Update on the Fire Safety and External Wall Cladding Taskforce

The inter-agency Fire Safety and External Wall Cladding Taskforce (the Cladding Taskforce) was established in June 2017 as part of the NSW Government’s ongoing work to address fire safety risks associated with external wall cladding.

Six months on, the Cladding Taskforce, comprising representatives from the Department of Finance, Services and Innovation (DFSI), the NSW Data Analytics Centre (DAC), the Department of Planning and Environment (DPE), Fire & Rescue NSW (FRNSW), the Office of Local Government (OLG), Treasury and the Department of Premier and Cabinet (DPC), has worked to address concerns over fire safety risks arising from the use of aluminium cladding on buildings in NSW.

The Cladding Taskforce takes fire safety very seriously and has taken a number of actions to support the already stringent laws in NSW. They include:

  • Identifying aluminium cladding on buildings in NSW, and ensuring affected buildings are safe. The DAC assessment initiated after the Grenfell Tower fire in London in June 2017, together with work undertaken by FRNSW and the DPE, concluded there were 1184 buildings in NSW which possibly have cladding. FRNSW is visiting all of these buildings. As at 7 December 2017, 220 buildings, including 58 high-rise residential buildings, have been confirmed to have cladding in a quantity or configuration which requires further assessment.
  • FRNSW will be undertaking further work to collect information from building owners whose legal responsibility it is to ensure fire safety. FRNSW is now preparing pre-incident plans for the identified residential high-rises. These plans ensure local firefighters have comprehensive knowledge of these buildings and are well-placed to deal with any incident as quickly and effectively as possible.
  • FRNSW will soon write to local councils requesting their authorised fire officers to inspect each affected building, and to report back to FRNSW on the outcome of their inspections.
  • The Cladding Taskforce is also writing to occupants of the buildings that require further assessment to update them on the work being done to ensure the safety of their building. Occupants will continue to be updated by the Cladding Taskforce as it moves through the process of ensuring the fire safety of these buildings.
  • Noting that the data relied on for the DAC assessment does not contain records of all buildings constructed in NSW, the Taskforce has also overseen the development of a new regulation which will require owners of buildings with combustible external wall cladding to inform the NSW Government and undertake an independent fire safety assessment within set deadlines. The draft Environmental Planning and Assessment Amendment (Identification of Buildings with Combustible Cladding) Regulation 2017 is on exhibition for public comment. Further information can be found at the DPE website http://planspolicies.planning.nsw.gov.au
  • The introduction of tough new laws contained in the Building Products (Safety) Act 2017, preventing the use of unsafe building products in building and construction, by identifying, restricting and rectifying building products which pose a safety risk in buildings. That Act will also give the Commissioner of Fair Trading the power to require builders and suppliers to provide records regarding where banned products have been used. These new laws come into effect on 18 December 2017.

It is important to remember that just because the buildings requiring further assessment have cladding does not mean that they are unsafe. This is why FRNSW, working within the Cladding Taskforce, is requiring councils to do further inspections.

Building or lot owners who have any doubt about the safety of the cladding on their building should have their building assessed by a qualified fire safety professional.

Concerned tenants should contact their managing agent or landlord to find out what action they are taking.

For more information on cladding and fire safety, visit www.fairtrading.nsw.gov.au.

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