It does not take a large event to spark a frenzy of legislative reform. From the broad topics of employment and immigration to aged care and anti-discrimination laws, the umbrella of law reform has covered almost every aspect of legislation present in Australia. However, a single unit fire in 2012 established amendments in over five New South Wales statutes and authorative bodies.
The 2012 Bankstown Fire has resulted in amendments in the Environment Planning and Assessment Regulations and new duties allocated to bodies such as the Department of Planning, the Australian Building Codes Board and Ministers for Health, Planning, Emergency Services and Fair Trading (NSW).
Through the course of the coronial process, a Coronial Inquest was launched to investigate the cause and circumstances of the fire. The inquest and inquiry resulted in the hearing in the Coroners Court that suggested multiple recommendations in relation to fire safety.
Many arguments were brought up throughout the course of the Coroner’s findings. It was largely arguments over the building’s effective height that resulted in the worrying disregard for the requirement of essential fire life safety systems throughout the building.
It is a miracle that the fatality of the Bankstown fire only rose to one, but the occurrence of the fire is evidence that it only takes one loss of life to spark a state of legislative reform that can potentially last years.
Over ten years on, the Bankstown unit fire serves as a reminder of how quickly legislative reform can occur and how important it is to stay up to date with relevant laws in the construction industry.
Legislative reform underpins the ability to uphold ever-changing societal issues and values and serves as a necessary foundation of democracy. However, reform is rendered almost useless if it is not abided by. Whilst laws are implemented and amended to prevent events like the Bankstown and Grenfell fires, they are useless if builders, developers and insurers ignore and do not uphold or implement these changes.
It is more likely than not that Australia will face further drastic residential apartment fires as a result of unenforced fire safety measures. Following these fires, it is likely that further legislative fire safety reform will occur. It is for this reason that it is ever more important for lawyers, builders, insurers and construction professionals to be aware of what today’s current requirements are and to ensure they are enforced.
Listen to the latest CJK Fire & Safety podcast for more.