11 Sep 2020

Commencement of the Fire Safety (Amendment) Act

1. The Fire Safety (Amendment) Act (“Act”) was passed by Parliament on 5 August 2019. The provisions of the Act will come into effect on 14 September 2020 and aim to  enhance the fire safety of buildings by:

(a) Strengthening the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF’s) regulatory and enforcement powers;

(b) Optimising SCDF’s resources to focus on higher risk areas; and

(c) Clarifying regulatory processes and requirements for the industry.

 

Strengthening SCDF’s Regulatory and Enforcement Powers

 

Power to Require Critical Fire Safety Upgrades for Buildings

 

2. Currently, changes to fire safety standards for buildings as specified in the Fire Code only apply prospectively to new buildings, and existing ones that undergo addition and alteration works. However, there may be certain existing buildings whose fire safety measures need to be upgraded to further enhance the safety of its occupants. The Act empowers Commissioner, SCDF to mandate such building owners to install critical fire safety upgrades, if they are deemed necessary for public safety. Examples of such critical upgrades include the installation of fire alarm systems and fire hose reels. SCDF will adopt a judicious, risk-based approach in identifying buildings for fire safety upgrades, and will work closely with the building owners to enhance the fire safety of their buildings.

 

Enhancing Deterrence

 

3. To enhance deterrence against serious fire safety offences, penalties for five serious offences under the Act will be increased. The offences mainly relate to the unauthorised change of use of premises which may render the existing fire safety measures inadequate, as well as failures on the part of industry professionals such as Qualified Persons (QPs) and Registered Inspectors (RIs) to responsibly discharge their duties in supervising and certifying fire safety works. The increased penalties reflect the severity of these offences and are aligned with those of similar offences under other Acts, such as the Building Control Act. QPs and RIs play a critical role in ensuring that buildings meet the fire safety standards stipulated in the Fire Code. Failure to perform their roles responsibly could result in serious consequences, such as loss of lives and damage to property.

 

4. In addition, when dealing with fire hazards currently, SCDF needs to first issue a Fire Hazard Abatement Notice[1] against errant parties, and can only take prosecutorial action if they fail to comply with the Notice. The Act empowers SCDF to take immediate prosecutorial action against persons who cause fire hazards with serious fire safety risks, such as causing or failing to prevent overcrowding, non-maintenance of fire safety measures, or obstruction of fire escape routes.

 

Enhancing Regulatory and Investigative Powers

5. The Act introduces new offences to prevent and stop the use of non-compliant regulated fire safety products, by allowing SCDF to take action against any party in the supply chain. The Act makes it an offence for any party to supply or offer to supply such products, and for any person to install these products or cause them to be installed. To address downstream supply and use, the Act empowers SCDF to direct the cessation of sale, recall, removal, disposal or rectification of any non-compliant products.

 

6. SCDF currently has the power to require building owners to test fire safety products installed in/on their buildings, to prove that they meet required standards. However, there may be situations where the responsibility of carrying out such tests lie with other actors in the supply chain. The Act will empower SCDF to direct Certification Bodies[2] (CBs), holders of Certificates of Conformity (CoC), or suppliers to test regulated fire safety products.

 

7. In addition, the Act also empowers SCDF to issue an order to CBs to: (a) cancel an existing CoC if the product is proven to be non-compliant or if the CoC holder does not comply with SCDF’s order to test the product, and/or (b) stop issuing new CoCs to a particular CoC holder.

 

8. Currently, SCDF is not empowered to enter premises that are not directly related to suspected FSA violations, even though relevant information required for the purpose of investigating into the violations may be obtained from these premises (e.g. offices of the vendors of fire safety products). SCDF also does not have the power to summon persons to give their statements, which hinders investigations into FSA violations. The Act expands SCDF officers’ powers to allow them to investigate any person for fire safety violations, and to take statements from the person(s) about possible fire safety offences, if there is reasonable suspicion of an FSA offence. In addition, the Act allows SCDF officers to enter any premises that may contain evidence relating to FSA offences.

Optimising SCDF’s Resources

 

9. Currently, third-party fire alarm operators assist SCDF to monitor and verify activated alarms in higher-risk premises before SCDF’s resources are deployed. The Act allows SCDF to regulate such third-party fire alarm operators under a licensing framework, to ensure minimum service standards and service continuity for building owners. The Act also provides SCDF with the power to impose a cost recovery fee on operators, for false alarms resulting in the deployment of SCDF’s resources, and makes it an offence if operators fail to verify an activated alarm before cancelling the request for SCDF’s resources.

 

10. To allow SCDF officers to focus on more complex enforcement inspections, the Act empowers SCDF to authorise third party officers to conduct routine fire safety enforcement checks and building inspections. These officers will be required to wear body-worn cameras when they carry out inspections and will be subject to audits conducted by SCDF.

 

Clarifying Regulatory Processes and Requirements

 

11. The Act will clarify regulatory processes and requirements to ensure more effective regulation. This includes making clear that the latest version of the Fire Code that is in force is the version published on SCDF’s website, and widening the definition of public buildings to refer to all buildings that the public has access to.

 

Amendments to Subsidiary Legislation

 

12. In addition to the amendments to the main Act, the subsidiary legislation is also amended to expand the categories of buildings required to put in place emergency preparedness measures, which will include all buildings used as hospitals, nursing homes, disability homes and worker dormitories.

 

13. The Act will also empower Commissioner SCDF to specify the type of Company Emergency Response Team (CERT) and fire safety equipment required for premises owners.  The requirements will be aligned to the National CERT standard and published on the SCDF website.



[1] A Fire Hazard Abatement Notice is a written warning requiring errant parties to abate the fire hazard within a specified period, and to take all necessary steps to prevent the recurrence of the hazard. Under the FSA, if the hazard is not addressed, a Notice of Composition will be issued. For more serious cases, court action can be taken against the errant parties.

[2] Regulated fire safety products listed under the Product Listing Scheme of the Fire Code have to be certified by CBs accredited by the Singapore Accreditation Council. The supplier/manufacturers will send their products for testing based on the specified test standards, and submit the test reports to the CBs for their verification. CBs will then issue a CoC for the product, if it meets the criteria.

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