Amidst the rise of reported fire safety system defects in buildings across New South Wales, the State Government is proposing significant reforms through a new amalgamated Building Act, to overhaul the licensing requirements for Fire Protection work and the broader construction industry across the state.

Currently in NSW, Fire Protection practitioners face a complex regulatory landscape, in which the components of design, installation, commissioning, maintenance and testing of fire safety systems are subject to varied degrees of regulation, with some classes of Fire Protection work still unlicensed.

As everyone reading this will appreciate, the regulation of the construction industry is complex and often convoluted, due to its governance sitting across multiple legislations. This is true in Fire Protection work, with the industry’s regulation sitting in pieces across:

  • Building and Development Certifiers Act 2018
  • Design and Building Practitioners Act 2020
  • Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979
  • Gas and Electricity (Consumer Safety) Act 2017
  • Home Building Act 1989
  • Strata Schemes Management Act 2015
  • Work Health and Safety Act 2011

Crucially, significant aspects of fire safety systems currently remain entirely unlicensed. As stipulated in the Building Confidence Report (BCR), developed in 2018, by Peter Shergold and Bronwyn Weir, Recommendation 1 outlines the need for each jurisdiction to require registration for building practitioners involved in the design, construction, and maintenance of buildings. It is pleasing to see the NSW government consider the implementation of Recommendation 1 through these reforms.

The effective operation of fire safety systems requires end-to-end accountability so that each system component can interdependently form into a fit-for-purpose, cohesive system. Currently, it is common practice to see Fire Protection work carried out in isolated siloes. As a result, while certain individual components may meet minimum compliance standards, the overall system often fails to operate as intended or lacks suitable integration with other systems. Although early days in consultation it appears the proposed reforms will seek to eradicate these siloes and improve industry standards, ultimately contributing to a safer built environment and community.

In response to the fragmented licensing framework that exists for Fire Protection, the State Government is introducing reforms to address these issues. The proposed reform provides an opportunity to establish a singular, comprehensive fire safety licensing framework that amalgamates all areas of Fire Protection work under the Building Act.

Recommendation 19 of the BCR states “that each jurisdiction requires registered fire safety practitioners to design, install and certify the fire safety systems necessary in Commercial buildings.” Through the State Government’s review of the regulation of Fire Safety Systems, a practitioner will need a license to do the following work:

  • Declare a design for a fire safety component and system;
  • Prepare a performance solution report relating to a fire safety requirement;
  • Install a fire safety system;
  • Holistic commission of the building’s fire safety system;
  • Certify a fire safety system;
  • Test an active fire safety system post-completion, and
  • Undertake maintenance, repair or remediation on an active fire safety system or repair or remediation of a passive fire safety system.

The NFIA applauds the NSW Government’s commitment to implementing Recommendation 19 of the BCR and their proposal to implement a singular licensing framework for fire safety systems. This will ensure that each component of a fire safety system (design, installation, commissioning, maintenance, testing) in class 1b and 2-9 buildings is only handled by licensed and competent Fire Protection practitioners. It streamlines the regulatory frameworks into a singular point of reference and creates greater accountability of practitioners. All of which should help drastically improve the quality of Fire Protection work across NSW and consequently, and most importantly, the safety of the built environment.


Moving towards a National Model

The NFIA strongly supports the introduction of the Building Act and implementation of a comprehensive licensing framework encompassing all components of fire safety systems. As a result, it is likely to bring NSW’s proposed licensing closer to the Queensland Fire Protection licensing framework promising greater consistency both for those working across that particular border and setting a standard for all of Australia. Recommendation 2 of the BCR outlines the necessity for consistent registration requirements for building practitioners across all jurisdictions to support the progression of moving towards a national licensing model. The implementation of Recommendation 2 is imperative to foster the capability for Automatic Mutual Recognition, allowing practitioners to seamlessly undertake work across all states and territories, which will assist in addressing the nationwide skills shortage and productivity issues.

It is, therefore, imperative that other states follow suit in implementing fire protection reforms guided by the Recommendations of the Building Confidence Report.

The NFIA will continue to work closely with the NSW Government as they progress with these building reforms and the development of a new Building Act.


Joe Smith is Chief Executive Officer at the National Fire Industry Association of Australia (NFIA), the Peak Body for Fire Protection in Australia. To find out more, visit: