Public Consultation on Proposed Amendments to The Fire Safety Act
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) invites the public to provide feedback on proposed amendments to the Fire Safety Act (FSA).
2. The FSA ensures the fire safety standards of buildings in Singapore, and protects lives and property from destruction by fire.
3. While fire fatalities in Singapore have been low, new fire safety risks have emerged as Singapore transforms its built environment and adopts new building technologies. Recent major fires overseas such as the Winter Cherry Complex Mall fire in Kemerovo, Russia1, have provided valuable learning points and highlighted the importance of regularly updating our fire safety regulations.
4. The proposed amendments seek to strengthen fire safety provisions, and enhance SCDF’s regulatory and enforcement powers.
Specific Proposed Amendments for Consultation
a) Mandate Critical Fire Safety Upgrades
5. The Fire Code specifies fire safety standards for buildings and is regularly reviewed to ensure that it remains up to date with changes in the built environment and the latest developments in fire safety standards. However, changes to the Fire Code only apply prospectively to new buildings, and existing buildings that undergo addition and alteration works. The other buildings that have not implemented the new fire safety measures are likely to face a higher fire safety risk. MHA therefore proposes to empower Commissioner SCDF to mandate critical fire safety upgrades to these other buildings to ensure public safety, the cost of which will have to be borne by the building owners. SCDF will exercise flexibility in situations where buildings are faced with design constraints. Aggrieved building owners may appeal to the Minister for Home Affairs.
b) Impose Emergency Preparedness Requirements on Buildings Assessed to be of High Fire Safety Risk
6. Currently, SCDF imposes emergency preparedness (EP) requirements on buildings with higher fire safety risk, like manufacturing plants, shopping centres, offices and healthcare facilities. These requirements include having a Fire Certificate2, maintaining an Emergency Response Plan, appointing a Fire Safety Manager to manage overall fire safety, and maintaining a Company Emergency Response Team as the first responders. Buildings with higher fire safety risk include those which allow public access, where occupants may not be aware of the evacuation routes, which store large amounts of combustible materials, or which are densely occupied and of a certain size. To this end, MHA proposes to amend the definition of “public buildings” and “industrial buildings” to more comprehensively cover all building types of high fire safety risk. Today, some building types of high fire safety risk are not covered, including [warehouses and training facilities]. The EP requirements for “public buildings” and “industrial buildings” will ensure that in the event of a fire, there is a high level of readiness amongst building occupants to respond and evacuate, thereby minimising potential fatalities and casualties.
c) Allow SCDF to Prosecute Offenders for Severe Fire Safety Infringements
7. MHA proposes to empower SCDF to prosecute building owners if they cause fire hazards by overcrowding their building, not maintaining fire safety measures, or allowing objects to obstruct escape routes. Currently, SCDF only issues an abatement notice to the building owner requiring him to abate the fire hazard, and can only prosecute the building owner upon failure to comply with the notice. However, these hazards can pose a significant risk to public safety. With this amendment, SCDF will have the discretion to decide whether an abatement notice or prosecution is more suitable, depending on the egregiousness of the fire hazard.
d) Expand Investigative and Enforcement Powers of SCDF
8. Currently, when non-compliant fire safety practices occur, SCDF can only take enforcement actions against limited parties (such as building owners, Qualified Persons and Registered Inspectors). SCDF is unable to hold other parties, such as those in the supply chain (such as suppliers, contractors and certification bodies) accountable, even if their actions or omission could have led to the use of non-compliant fire safety products and materials.
9. MHA proposes to expand SCDF’s investigative and enforcement powers. If there is sufficient evidence to indicate that the actions of certain parties, for example the deliberate supply of non-compliant materials and products, led to a fire safety risk in the building, SCDF officers will be allowed to enter any premises to investigate, seize samples of products or materials and their related documents, and interview any person involved in, or suspected of, non-compliant fire safety practices. It will also be an offence if the intentional or negligent actions of any party led to the use of non-compliant fire safety products and materials.
e) Empower SCDF to Order the Removal and Recall of Non-Compliant Fire Safety Products and Materials
10. Products and materials that do not meet fire safety standards or the certification requirements, pose fire safety risks and should not be allowed to continue circulating in the market. The general public is put at risk, if these products and materials are not removed swiftly from the market.
11. MHA proposes to empower Commissioner SCDF to order the cessation of sale and recall of non-compliant fire safety products or materials, and their removal from buildings. This is similar to AVA’s power to recall food products that are unsafe for consumption to ensure food safety in Singapore. SCDF officers will be empowered to take necessary action to enforce the orders. Individuals aggrieved by the Commissioner’s order may appeal to the Minister for Home Affairs. However, the order will remain in force throughout the appeal process. Parties who suffer losses may also apply for compensation if the person considers that there were insufficient grounds for the order.
Invitation to Provide Feedback
12. We welcome your views on the above proposals, as well as any other suggestions you may have on the fire safety regime. Please submit your feedback using the form below. You may also submit your feedback to us via MHA_FSA_consultation@mha.gov.sg or hard copy to the below address:
Ministry of Home AffairsNew Phoenix Park28 Irrawaddy RoadSingapore 329560(Re: MHA FSA Consultation)
13. Your feedback is important to us. All views and comments received will be considered. However, we will not be able to individually acknowledge or address every comment. We will consolidate and provide a summary of the key comments received at the close of the consultation exercise. This is to maintain confidentiality of feedback contributors. The closing date for submissions is 31 Aug 2018.
1At least 64 people were killed, of which 41 were children, and 79 people were injured in the fire.
2Buildings with high fire-risk are required to obtain and renew the Fire Certificate on an annual basis by engaging a professional engineer (PE) to check that the fire safety systems are in working condition. This ensures the fire safety systems of a building are well maintained.