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Civil Defence

Fire Safety (Amendment) Act

Introduction

The Fire Safety Act (FSA) provides for the fire safety regulations and effective enforcement of fire safety standards. It was amended to enable the adoption of a performance-based approach towards fire safety plans, to extend the regulatory control to flammable materials including petroleum, and to provide for other changes relating to fire safety in buildings and extension of the powers of the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF).

Adopting a Performance-Based Fire Safety Approach

2. Before the amendments to the FSA to adopt a performance-based approach towards fire safety plans, fire safety standards for buildings in Singapore were governed by the Code of Practice for Fire Precautions in Building ("Fire Code"). This Fire Code prescribed specific requirements without indicating how these measures worked to achieve a desired level of fire safety. The prescriptive approach was rigid and restricted flexibility in building designs, as architects had to adhere strictly to the requirement1 stipulated in the Fire Code.

3. Such rigid requirements had led to feedback and requests from building designers and owners for more flexibility. They had hired Qualified Persons (QPs) to propose alternative solutions that still met the fire safety standards, and sought waivers from compliance with the Fire Code requirements. The performance-based fire safety engineering approach, rather than the traditional prescriptive-based approach, has been adopted in many countries, including New Zealand, Australia, Sweden, USA, UK and Japan. SCDF consulted the relevant professional bodies and academia, and recommended the adoption of a performance-based approach towards fire safety in Singapore.

4. Under the performance-based framework, SCDF will specify the desired outcomes of fire safety and leave it to the architect to decide the fire safety measures for the building. It allows greater flexibility in designing a building's fire protection system without compromising fire-safety standards. The prescriptive approach will be retained in the Fire Code to serve as a sample of measures that would meet the performance standards required by the Fire Code. For the implementation of the performance-based framework, the amendments made to the FSA included:

    (i) To specify the duties and responsibilities of fire safety engineers. Only QPs trained in fire safety engineering may design performance-based fire safety measures. A QP who is not a fire safety engineer must be supervised by a fire safety engineer in the preparation of the plans.

    (ii) To make it a requirement that an independent fire safety engineer must review the prepared plans to ensure that the plans comply with the fire safety requirements.

    (iii) To specify the submission and approval processes for performance-based plans of fire safety works. The processes are similar to the existing practice using the prescriptive approach.

    (iv) To introduce a registration system for fire safety engineers. To be registered, a person must have the necessary educational qualifications and have at least five years of practical experience in the design of fire safety works. Commissioner, SCDF is also empowered to take disciplinary action against a fire safety engineer, e.g. cancel/suspend his registration of a fire safety engineer or censure the fire safety engineer in writing, if he is convicted of an offence or is suspended or de-registered by the Professional Engineers Board or Board of Architects. The fire safety engineer will be given reasonable opportunity to be heard and appeal to the Minister if he is aggrieved by the decision of Commissioner, SCDF.

    (v) To empower Commissioner, SCDF to form an Investigation Committee to investigate into any complaint about the conduct of a fire safety engineer. Members of this committee will comprise fire safety engineers and officers of the SCDF, and will be selected from the Fire Safety Engineer Discipline Panel appointed by the Minister.

Other Amendments Relating to Fire Safety and Security

5. Other amendments to the FSA have also been made to put in place measures against the threat of proliferation of flammable materials for terrorism purposes and to further enhance fire safety in buildings. These amendments include:

    (i) To make it a requirement that a person must obtain the necessary licence or permit to store, transport or import any petroleum or flammable materials.

    (ii) To repeal the Petroleum Act consequentially as a result of the amendments to the Fire Safety Act. The Petroleum Act has become obsolete as most of its provisions are already covered under the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore Act.

    (iii) To make it a requirement that owners of industrial buildings must obtain a Fire Certificate. Owners of public buildings are currently required to engage a Professional Engineer to conduct tests on fire safety systems annually to ensure that the systems are in good working condition. SCDF will issue a Fire Certificate after the Professional Engineer has certified that the systems function properly. This is presently not required for industrial buildings.

    (iv) To make it clear that the plans for fire safety works in buildings owned or occupied wholly or partially by the Government are required to be submitted to SCDF for approval and to empower SCDF to take action against Qualified Persons or fire safety engineers who do not comply with the fire safety requirements.

    (iv) To extend the powers in the event of a fire to all SCDF officers. With advanced fire fighting capabilities, the operational responsibilities of the junior officers have been enhanced. For example, the two-man fire bike teams manned by junior officers are usually the first to arrive at the scene of fire. If need be, they would have to take necessary action, e.g. entering or breaking into premises, to extinguish or prevent the spread of fire.

    (vi) To extend the powers of arrest to SCDF officers holding the rank of Warrant Officer and above, as they are senior and experienced enough to conduct arrest.


1 For example, the architect might wish to use unprotected steel structures as part of the building design for aesthetic reasons. However, that would not be permitted under the Fire Code before the amendments to the FSA, as unprotectedsteel structures are easily weakened when subject to fire.

Last updated on 16 Jun 2007
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