Fire Protection Association Australia (FPA)  and the Master Plumbers Association of NSW (MPA NSW) have advised nursing home owners and operators to check the credentials of sprinkler fitters offering cut price services for fire sprinkler installations.

Both Associations have welcomed the recent finalisation of relevant regulations supporting fire sprinkler reform in NSW. As of January 1, all aged care facilities across NSW are now required to be fitted with automatic fire sprinkler systems in the next three to four years. By extending the caution, the Associations are expressing genuine concerns within the industry about the potential for unqualified operators entering the market and exploiting these valuable reforms.

FPA Australia CEO Scott Williams said this was due in part to a lack of effective controls on individuals undertaking fire sprinkler work in NSW. He points out that there are very few checks in place to administer minimum requirements for fire sprinkler installers and maintenance personnel, enabling fly-by-night operators to enter the market without the knowledge, skills or required competencies to undertake the highly technical work.

FPA Australia and MPA NSW are advising nursing home owners and operators to closely check the qualifications of individuals before signing any agreements or having any sprinkler work commence on site.

For instance, the contractor must hold a contractor’s licence to undertake water plumbing/ fire sprinkler activities in order to conduct this work. Licence holders who are also FPA Australia members are bound to a code of practice that outlines they have the necessary competencies, skills and knowledge for the work being undertaken, adhere to all relevant legislation and have appropriate insurance.

The NSW Office of Fair Trading website states that a plumbing qualification without the necessary corresponding certificate or licence is not sufficient to carry out specialised fire protection work. Nursing home owners and operators need to be diligent in ensuring that contractors providing this highly specialised fire sprinkler fitting work are appropriately credentialed, especially if a contractor is offering large discounts.

NSW nursing home operators have up to three years to install sprinklers in existing residential aged care buildings, with a possible extension of one year for exceptional circumstances. The new rules apply to the nearly 600 aged care facilities, caring for around 24,000 people across NSW.
Paul Naylor, CEO of the Master Plumbers Association of NSW said the issue of licensing in the area of specialised fire protection work such as sprinklers needed to be closely monitored, adding that the Office of Fair Trading has a vital role to play in ensuring individuals and companies carrying out this work are playing by the rules, which can only be achieved through rigorous inspection and compliance.

Mr Williams said the nursing home sector, government and the community had a role to play in ensuring residents of nursing homes were protected from fire and related emergencies.