SINGAPORE: The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) can soon appoint authorised third parties to conduct routine fire safety enforcement checks and building inspections under proposed amendments to the Fire Safety Act introduced in Parliament on Monday (Jul 8).
The move will enable SCDF to better utilise its resources and allow officers to focus on "more complex" enforcement inspections, said the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in a press release.
In order to regulate their operations, these third parties will be required to don body-worn cameras during inspections. They will also be subject to routine checks by the SCDF.
Under the new amendments, the SCDF will also be able to compel building owners to install critical fire safety upgrades, such as fire alarm systems and fire hose reels, if they are deemed necessary for public safety.
The SCDF regularly reviews the fire code, which specifies fire safety standards for buildings. However, changes to the code only apply to new buildings, and to existing ones that undergo addition and alteration works.
There are currently no measures to mandate owners of existing buildings which have not undergone any addition and alteration works to install the latest fire safety measures.
"In exercising this mandate, SCDF will adopt a judicious, risk-based approach in identifying buildings for fire safety upgrades," said MHA. "For example, relevant considerations include the buildings’ fire risk profile, based on factors such as building age, purpose and the profile of its occupants."
There will also be harsher penalties for five offences under the Fire Safety Act.
These offences mainly involve the unauthorised change of use of premises which could cause the existing fire safety measures to become inadequate, as well as instances where industry professionals such as registered inspectors do not responsibly supervise and certify fire safety works.
The penalty for the unauthorised change of use of premises will be raised from a maximum fine of S$10,000 to S$200,000 and/or up to two years’ jail.
The penalty for the failure of an appointed Qualified Person to supervise fire safety works will also be raised from a maximum fine of S$10,000 and six months’ jail, to a maximum fine of S$200,000 and/or up to two years’ jail.
In addition, SCDF’s enforcement and investigative powers will be enhanced to hold responsible those who flout fire safety rules.
Currently, when dealing with fire hazards, SCDF must first issue a Fire Hazard Abatement Notice and can only take action against the errant parties if they fail to comply with the Notice.
But as some fire hazards may pose "serious and significant" fire safety risks, SCDF will have the option to immediately prosecute culpable parties. Its officers will also be able to investigate suspects for fire safety violations, and take statements when there is reasonable suspicion of an offence.
The Bill will also allow SCDF officers to enter any premises that may have evidence of fire safety offences.
Said MHA: "While the number of fire incidents in Singapore has remained stable and our fire fatality rates are low, we must periodically review and update our fire safety regulations, so that they continue to remain robust and relevant, and we can effectively respond to new and evolving fire safety risks and challenges."