Fire Safety for Childcare Centres

Fire safety for childcare centres in highrise buildings

Fire safety considerations for multi-storey childcare facilities


Fire safety for childcare centres in highrise buildings.

The Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) raised an important topic recently around the changing use of highrise buildings for facilities other than office or residential spaces, and managing fire safety.

With the ever-increasing need to provide centralised and convenient services to a changing and dynamic workforce, accommodating working parents, more and more childcare centres are being built in multi-storey and highrise spaces in CBDs.

This brings its own unique concerns and considerations when it comes to managing fire safety. How do you evacuate children and infants with limited mobility, safety and swiftly in the event of fire? Fire stairs are not designed for children, handrails out of reach, multiple steps, two-way traffic, infants who need to be carried, limited carers to name a few.

The ABCB recognises that amendments to the National Construction Code may be one part of the solution, but recognises that other options also need to be considered.

What options does the ABCB offer?

The ABCB suggests a multi-faceted approach. “Options include:

  • sprinklers to protect in place;
  • fire rated safe havens adjoining the stairs to bring the children into and to hold until it is safe to evacuate;
  • a dedicated stair where possible (or in the case of a rooftop podium, one stair that does not serve floors above the childcare);
  • foldable cots to put children into at the external safe area (the safe holding of children in appropriate assembly areas needs to be part of the evacuation strategy);
  • carry vests to bring babies down the stairs;
  • stair re-entry to allow childcare workers back into the building;
  • low level handrails in the stairs; and
  • even improved stair cleaning regimes so that children do not hold up evacuations to stop and look at their dirty hands;
  • the building’s automatic evacuation sequencing may need to be amended to consider fire location, such that the childcare may be evacuated first where it’s the fire floor or if the fire floor is below them, but evacuated last for a fire in floors above.”

Read the full ABCB Article here.

Safe design for childcare centres

Our Case Study article identifies several unique requirements and safe design considerations that Childcare centres in multi-storey buildings need, particularly where the childcare facility is often ‘retro-fit’ into a pre-existing structure. It requires a range of design considerations including safety of play areas and outdoor facilities, visibility and security requirements, parking and traffic management, as well as fire safety.

The changing use of existing structures is a key aspect of safe design and opens up a bevy of design constraints and considerations. Lots of food for thought here.



If you’re a building designer, architect, engineer, or other building design professional, we encourage you to enrol in our flexible and convenience ‘Not Boring Safe Design Course’, designed to assist you understand and practice safe design principles.

Need more info, contact us.

Not Boring Safe Design Course

Safe Design Online Course for designers

Safe design doesn’t have to be boring!

The ‘Not boring safe design course’.


Safe design can prevent injury, improve productivity and usability, reduce costs, and help manage production and operations of your design projects.

But most importantly, it incorporates innovative, best practice design principles.

As building designers, safe design also helps you meet your obligations under Work Health and Safety (WHS) legislation. Why? Because you have a legal duty to do so.

No one gets excited about safety…especially not safe design…

Let’s be honest — no-one gets excited about safety. There’s certainly very little enthusiasm for Safe Design. But… What if it wasn’t boring?

That’s why we developed a flexible, practical and convenient online Safe Design Course (a NOT boring one), aimed at helping you understand and meet your obligations under WHS legislation and apply best practice safe design.

It’s self-paced and gives you the latest information, advice and tools relating to safe design legislation and best practices in Australia, New Zealand and around the world.

This short course includes practical application of WHS legislation by designers, and you may be eligible for CPD points with your industry association.

The course is specifically focussed on Safety in Design (SiD) for design professionals. And, you can complete the program in one-sitting, or save your progress and return to continue at a later time.

Designed by international safe design expert and HSW professional, John Daly, the ‘Not Boring Safe Design Course provides the latest information, advice and tools relating to safe design practices in Australia, New Zealand and around the world.

Who is this course suitable for?

The SiD online course (that’s the not-boring-one), is suitable for all professionals involved in the design, development and construction of structures:

  • Building Designers
  • Architects
  • Engineers
  • Developers
  • Design and Construction companies
  • Principal Contractors and Project Managers

What does this Safety in Design course cover?

The online, self-paced short course covers all aspects of Safe Design including:

  • An introduction to Safe Design
  • Principles of Safe Design – Prevention, People, Knowledge
  • Getting started with Safe Design
  • Risk Assessment and Risk Management
  • Safe Design in Action – Practical applications for your projects
  • Legal responsibilities and WHS legislation

Continuing Professional Development

On completion you’ll receive a ‘Certificate of Completion’ – with the number of CPD hours of training and serves as documentary proof of completion. Please contact your respective Association to check their individual CPD requirements.

The ‘Not Boring Safe Design Course’ has been endorsed by the Safety Institute of Australia for Continuing Professional Development.



If you’re a building designer, architect, engineer, or other building design professional, we encourage you to enrol in our flexible and convenience ‘Not Boring Safe Design Course’, designed to assist you understand and practice safe design principles.

Need more info, contact us.

Safe design - Legal overview

Safe Design – A Legal Overview

Safe Design – A Legal Overview*

This article on ‘Safe Design – A Legal Overview’ is an excerpt of content from Safe Design Australia’s ebook “Safe Design in Practice, for designers of structures.’


It’s important to remember that the purpose of the Work Health and Safety Act (WHS) is about encouraging a collaborative approach to risk management and involvement of all stakeholders to promote a safer outcome for workers during the lifecycle of the structure as a workplace. More than one person or entity can have a duty in relation to the same matter. Prevention of incidents is the preferred outcome.

Health and safety duties under the WHS Act

Under the WHS Act, the ‘health and safety duties’ (refer sections 19-29) that would most likely apply to designers are contained in:

  • Section 19 – the primary duty of care – imposed on all persons conducting a business or undertaking; and
  • Section 22 – duties of designers.

A related duty to that imposed on designers is contained in Section 26 – duties of persons who commission structures (the client).

There are also further health and safety duties that may be relevant to designers and clients in relation to structures including duties of PCBUs who manufacture (s23), import (s24), or supply (s25) structures or those who install or commission structures (s26).

Additionally, there are health and safety duties on individuals connected with a designer, including officers (s27), workers (s28) and other persons at a workplace (s29).

Other duties and provisions of the WHS Act

There are various other provisions of the WHY Act, including duties that are relevant to PCBUs, including designers.

For example:

  • Sections 35-38 state when a duty holder must notify the relevant regulatory body in their state of a work health and safety incident.
  • Sections 40-45 relate to authorisations for particular workplaces, plant or substances and prescribed qualifications or experience.
  • Sections 46-49 provide for consultation by a duty holder with others, including workers and other duty holders.

WHS Regulation

The WHS Regulation is made under the WHS Act. The Regulation relates to a range of matters and generally provides more specific guidance and/or obligations than contained in the WHS Act. However, it’s important to note that an obligation imposed by the WHS Regulation in relation to health and safety does not limit or affect any duty the person has under the WHS Act, or unless expressly stated, any other provision of the WHS Regulation (reg 11). In most instances, the failure to compliy with a WHS Regulation results in a significantly lesser penalty than a failure to comply with a provision under the WHS Act.

Potential legal consequences of breach of the WHS Act for designers

The potential legal consequences for a breach of the WHY legislation are varied, but the main options available consist of:

  • A monetary penalty;
  • Imprisonment (individuals only);
  • An improvement notice;
  • A prohibition notice;
  • A non-disturbance notice;
  • Enforceable undertakings;
  • Adverse publicity orders
  • Orders for restoration;
  • Work health and safety project orders;
  • Training orders;
  • Injunctions; and/or
  • A civil penalty.

Other legal claims that could be made as a result of a health and safety incidence include:

  • A worker’s compensation claim;
  • A claim under anti-discrimination legislation; or
  • A claim under industrial law (e.g. unfair dismissal, unlawful termination, general protections).

These types of claims are more likely to be made by an employee or contractor against an employer or principal (including by an employee or contractor of a designer) rather than a third party against a designer.

More than one consequence

It’s also possible that if an incident occurs, a designer may face more than one legal consequence. E.g. where both a criminal prosecution and civil law claim could be pursued.



Want to find out more about your Safe Design obligations under legislation? Download our FREE EBOOK.

Or if you’re a building designer, architect, engineer, or other building design professional, we encourage you to enrol in our flexible and convenience ‘Not Boring Safe Design Course’, designed to assist you understand and practice safe design principles and endorsed by the Safety Institute of Australia (SIA).

Need more info, contact us.

* The information in this article is an excerpt of content from pages 24-27 of Safe Design Australia’s ebook “Safe Design in Practice, for designers of structures” and was provided by Michelle Cooper, Director, People+Culture Strategies (PCS).
Safe Design Legislation Definitions

Safe Design Legislation – Some Definitions

Safe Design Legislation – Some Definitions

The following are definitions of key terms and aspects from Australia’s Safe Design Legislation, explaining the various parties and contributors as well as key elements in the WHS Act and legislation. Here we explain:

  • Design and Designer
  • Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBU)
  • Principal Contractor
  • Reasonably Practicable
  • Recognised Standards, and
  • Structure

Design and Designer

Under the WHS Act, ‘design’ in relation to plant, a substance or a structure includes:

  • design of part of the plant, substance or structure; and
  • redesign or modify a design.^

The Code of Practice: Safe Design of Structures defines a designer as a person conducting a business or undertaking whose profession involves them in, “preparing sketches, plans or drawings for a structure, including variations to a structure and making decisions for incorporation into a design that may affect the health or safety of persons who construct use or carry out other activities in relation to that structure.” *

Designers can include:

  • architects,
  • building designers,
  • landscape designers,
  • interior designers,
  • builders,
  • town planners,
  • engineers that design part of the structure (e.g. mechanical, structural, civil, electric, hydraulic),
  • services and plant designers and persons specifying how alteration or demolition work is carried out,
  • If a principal contractor or other person changes a design, they then take on the role of designer.

Person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU)

Person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) is a term that is used throughout the WHS Act and Regulation in relation to the design of structures. A PCBU is a person who conducts a business or undertaking alone or with others that can operate for profit or not-for-profit.+ These include PCBUs:

  • who commission construction work (‘the client’),
  • PCBUs that commission plant or structures (‘the client’), and
  • PCBUs that design structures (‘the designer’).
  • The principal contractor is also a PCBU.

The definition of a PCBU focuses on the work arrangements and the relationships to carry out the work. PCBU’s can be:

  • A corporation,
  • An association,
  • A partnership, or
  • Sole trader.

Employers or volunteer organisations which employ any person to carry out work is considered a PCBU. Householders where there is an employment relationship between the householder and the worker are also considered a PCBU.

PCBUs can also include:

  • A person commissioning a design for a workplace, or
  • A person commissioning a structure for residential purposes, who is an owner builder, investor, developer, or is working from home or employing workers at home.

The Code of Practice: Construction Work says that a “person commissioning the design is not a PCBU if they are a home buyer, owner or occupier commissioning work on their home; or an individual undertaking maintenance, refurbishment or renovations of their own home or helping a friend”.

Regardless of whether a client is considered a PCBU or otherwise, the designers’ duties in relation to safe design under section 22 of the WHS Act still apply. This includes designers providing information to their clients and anyone issued with the design on any conditions necessary to ensure that the structure is designed to be without risk to health and safety when it is used as a workplace.

Designers conducting design businesses are also considered PCBUs and as such have duties in relation to the safety of their own workers when they are working for them either in or out of the office or on site.

Principal Contractor

A principal contractor is required for a construction project where the value of the construction work is $250,000 or more. The principal contractor is a person conducting a business or undertaking that:

  • commissions the construction project (the client); or
  • is engaged by the client to be the principal contractor and is authorised to have management or control of the workplace #

Reasonably practicable

The designer must ensure, so far as is ‘reasonably practicable’, that the structure is designed to be without risk to the health and safety of persons who manufacture or construct any component of the structure, who use the structure for the purpose for which it is designed or are involved in the maintenance or disposal of that structure.

The term ‘reasonably practicable’ is also used in relation to consultation with other duty holders and between designers and clients on how risks to health and safety during construction can be eliminated or minimised.

‘Reasonably practicable’ means that which is, or was at a particular time, reasonably able to be done to ensure health and safety, taking into account and weighing up all relevant matters including:

  1. The likelihood of the hazard or the risk concerned occurring;
  2. The degree of harm that might result from the hazard or the risk;
  3. What the person concerned knows, or ought reasonably to know, about the hazard or risk and ways of eliminating or minimising the risk (as a professional in the design field);
  4. The availability and suitability of ways to eliminate or minimise the risk; and
  5. After assessing the extent of the risk and the availability of ways of eliminating or minimising the risk, the cost associated, including whether the cost is grossly disproportionate to the risk.~

Recognised standards

‘Recognised standards’ include legislation, WHS codes of practice, Australian standards, building laws, the National Construction Code of Australia (NCCA) and industry guidance materials.

It is important to be aware of the currency and applicability of any standards and to assess the efficacy of the standard and research current injury data to determine whether a recognised standard is adequate to address the identified hazard. In some cases, designers may need to go beyond the requirements of a standard. E.g. injury data shows that standard balustrade heights on highrise buildings are often inadequate to address the risk of falls.


The WHS Act defines structure to mean “anything that is constructed, whether fixed or moveable, temporary or permanent, and includes:
a. buildings, masts, towers, framework, pipelines, transport infrastructure and underground works (shafts or tunnels);
b. any component of a structure; and
c. part of a structure”.^^

Examples also include all types of buildings, pipe work, tunnels, landscape elements, swimming pools, paths and roadways.



Want to find out more about your Safe Design obligations under legislation? Download our FREE EBOOK.

Or if you’re a building designer, architect, engineer, or other building design professional, we encourage you to enrol in our flexible and convenient ‘Safe Design Online Short Course’, designed to assist you understand and practice safe design principles and endorsed by the Safety Institute of Australia (SIA).

Need more info, contact us.

^ Safe Work Australia. (2011). Model Work Health and Safety Bill. Canberra: Safe Work Australia, p.4
* Safe Work Australia. (2012). Code of practice: Safe design of structures. Canberra: Safe Work Australia, p.5.
+ WorkCover NSW. (2011). Fact Sheet – PCBUs, Workers and Officers. Sydney: NSW Government.
# Safe Work Australia. (2012). Code of practice: Safe design of structures. Canberra: Safe Work Australia, p.5.
~ Safe Work Australia. (2011). Interpretive Guideline – model Work Health and Safety Act – the meaning of ‘Reasonably Practicable’. Canberra: Safe Work Australia.
^^ Safe Work Australia. (2011). Model Work Health and Safety Bill. Canberra: Safe Work Australia, p.7.
Safety in Design for Residential buildings

Case Study: Safety in Design for Residential Structures

Case Study: Safety in Design for Residential Structures

Safety in Design for Residential structures

This case study for safety in design for residential structures is a compilation of design planning and structure issues from several different residential building and renovation projects.

The designer was commissioned to renovate a coastal house, including the addition of a second storey, an upper storey balcony, an entry void and stair, and some internal upgrades.

Site factors considered were the presence of overhead power lines and underground gas, the instability of the slope (geotechnical report required), and the potential for acid sulphate soils (acid sulphate soils study required).
The designer identified the potential presence of asbestos, lead based paints and polychlorinated biphenyl (PCBs) in the existing structure, and organised a competent person to confirm the location of these hazardous substances. The designer and client discussed the asbestos and decided that it should all be removed as part of the new works.

As the additions included a new upper storey on top of the existing structure, the designer consulted with a structural engineer to verify the capacity of the structure to take the load of the new level and any additional support that would be required to ensure the stability of the structure. As the site was in a coastal area, the engineer investigated the existing structure to ensure that prior damage from corrosion would not affect the integrity of the structure.

During the documentation stage, the spacing of the roof trusses for the upper level was revised to 600mm centres with battens at 450mm centres to reduce the risk of falls during construction. The roof pitch was kept below the critical angle of 26 degrees at 22 degrees (see Code of Practice: Preventing Falls in Housing Construction) to improve worker safety.

To reduce exposure of the construction workers to hazardous substances, the designer specified paints and adhesives that had no volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and no emissions materials for internal joinery.

New materials were selected for durability and to reduce the need to maintain the building at heights including the use of stainless steel roof sheeting and fixings. Air conditioning units and fans were selected that were more durable for the environment. Air conditioning units were located to the rear of the residence for protection from salt spray and at ground level for easy maintenance. To increase durability and reduce the need for ongoing maintenance, the designer selected a tiled concrete slab for the rear veranda, durable composite decking made from recycled plastic for the entry deck, and stainless steel balustrading. To eliminate confined spaces, rainwater tanks were selected that did not have to be entered to be maintained.

High level windows were originally proposed over the staircase and were considered a potential hazard for maintenance. These windows were relocated over a hallway where they could be accessed for cleaning. Louvres were specified on the upper storey to allow cleaning from the inside. Wall mounted LED lighting in the void area was proposed to reduce the risk of work at height for lighting maintenance.

The designer eliminated or minimised risks—so far as was reasonably practicable—and communicated residual risks to others further down the lifecycle including the principal contractor, maintenance contractors and demolition contractor in the safety report. The designer provided the safety report to the client, who was advised to provide this to the principal contractor. This report was also issued by the designer with tender documentation and submitted with the plans to the local council.

Safe Design Workshop with project stakeholders

Safe Design Australia acted as the safe design consultant for these residential projects, providing support through consultation and workshops. Safe design workshops are important, particularly for more complex projects as they can assist the designer in identifying hazards and consulting with other duty holders on ways to eliminate or minimise risks.

Participants can include the designer, the client (sometimes the building owner), engineers, consultants, principal contractor, maintenance manager and other consultants.

Contact us to find out more

To find out more about this particular project, or how the Safe Design Australia team can assist you on your next project, contact us.


Safe Design Consultant: Safe Design Australia