Essential Safety Measures

Essential safety measures are all fire safety equipment, safety fittings or safety measures installed in buildings, irrespective of when they were constructed, which are to be properly maintained at all times. 

Adequate maintenance is essential to ensure safety systems will operate reliably in an emergency.

The owners of all commercial/industrial buildings - including boarding houses, hostels, aged and disabled accommodation - must maintain all safety measures contained within that building for the life of the building.

This includes (but is not limited to):

  • Air conditioning systems
  • Exit doors
  • Early warning systems
  • Emergency lifts and lighting
  • Emergency lighting
  • Emergency power supply
  • Emergency warning systems
  • Exit signs
  • Fire control centres
  • Fire curtains and doors
  • Fire extinguishers
  • Fire detectors and alarm system
  • Fire hydrants
  • Fire hose reels
  • Fire isolated stairs
  • Fire rated materials
  • Fire windows
  • Mechanical ventilation
  • Passage ramps
  • Path of travel to exits
  • Smoke detection/alarm systems
  • Smoke control systems
  • Sprinkler systems
  • Any other essential safety measures that the relevant Building Surveyor may nominate on an Occupancy Permit, Certificate of Final Inspection or Essential Safety Measures Determination

Frequently Asked Questions

What are Essential Safety Measures (ESM) and what do building owners need to do?

This information sheet produced by the Victorian Building Athority provides a useful overview of ESM.

Is frequency of maintenance specified for ESM under Part 12 Subdivision 2 (before 1 July 1994) of the Building Regulations 2006?

Subdivision 1 specifies procedures, nature, frequency test, performance and inspection of ESM. 

Subdivision 2 does not give specific procedures or frequency of inspection, rather it states as follows:

Reg 1217 (a) ESM are to be "maintained in a state which enables the essential safety measure to fulfil its purpose". 

In reading subdivision 2 literally (Reg 1217a), if an ESM is not maintained in a state that will fulfil its purpose it can be argued that the frequency of inspection is not adequate.  

Where no specific maintenance standard was in force at time the ESM was installed, then the first published edition of maintenance frequencies may be used as a guide.

In the event that this frequency is not adequate for the essential safety measure to fulfil its purpose, then the frequency should be increased. 

Attached is a copy of a subdivision 1  maintenance table from the VBA with exit doors and paths of travel indicated with *.

In the absence of specific maintenance procedures and frequencies, if the building owner were to adopt the same maintenance procedures and frequencies that exist for Subdivision 1 buildings, there may be some level of protection for an owner in the event that an ESM failed in an emergency situation. 

The City of Yarra recommends not less than quarterly inspections of  Exit Doors, Paths of Travel to Exits and Paths of Travel to open space, however these ESM may require more frequent inspection to fulfil their purpose e.g. a school may require more frequent inspections due to high use and abuse, a kindergarten may not be subject to high levels of maintenance.

This Victorian Building Athority practice note may be of assistance.

What are the owner’s legal obligations in relation to maintaining a shop?  

Buildings where Occupancy Permit (OP) issued on or after 1 July 1994 (OR PART OF BUILDING)

Building Regulations Subdivision 1

Reg 1203 dictates that an OP must include a condition which lists all ESM and the level of performance to be maintained.

Reg 1204 dictates that if an ESM is provided where an OP is not required, the relevant building surveyor must determine the level of performance and frequency and type of maintenance required. The determination must be in writing.

Reg 1205 dictates that the owner must comply with the determination listed above.

Reg 1206 dictates that a building surveyor may create a consolidated list of ESM and the associated maintenance requirements.

Reg 1207 dictates that an owner must ensure that a copy of any current maintained determination is available at the building within 24 hours of a request from the Municipal Building Surveyor (MBS) or Metropolitan Fire Brigade (FB).

Reg 1208 dictates that the owner must ensure that an Annual Essential Safety Measures Report (AESMR) has been made before each anniversary date.

Reg 1209 dictates that the AESMR is to be in a form approved by the VBA.

Reg 1211 dictates that the AESMR and records of all maintenance checks and repair work are to be available within 24 hours of a request from the MBS or MFB. 

Building Regulations Subdivision 2 (Before 1 July 1994)

Reg 1214 dictates that the owner is to prepare an AESMR before each anniversary of 13 June.

Reg 1215 dictates that the AESMR is to be in a form approved by the VBA.

Reg 1216 dictates that the AESMR and records of all maintenance checks and repair work are to be available within 24 hours of a request from the MBS or MFB. 

Reg 1217 dictates that the owner must ensure ESM are maintained and not removed except for maintenance or in accordance with Building Regulations..


Subdivision 1 

Owners are to have a maintenance determination (list of ESM), an AESMR and maintenance records.

Subdivision 2

Owners are to have an AESMR and records of all maintenance checks.

In both situations all of the ESM are required to perform their intended function and be maintained in accordance with Part 12 of the Building Regulations.

Exit/Emergency Lighting & Smoke Alarms - Dedicated Circuits required?

Emergency lighting and exit signs are to be installed to accord with both AS 2293.1 (referenced under the Building Code which building surveyors work to) and AS 3000 (which electricians work to).

AS 2293.1 dictates that there should be a facility to allow testing of the emergency lights and exit signs. This can be achieved by installing them on a separate circuit (otherwise testing and maintenance is likely to involve shutting down lighting circuits, disrupting the use of the building).  Apart from fire isolated areas and undivided areas exceeding 500m2, this office is not aware of any requirement for emergency lighting dedicated circuits. Any circuit that operates an emergency light or exit sign is to have a clear and durable notice fixed on or immediately adjacent to it reading:  WARNING:  INTERRUPTING SUPPLY WILL DISCHARGE EMERGENCY LIGHTING BATTRIES

AS 3000  -  Although it is electricians (not Building Surveyors) that administer AS 3000, it is the understanding of this office that this standard does not allow circuits to service separate storeys unless a dedicated circuit is used for a specific purpose such as emergency lights & exit signs or interconnected smoke alarms.

The above advice is based on AS 2293.1 – 2005 which is referenced in the Building Code of Australia 2015.  The current Building Act and Building Regulations do not require existing electrical services to be upgraded  unless it forms part of a Building Notice or Building Order. Any alterations to a building including emergency lights and exit signs are to accord with the current Building Regulations including AS 2293.1 as referenced in the current Building Code of Australia.

Further information
Yarra Building Services
9205 5095

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