Posted October 12, 2016
Almost every fire engineering report that I see these days is calling up the requirement for the fire curtains and smoke curtains to be serviced and maintained in accordance with manufacturer’s recommendations and/or AS1851 by a competent person. This begs the question “who is responsible for this?”
The ongoing responsibility for servicing any fire protection device – fire curtain or not – is with the building owner or occupier. The relevant regulations that govern these requirements are different in each state as is the criteria for how this must be demonstrated. I recommend reading the FPAA Good Practice Guide 03 Adoption and Use of AS1851-2012 to understand this in more detail.
Most building owners will prefer to contract or assign their responsibility of service and maintenance to a suitable service provider. This may be a specialist fire servicing company or a facilities management company. The contracted company then acts as agent for the building owner or occupier in meeting their service obligations.
Most of the time, a new installation of a fire curtain or smoke curtain is completed by a builder under contract with a fire curtain specialist company. The terms of engagement of the fire curtain specialist company vary greatly, in the same way that the engagement of the builder with the owner can take many different forms. Some of the items that are often not clear are:
- when is the fire curtain work deemed to end and warranty/defect terms start. Is this at the completion of installation, practical completion, end of defects period or another date.
- is servicing the responsibility of the owner, builder, fire curtain specialist company or manufacturer.
- is defect liability requirements the same as servicing requirements.
The answer to all of these questions is not a simple answer that is going to cover for every installation. It depends on how the builder has been engaged by the owner and how the builder has engaged the fire curtain specialist company.
Does defect rectification include servicing
What is and is not a defect is a discussion for another time as that can also be a complicated beast. Simply a defect is usually defined similar to
‘Defect’ means any part of the Subcontract Works which is not in accordance with the Subcontract, and includes any error, fault, shrinkage, omission or non-conformance with the Subcontract
Most of the time the Defects Liability Period is 12 months from Practical Completion. This means that any ‘defects’ within that period need to be attended to by the subcontractor.
The Subcontract Works, and sometimes other clauses in a contract, is important in understanding whether servicing is to be performed by the fire curtain specialist company. Usually, if servicing does not form part of the Subcontract Works then it is not going to be completed by the fire curtain specialist company and it is understood that this responsibility lies with either the builder or the owner. Always obtain legal advice to understand contract obligations.
Greene Fire will always advise when quoting and tendering work whether servicing has been priced or not. Often this is provided as a completely separate quotation or at least as a separate price for consideration by the builder.
If servicing has not been priced and it is not clear in the Subcontract Works then it is safe to expect that servicing is going to be completed by someone other than the fire curtain specialist company. However, often we get to the end of the defects liability period, when annual servicing compliance requirements are due, and we are asked for servicing records when servicing did not form part of the Subcontract Works.
It is not possible to rectify a defect to something that is not part of the Subcontract Works.
How to make sure servicing is captured
The simplest answer to this is to make sure that it is requested upfront as part of the scope of works or request for quotation. As contracting for building works is a competitive environment suppliers will often present the cheapest price for the works. This will mean that ongoing servicing costs are not included in the quoted price as a standard inclusion.
Also, understand from an early stage in the procurement process, who is responsible for servicing throughout the term of the contract and when that contract term ends. This could require clarification with the owner or builder to make sure that everyone has the same understanding.
Should you require assistance with servicing your fire curtains and smoke curtains please contact us.