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Thursday, December 3, 2020
Ian Cubitts
Ian Cubitts

Concerns COVID-19 could affect building safety

Australia’s strata peak body has joined calls for owners and managers to continue essential fire protection safety checks and maintenance during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The calls come after the Strata Community Association (SCA) received reports of National Fire Industry Association (NFIA) fire protection officers being denied access to properties due to concerns around social distancing and the potential for infection.

“As SCA said earlier this month, it’s vital that all maintenance continues in strata properties, otherwise it can create bigger problems and greater expense in the long term,” said SCA national president Andrew Chambers.   

“Fire safety inspections rank highly here because they can potentially save lives.

“When fire safety checks are organised by strata managers, residents can be assured that the inspectors are following best-practice social distancing and occupational health and safety guidelines.

“These inspectors should not be turned away.”

The SCA has joined the Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) and the NFIA in calling for these checks and procedures to continue to take place.

The ICA’s head of risk, Karl Sullivan, said shutdowns did not remove the requirements for buildings to undergo fire protection inspections, and said failure to do so could affect a building’s insurance coverage.

“Many office buildings and commercial premises are unoccupied or have few workers, so maintenance issues that might normally be detected are more likely to be missed, creating the potential for electrical fires,” he said.

“Most high-rise residential properties now have around-the-clock occupancy that places additional pressure on services, amenities and building infrastructure, along with a higher risk of kitchen fires and electrical fires from overloaded appliances and circuits.”

NFIA CEO Wayne Smith said, aside from the risk of fire, failure to undertake inspections, testing and maintenance could leave businesses or property owners open to fines and litigation.

“We want to work with the property owners to ensure fire safety standards are met while helping to reduce risk and limit demand on emergency services at this crucial time.”

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