Non-compliance with the Building Regulations 2018 (Regulations) for essential safety measures can result in serious consequences, including infringement notices, fines and prosecution. Additionally, the combustible cladding building inspections in Victoria are likely to expose buildings that are non-compliant with the essential safety measures. Therefore, is your building ready?
Local councils, whilst not facing the risk of fines and penalties, will certainly not be immune to prosecution by government agencies and authorities where it is found that local councils have not diligently ensured the safety of the buildings within their municipality. Outside of civil proceedings for damages, should individuals suffer loss or injury as a result of a non-compliant essential safety measure, a failure to uphold their responsibilities in their position of public office may result in criminal prosecution and future career disqualifications.
What are Essential Safety Measures?
Generally, essential safety measures may be summarised as those parts of a building which relate to building emergencies, safeties and warnings. Examples include:
- Fire exit doors;
- Emergency lighting;
- Emergency power supplies;
- Flood controls;
- Fire hydrants;
- Signs and warning lighting.
What are Building Owners’ Obligations?
Building owners (collectively through the owners corporation) are responsible for ensuring that the safety measures of their building are well maintained and operate satisfactorily in accordance with the Building Regulations 2018 (Regulations). Building owners are required to prepare an annual essential safety measure report in addition to regular maintenance checks and repair work. Records for these, as well as the annual essential safety measure report, must be kept as the municipal building surveyor or chief officer of the fire brigade may request to inspect them after giving 24 hours notice.
What are Local Councils’ Obligations?
Under the Building Act 1993 (Act), local councils have the responsibility for enforcing building safety within their respective municipalities. Primarily, the onus of ensuring that the essential safety measures of a building are operational rests with the building owners. However, local councils have the responsibility of ensuring that building owners are complying with the Regulations. As well as enforcing adherence to the same. Hence, examples of responsibilities that local councils may have are:
- Conducting reviews and inspections with respect to essential safety measures and their corresponding annual reports;
- Where notified or otherwise aware of non-compliant essential safety measures. They issue directions and building orders to the building owners to rectify the non-compliance; and
- Where such building orders have been issued, to diligently track and ensure the progress of the same.
Nexus Between Cladding Inspections and Essential Safety Measures
Inspectors and experts are conducting reviews of buildings for defective cladding issues. Meanwhile, there is opportunity for an overall review of the building’s general compliance with the Regulations to be conducted simultaneously. There is the very real possibility that a building designated for defective cladding inspections gets issued with non-compliance and infringement notices.
Consequences of Non-Compliance
Non-compliance with the Regulations for these safety measures will result in infringement notices being issued to building owners. These generally require rectification of the non-compliance within a stipulated period of time. Should an infringement notice not be complied with, it will then escalate into fines and penalties imposed upon the building owners. As well as the possibly of prosecution and proceedings.