure to maintain a building’s fire safety features.
Can You Be Held Responsible For A Fire You Didn’t Start?
If your company starts a fire, you can obviously be held liable for damages caused by said fire. However, even if the fire didn’t originate from your building, you may be charged for losses/damages incurred by your employees or customers, given the courts decide that you didn’t adequately prepare and follow your fire protection plan.
Similarly, you can be found liable for losses incurred by the public if hazardous materials are improperly stored on your premises and released because of a fire. This is why it’s paramount to have a fire emergency plan in place and follow it consistently.
- You’re liable for the safety of those in your facility in the case of a fire.
- If the fire releases hazardous substances from your business, you could face litigation.
Questions To Ask Yourself
Unsure if your building complies with the legal requirements? Ask yourself the following questions:
- Can you provide an Annual Occupiers Statement if it’s requested by the QFES or a judge?
- Can you prove there are no outstanding Critical Defects on your essential fire safety services?
- Have your fire protection systems ever been worked on by someone who hasn’t shown their necessary qualifications?
- Are you confident that your existing fire protection systems could contain damages to the building and other buildings around it?
- When was your last fire drill? Do the people in your company know your safety plan?
- If a fire broke out tomorrow, would your employees be able to act appropriately and safely?
- Do you have hazmat security in place, and is it taken seriously?
If you were even unsure about any of the above, it might be in your best interest to review your protection plan in the event of a fire.
I’m Leasing A Building – What Do I Do?
Legally your landlord has an obligation to have the fire safety measures and equipment organised in advance. A landlord should:
- Ensure you can safely use the property for the specified purpose that was agreed in the lease.
Have public liability and building insurance.
- Comply with existing government regulations regarding fire safety. This means all defined safety features should exist, such as correct fire escapes, signage and extinguishing measures.
- If you feel like your landlord is not complying with the National or State regulations, it may be beneficial to raise your concerns about fire safety with your local council.
Get Regular Testing
The QDC recommends that testing and inspections for passive fire safety installations be organised monthly and yearly.
At HTC Group, we offer water main flow and pressure testing services to businesses, which provides them with safe fire water. If disaster strikes, rest easy knowing your water systems are functional. Contact us today for your testing.
We’re holders of a QBCC licence 15018810 (Fire Protection – Water-Based Fire System Stream). Hydraulic Testing & Certification can also certify and maintain fire hydrant systems as a Registered Professional Engineer of Queensland under RPEQ registration 16239. Section 42C(1) of the QBCC Act states that work can be conducted under the Professional Engineers Act.
Queensland Fire and Emergency Services. (2021). QFES Incident Meta Data.
A23 Type Of Incident – codes 111 to 159. Queensland Government.
Department of Local Government and Planning. (2011). Queensland Development Code Mandatory Part 6.1 Commissioning and maintenance of fire safety installation. Queensland Government.
Department of Local Government and Planning, Department of Emergency Services.
Fire Safety Standard Guidelines Enforcement, Appeal Options and Extensions of Time. Queensland Government.
Legal Vision, Emma Heuston. (2019). Who is Responsible for Fire Safety in a Commercial Lease? Retrieved 2021 from,