Wormald New Zealand’s national technical manager, Dave Hipkins, has said new laws require better collaboration on fire safety in mixed-use buildings.

In multi-tenanted buildings, such as retail centres or office towers, the responsibility for maintaining a building’s fire safety system can become confusing. While the Building Warrant of Fitness (BWOF) clearly outlines what equipment and systems must be installed, the tenants are responsible for ensuring these are properly and regularly maintained.

Under the new Health and Safety at Work Act, primary duty of care for the health and safety of workers and others is placed with a Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBU).

Importantly, the new act stipulates consultation, cooperation and coordination between multiple PCBU that operate in a shared space. While legislation has always required businesses in mixed-use developments to work together to meet their duties, there is now a greater requirement for collaboration in multi-tenanted buildings.

This includes coordinating responsibilities between all PCBUs to ensure reasonable fire safety measures are addressed. In addition to fulfilling their specific duties, PCBUs should also monitor and periodically review the agreed actions and activities together to ensure these are completed. Wherever possible, a written document should be in place to agree on all responsibilities and clearly assign these to individuals.

“At Wormald, we encourage anyone operating a business in a mixed use or shared building environment to take a closer look at their new responsibilities to ensure they are not breaching the new law,” Hipkins said.

PCBUs can be fined or prosecuted if they do not comply with the duties set out under the Health and Safety at Work Act and associated Regulations, so it’s important to be vigilant. Individual PCBUs could face fines of up to $600,000 and imprisonment for up to five years if they are found to have engaged in reckless conduct causing exposure to a serious risk.

Fire safety tips for PCBUs operating in shared or mixed use buildings include undertaking a fire safety audit to determine the areas where there is a shared responsibility, know who is responsible for testing and maintaining fire safety equipment in a shared environment and ensure it is documented in the fire safety audit, identify who is responsible for maintaining fire safety protection and prevention and ensure everyone’s responsibilities are clearly outlined in the leasing agreement, and any hazardous environments within mixed use buildings assessed appropriately.