The construction sector in Australia could be set for a mandatory certification scheme as part of efforts to rid the nation of life-threatening building products under a new landmark agreement which media reports suggest has been reached at a summit of state and federal ministers.
According to News Ltd reports, the ministers have agreed to establish a national working group to examine strategies to eliminate products which do not conform to standards set under the Building Code of Australia, including a mandatory certification scheme which could cover cladding, fire alarms, sprinkler systems and fire doors.
The ministers also agreed to look into the prospect of an information sharing arrangement between state regulator s and Australian Customs and border control authorities in an effort to help trace the supply of non-complying products, the report said.
The reported agreement follows last year’s debacle at a Docklands apartment complex in Melbourne, where cladding which did not comply with fire safety requirements of the Code was blamed for the rapid rise of a fire which started on a balcony and then ripped up the building from the fourteenth floor to the roof in just six minutes.
Victoria Building Authority is currently conducting an audit of hundreds of buildings around Melbourne to check if the material is installed elsewhere.
The agreement also follows a nation-wide recall of more than 4,000 kilometres’ worth of faulty electrical cables in homes and businesses throughout Australia, which the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission says could degrade and spark fire or electric shock as of early next year.
Whilst it is understood state ministers at the meeting rejected efforts by Andrews to force them to establish their own task-forces to look at local enforcement regimes, forum chairwoman and parliamentary secretary to federal Industry Minister Ian McFarlane Karen Andrews said responsibility for ensuring residents were not living in dangerous buildings rested primarily with the states.
“That will be up to the state and territory ministers to look at their own compliance checking regimes and look at what they believe has already been installed in some of the buildings, and their tracking procedures they have in their own state, and try to identify the magnitude of the problem,” Andrews said.
The taskforce will report back with strategies within six months.