Stay alert about fire safety services – The VBA standard changes you should know about

fire hose reel for fire safety

Keeping buildings and spaces safe is one of the most important aspects of fire safety services – and why you engage experts to service, maintain and keep an eye on them.

Every service provider is overseen by The Victorian Building Authority (VBA). The VBA is a regulatory body that consults with service providers and building practitioners to ensure servicing practices are safe and compliant.

In 2008, the VBA introduced new standards that changed the way your service provider carried out their testing of your hoses and hydrants. The new standards stated that a registered plumber had to carry out all tests on assets that had a water source.

Now a decade old, the standard changes are yet to properly be addressed or consistently enforced. However, a new review of the changes has now been carried out, and it raises some questions about compliancy, and what that means for you and your building.

fire safety services - vba logo

Your provider reflects on you

There’s a lot of controversy around the call for licensed plumbers to undertake simple and quick hose reel and hydrant testing. That’s because this one request effectively eliminates half the industry’s ability to remain compliant.

This is predominantly due to the fact there are not enough registered plumbers within the industry for each supplier to bring onboard.

The whole change has led to a lot of confusion over the years, and some trepidation about the consequences. This is fair enough – while largely seen as a provider issue, the consequences are largely passed onto you, the building occupant.

There are three key concerns about using a non-compliant provider

  1. You wear the blame

If the technician your fire service provider has sent to do your testing isn’t registered as they should be, it’s on you. Councils and the VBA will say it’s up to you to ensure your service provider is compliant, and everyone carrying out testing has appropriate accreditation.

  1. Your insurance could be affected

If you do experience a fire or similar emergency, your insurance company will scrutinise your system maintenance before paying out. A test carried out by a non-compliant technician could void your insurance claim.

  1. The cost is significant

If you insist on a licensed plumber carrying out these tests to ensure compliance, you’ll pay for it. The costs to have an external accredited plumber to come and test your assets exponential – and it’s a cost you’ll have to wear, not your provider.

Apart from these 3 very real threats, one of the biggest issues these standard changes present is the ambiguity of when and how they will be enforced.

Although widely ignored right now, some councils are deciding to call buildings up on the standard, and those that can’t prove their provider is compliant are facing fines and even building closures.

With so many varying details and information, building managers don’t know whether to be concerned or not, and what they should be doing.

How can you ensure your building is compliant?

The good news is that after a recent review of the standard, the VBA have realised the complexities it raises and for now, won’t be actively enforcing them.

Currently, the VBA has issued a business as normal notice, so you don’t need to be too concerned about your current provider not being licensed. However, this will soon be changing.

In order to make this standard easier to comply to for both providers and businesses, the VBA has decided to start offering provisional licences. These will be accepted as on-par with plumbing licenses under the enforced standard.

While these licences have only just been announced and the details around them are still not confirmed, it’s widely believed that they will:

  • Require elected technicians to take part in a short training session
  • Provide all safety knowledge and information
  • Be the responsibility and cost of the provider, not you

These licenses are a compromise, allowing fire safety service providers to carry out works and buildings to maintain compliance without the cost or trouble of getting in a licensed plumber.

Shared knowledge is the first step to compliance

While you don’t need to be concerned right now about these standards, you do need to be aware that they’re constantly changing. Once provisional licensing is introduced, it’s back to business – and if your provider hasn’t bothered to follow up, you could be facing some serious ramifications.

Because of the ambiguity surrounding this standard and its multiple changes, it’s important to keep it front of mind. You’ll want to make sure that:

  • Your provider is taking the necessary steps to stay compliant
  • They notify you of important information and changes as they become aware of them
  • You’re regularly checking in with them and following up on changes

Unfortunately, a lot of the compliance problems fall back on you, rather than your provider – even though they are the ones carrying out the tasks.

But, if your provider values your business and your safety, they should be staying on top of all the industry standards and changes and keeping you in the loop.

Remember, your provider isn’t just there to carry out work, they’re there to improve your safety, share knowledge and constantly add value to your assets. They should be able to confidently and happily pass on this kind of information whenever it comes their way.

Fire safety services and building compliance shouldn’t be taken lightly. TCM Solutions has over 30 years’ experience working to keep buildings and businesses safe and compliant.

If you’re interested in more information regarding the ongoing standard changes, or required testing and maintenance services for your fire safety services, click here to contact TCM Solutions.