Understanding the fire safety requirements for commercial buildings can feel like a monumental endeavour, especially if you’re managing a larger, commercial workplace setting. Thankfully, Australian fire safety standards are in place to help all Australian workplaces and their workforces can enjoy hazard-free environments.
Making sure that your workplace is meeting Australian standards naturally begins with investing in your fire safety equipment and maintenance. From fire extinguishers or blankets, to fire hydrants, hose reels, and sprinkler systems, there are many different types of Essential Safety Measures (or ESMs) and tools that can be introduced into the workplace.
But what fire safety equipment is your workplace required to have on its premises in order to maintain industry compliance? We’ll be exploring standards surrounding the installation and maintenance of fire hydrants, fire hose reels, and fire extinguishers below in order to help business owners make sure that their businesses adhere to Australian standards.
A key measure to combating Class A fires, fire hydrants aren’t just found by your home’s curbside. In fact, booking your fire hydrant installation is paramount when developing any large commercial or industrial workspace. This is in part due to the fact that fire hydrants are amongst the most effective ESMs to be used in larger, commercial environments like industrial plants, storage yards, large commercial buildings, and even wharfs or marinas.
Australian Standard (AS) 2419.1 outlines correct procedures for the placement, installation, testing, and maintenance of commercial fire hydrant systems. Although fire hydrants are used for long-range fire-fighting purposes, they can still have a limited reach due to their higher water pressure, which is precisely why hydrants are placed strategically on residential curbsides to ensure thorough coverage for all nearby residences.
Similarly, fire hydrants used in commercial settings are also installed in alignment with your workplace’s layout. Your commercial fire hydrants are expected to be placed within proximity to warehouses, plants, or other structures and buildings that pose potential fire risks due to their build materials, contents, size, or other variables.
Ensuring that your fire hydrant system stays industry compliant is crucial, and a failure to do so may not only result in fire damage to your business premises, but can also result in a penalty or fine issued by your local authorities, or even legal action taken by impacted parties. Organising routine maintenance for your fire hydrant will help your system maintain industry compliance, allowing for easy use in the event that emergency fire services require connections to the hydrant.
Whilst fire hydrants are designed to only be used by firefighters and emergency services, fire hose reels are considered to be ‘first attack’ pieces of equipment and can thus, be used by all staff and personnel in order to combat the earlier stages of a fire. That being said, if a fire is detected on premises and the fire hose must be used, emergency services should still be alerted immediately in order to assess the site during or after the blaze, and in case the fire grows out of control and cannot be mitigated by the use of the fire hose or other on-site ESMs alone.
Under AS 2441-2005, fire hose reels are required to be positioned about 1400mm to 2400mm above the ground and within 4 metres of a clearly marked exit or emergency exit. This is required in the event that flames or thick smoke inhibit workers on-site from being able to visibly detect exits. In these situations, fire hoses can be followed back to their reels, allowing workers to make their way out of smoke-filled buildings with ease.
Like fire hydrants, fire hose reels must be tested regularly in order to maintain industry compliance. Fire safety specialists recommend testing water pressure and flow rates provided by the hose reel so that both site workers and supervisors are aware of the limitations of this particular ESM. If the fire is anything over a Class A fire, the fire hose should ideally not be used, as water won’t be an effective suppressant in the event of grease, metallic, or chemical fires.
Like fire hose reels, fire extinguishers are considered to be a ‘first attack’ ESM and as such, are utilised in a wide range of commercial settings, spanning from warehouses to office spaces. Fire extinguishers are also available in a range of sizes, as well as 5 different configurations and spray materials in order to help combat different fire classes.
For this reason, it’s imperative that your business secures fire extinguishers that are suitable for combating the most high-risk fire classes that your business is likely to experience. A risk assessment of your premises will help identify which fire extinguishers will be most suitable for your business premises.
For example, you wouldn’t want to use a wet chemical fire extinguisher on an electrical fire, as the moisture may cause electric shock or further electrical damage. This is why wet chemical fire extinguishers are most likely to be used in commercial kitchen and food preparation spaces, whilst carbon monoxide (CO2) fire extinguishers are used in high-tech electrical environments like computer server rooms, office environments, or plants that use electrical machinery.
There are a few Australian Standards relating to the manufacturing, installation and maintenance of fire extinguishers in the workplace. These standards are:
As per the standards outlined above, the installation and operability of your fire extinguishers around the workplace are going to be dictated by the types of fire extinguishers you’ll likely be using on-site. With regards to maintenance, however, testing your fire extinguishers following the recommended annual servicing schedule or other maintenance timelines as provided by your fire safety specialists is highly recommended. Keeping your fire extinguishers serviced and ready for use will help your business stay compliant with all industry safety standards.
Now that you know what fire safety requirements for your commercial building must be included, all that’s left to do is organise the installation of this equipment and systems, and invest in their ongoing maintenance and servicing. In doing so, you can maintain your business’ industry compliance with regards to Australian fire safety standards, and work to minimise the impact of fires on your company assets as well as on your workforce.
An investment in the maintenance and servicing of your fire safety equipment is an investment in your workers’ rights to safety in the workplace. As such, business owners simply cannot afford to fall behind on their business’ fire safety equipment maintenance and testing schedules.
Want to book routine maintenance and testing of your business’ ESMs today? Contact our friendly team of fire safety specialists at Jetfire Fire Protection in order to keep your on-site fire safety equipment in good working condition.
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