Fire safety is taken very seriously in Australia. Commercial properties are required to comply with strict regulations according to the Building Code of Australia. From healthcare and education to retail stores, restaurants, and office buildings – commercial properties from every industry must ensure local fire safety standards are met.
Who is responsible for fire safety in commercial buildings?
In general, commercial property owners or property managers are responsible for ensuring a commercial building meets all the relevant fire safety regulations. In some cases, tenants of commercial properties may be responsible for the maintenance of fire safety equipment. The lease should clearly specify who is responsible for what.
In a building where there are multiple tenants, the person who is in control of the access ways, entrances and exits is responsible for ensuring all tenants have information about safe evacuation in the case of a fire. Usually, this responsibility will fall on the property owner or building manager.
Complying with regulations is highly important to ensure the safety of all occupants. Local councils can close business premises if they don’t comply with regulations.
Fire safety requirements for commercial properties
In Australia, there are strict regulations regarding fire safety standards for commercial properties. Commercial buildings are required to meet the standards contained in the Building Code of Australia.
This includes strict regulations around the safety systems and materials installed in commercial properties. Fire-rated materials must comply with AS4072.1 and AS1530.4.
In the Building Code of Australia, commercial properties are classified differently depending on the type of property. Obligations may vary depending on the type of property and nature of the business. The classes are:
Class 5 – office and commercial buildings
Class 6 – retail buildings including restaurants
Class 7-8 – industrial buildings
Regulations also vary from state to state. It is important to seek advice to ensure the building complies with all local regulations.
Other fire-rated systems that may be required in commercial properties
Depending on the type and location of a commercial property, you may be required to meet regulations for fire safety elements such as fire extinguishers, hydrants, smoke and fire alarms, sprinkler systems, fire doors, emergency lighting, and compartmentation.
Most fire-rated systems are classified as either passive or active fire protection. Active fire protection elements are those that require activation to offer protection. For example, a fire extinguisher or sprinkler system.
On the other hand, passive fire protection systems are always working and generally do not require activation. For example, fire doors, fire windows, and intumescent paint.
Achieving compartmentation with fire curtains
Compartmentation is the process of sectioning off areas of a building in the case of a fire to slow down the spread of fire and smoke. It is especially relevant for buildings with large open spaces, staircases, escalators, and elevators.
Fire safety systems such as fire curtains can help compartmentalize a building to slow down the spread of smoke and fire and help occupants escape faster and more safely. It also gives more time for emergency services to arrive.
Vertical fire curtains may be required to contain fire and smoke in front of elevators, around escalators, and within a large open room. Horizontal fire curtains may be required in building designs where there is a hole in the floor of levels above the ground floor.
Boundary fire curtains may be required on windows and openings adjacent to other buildings. In the case of a fire in an adjacent building, boundary curtains will activate reducing the risk of fire spreading to the building they are installed in. Particular fire-resistant levels should be met in compliance with national and state regulations.
Fire protection for commercial steel structures
A level of fire protection of steel structures will need to be met according to the National Construction Code (NCC). When exposed to very high temperatures, steel can deform and lose strength. Passive fire protection for steel structures is designed to insulate the steel to reduce the effects of high temperatures.
Intumescent paint is one of the methods used to protect steel structures from the effects of fire. Intumescent paint is a thin coating that can be applied offsite. When the coating is exposed to high levels of heat it expands, insulating the steel structure.
Intumescent coatings are not considered fireproof, but can significantly reduce the destruction of fire to steel structures. They are typically used where lower Fire Resistant Levels are required (less than 120min).
Get fire protection equipment that complies with Australian standards
Australian Fire Control is the leading supplier of passive fire protection systems. All of our products have undergone rigorous international and local testing to ensure compliance with Australian standards.
For more information about our fire doors and windows, fire and smoke curtains, or steel protection, get in touch with our team today on 1300 226 820.