Essential Safety Measures

1. Overview

Essential Safety Measures (ESM) are the fire, life safety and health items installed or constructed in a building to ensure adequate levels of fire safety and protection over the life of the building.

Essential Safety Measures include all traditional building fire services such as sprinklers and mechanical services etc., but also include passive fire safety such as fire doors, fire-rated structures and other building infrastructure items such as paths of travel to exits.

The owners of all commercial and 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.  The maintenance of ESM’s ensure the building, its occupants, adjoining buildings and the public are protected from dangers such as fire or other emergencies. These safety measures are required to be maintained and serviced at regular periods by a licensed tester.

Regulation 224 of the Building Regulations 2018, places the responsibility on the property owner to ensure that the maintenance of essential safety measures required for their property is carried out, and that appropriate records of maintenance, service and repair work are kept.

Further information on Essential Safety Measures and your responsibilities can be found at the Victorian Building Authority website including a manual that may assist you with maintaining your building.

2. Owner/Occupier Responsibilities

Building owners are responsible to ensure that all the Essential Safety Measures incorporated in their building are maintained in a reasonable order, inspected on a regular basis and those inspections documented.  Building owners must prepare an annual essential safety measures report on the buildings essential safety measures. They may authorise an agent, such as a specialist maintenance contractor, to complete the report

The carrying out of maintenance procedures is dependent on the complexity of the service and the experience of the person carrying out the inspection. Systems may be maintained where appropriate by the owner, service installer, maintenance contractor or internal maintenance personnel. Where the owner appoints a person to undertake the maintenance they must ensure that the person is appropriately qualified and competent to undertake the work.

3. What are Essential Safety Measures?

Essential Safety Measures contained within your building may include:

  • Air conditioning systems
  • Emergency lifts
  • Emergency lighting
  • Emergency power supply
  • Emergency warning & intercommunication systems
  • Exit doors
  • Exit signs
  • Fire brigade connections
  • Fire control centres
  • Fire control panels
  • Fire curtains
  • Fire dampers
  • Fire detectors & alarm systems
  • Fire doors
  • Fire extinguishers (portable)
  • Fire hose reels
  • Fire hydrants
  • Fire indices for materials
  • Fire isolated lift shafts
  • Fire isolated passageways
  • Fire isolated ramps
  • Fire isolated stairs
  • Fire mains
  • Fire protective coverings
  • Fire rated access panels
  • Fire rated control joints
  • Fire rated materials applied to building elements
  • Fire resisting shafts
  • Fire resisting structures
  • Fire shutters
  • Fire windows
  • Lightweight construction
  • Mechanical ventilation systems
  • Paths of travel to exits
  • Penetrations in fire-rated structures
  • Smoke alarms
  • Smoke doors
  • Smoke vents
  • Sprinkler systems
  • Stairwell pressurisation systems
  • Static water supply
  • Vehicular access for large isolated buildings
  • Warning systems associated with lifts


4. Class of Buildings

The maintenance of essential safety measures applies to Class 1b, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9 buildings as defined in the Building Code of Australia (BCA) Volume 1. These classifications include multi-storey residential buildings, hotels/motels, offices, shops, warehouses, factories and hospitals/public buildings respectively.

A3.2 Classifications

Buildings are classified in the BCA Volume 1 as follows:

Class 1: one or more buildings which in association constitute -

(a) Class 1a - a single dwelling being -

(i) a detached dwelling; or

(ii) one of a group of two or more attached dwellings, each being a building, separated by a fire-resisting wall, including a row house, terrace house, town house or villa unit; or

(b) Class 1b -

(i) a boarding house, guest house, hostel or the like –

(A) with a total area of all floors not exceeding 300 m2 measured over the enclosing walls of the Class 1b; and

(B) in which not more than 12 persons would ordinarily be resident; or

(ii) 4 or more single dwellings located on one allotment and used for short-term holiday accommodation,

which are not located above or below another dwelling or another class of building other than a private garage

Class 2: a building containing 2 or more sole-occupancy units each being a separate dwelling.

Class 3: a residential building, other than a building of Class 1 or 2, which is a common place of long term or transient living for a number of unrelated persons, including:–

(a) a boarding house, guest house, hostel, lodging house or backpackers accommodation; or

(b) a residential part of a hotel or motel; or

(c) a residential part of a school; or

(d) accommodation for the aged, children or people with disabilities; or

(e) a residential part of a health-care building which accommodates members of staff; or

(f) a residential part of a detention centre.

Class 4: a dwelling in a building that is Class 5, 6, 7, 8 or 9, if it is the only dwelling in the building.

Class 5: an office building used for professional or commercial purposes, excluding buildings of Class 6, 7, 8 or 9.

Class 6: a shop or other building for the sale of goods by retail or the supply of services direct to the public, including –

(a) an eating room, café, restaurant, milk or soft-drink bar; or

(b) a dining room, bar area that is not an assembly building, shop or kiosk part of a hotel or motel; or

(c) a hairdresser’s or barber’s shop, public laundry, or undertaker’s establishment; or

(d) market or sale room, showroom, or service station.

Class 7: a building which is –

(a) Class 7a – a carpark; or

(b) Class 7b – for storage, or display of goods or produce for sale by wholesale.

Class 8: a laboratory, or a building in which a handicraft or process for the production, assembling, altering, repairing, packing, finishing, or cleaning of goods or produce is carried on for trade, sale, or gain.

Class 9: a building of a public nature –

(a) Class 9a – a health-care building, including those parts of the building set aside as a laboratory; or

(b) Class 9b – an assembly building, including a trade workshop, laboratory or the like in a primary or secondary school, but excluding any other parts of the building that are of another Class; or

(c) Class 9c – an aged-care building.

Class 10: a non-habitable building or structure -

(a) Class 10a - a non-habitable building being a private garage, carport, shed, or the like; or

(b) Class 10b - a structure being a fence, mast, antenna, retaining or free-standing wall, swimming pool, or the like; or

(c) Class 10c - a private bushfire shelter

A3.3 Multiple Classification

Each part of a building must be classified separately, and -


(i) where parts have different purposes - if not more than 10% of the floor area of a storey, being the minor use, is used for a purpose which is a different classification, the classification applying to the major use may apply to the whole storey;

(ii) the provisions of (i) do not apply when the minor use is a laboratory of Class 2, 3 or 4 part; and

(b) a plant room, machinery room, lift motor room, boiler room or the like must have the same classification as the part of the building in which it is situated; and

(c) if a building has parts of different classification, each part must comply with all the relevant provisions for its classification.

A3.4 Parts with More than One Classification

(a) Not withstanding A3.3, a building or part of a building may have more than one classification applying to the whole building or to the whole of that part of the building.

(b) If a building or part of a building has more than one classification applying to the whole building or part in accordance with (a), that building or part must comply with all the relevant provisions of the BCA for each classification.