Why Are Safety Bollards Required at Fire Exits in Australia
Hopefully you’ve never had to face trying to escape from a building in case of an emergency. But if you have, it’s pretty stressful and alarming ! That’s why Australian safety standards require buildings to install safety bollards at fire exits. Safety bollards at fire exits keep them safely open and free, and prevent vehicles parking in front of them. If vehicles park across safety exist, they block safe egress for pedestrians in case of an emergency. They also serve to prevent crashes around the exit, protecting both pedestrians and the building itself.
But did you know that fire exit doors also require safety bollards?
Imagine you needed to escape for an exit in emergency situation – fire, gas leak or other – stressful! Then you arrive at the emergency exit only to find that the fire exit doors have been blocked! By a car, rubbish bin, or some other heavy object on the outside. It’s impossible for you to get out! You’re trapped! Petrified!
As a building owner, or property manager, you need to comply with the Building Code of Australia on this. There are legal requirements around this. And they are set out in both the Building Code of Australia, and Australian National Standards in AS1905.1-2005 and AS1530.4-2005.
What actually qualifies as a fire exit?
In layman’s terms, a fire exit is a way to exit a building in the event of a fire, or a door that is used to let people out of a building during a fire. This exit can be either a regular exit or a specifically dedicated exit, allowing for a faster evacuation in the event of an emergency.
Fire exits are found around all types of buildings. From residential apartments, to commercial offices, hospitals, warehouses, factories. And especially around parking lots, which have emergency stairwells in them.
Building owners and property and facilities managers need to ensure that these exits are kept clear at all times. That’s because it’s a legal requirement to prevent obstruction outside these fire exit doors. With mandatory annual fire safety inspections, and random spot fire safety checks by Council for buildings, you must follow these rules. Not only for safety and compliance, but big fines apply if you are in breach of these provisions.GET A FREE INSTALLATION QUOTE
What legal provisions apply for fire exit doors?
There are two key regulatory sections that buildings must comply with in relation to fire exit doors. These are the Building Code of Australia, and the Australian National Standards
Building Code of Australia rules on fire exit doors
Firstly, Building Code of Australia in Section D1.10 requires that there must be appropriate exits from every area of a building to a location of safety in the event of a fire or other emergency. That provision states:
“An exit must not be blocked at the point of discharge and where necessary, suitable barriers must be provided to prevent vehicles from blocking the exit, or access to it.”
It also requires that special signage be installed for fire exit doors. Obviously these fire exit doors must be kept clear of obstructions. A clear example of how to keep the doors clear is by installing safety bollards. As a building owner or property or facilities manager, you must take all necessary precautions to ensure safe and clear access out of fire exit doors.
Australian National Standards requirements on fire exit doors
In addition, the Australian National standards also have additional requirements for the design and rating for fire safety doors..
AS1905.1-2005 provides specific requirements for the design, construction and installation of door sets used to protect openings in fire-resistant walls and partitions.
AS1530.4-2005 also provides methods for determining the fire resistance of various elements of construction when subjected to standard fire exposure conditions.
Safety Bollards as a solution for fire exits
Appropriately installed safety bollards at exit doorways are the simplest and most effective ways to prevent obstructions. Whether by vehicles or other items (such as rubbish bins, or storage cages). By installing safety bollards at exit doorways, building managers can ensure that no vehicles block the exit. Doing so creates unfettered pedestrian access around the fire exit.
How to plan for the best installation of safety bollards around fire exits
When planning out construction of a building and the fire exit strategy, you should consider how installing bollards at exit doorways will a impact on the flow of pedestrians when using an emergency exit. Proper placement of safety bollards should make provision for escape and so lessen the danger in emergency situations. Use a range of building and construction resources to help you determine this.
How many safety bollards do you need to cover off what area?
But if you install safety bollards at exit doorways, doesn’t that impede people’s ability to exit in an emergency situation?
Lots of analysis has been done around this. For example, for exits up to 4.5m wide and stand-off distances between 1m and 6m, the recommended observed maximum loss in exit unit flow should be less than 10%. That means that safety bollards installed here shouldn’t reduce the ability of people to exit by more than 10%. But as the width of the fire exit increases, then if you install more bollards, it will restrict access more. You should take care to engage a specialist fire safety consultant to advise you on the technical requirements. Especially before you just start installing a bunch of safety bollards thinking you are doing the right thing. Remember the whole point is that safety bollard at exit doorways make a safe and effective provision for escape.
A crucial factor to consider is the spacing between bollards. For example, what about making the fire exits and safety bollards installed around them accessible for persons with physical disabilities. You need to ensure that the distance between any safety bollards you install around fire exits allow for disability access. They must be wide and large enough for pedestrians using wheelchairs and motorized chairs to pass through ( a requirement of Australian Standard AS1428 which requires you design for access and mobility)
The spacing between bollards will depend on the region being delineated and any individual who may be allowed to pass through. For instance, some bollards are made to stop automobiles from passing but not pedestrians or cyclists.
Again, it’s important to consult with a specialist fire safety engineer who is familiar with the applicable regulations. They should carefully review your site plans and conduct a physical inspection to advise on the best bollard spacing and the appropriate installation methods.
Check for any possible hazards
As with any installation into a common surface, you need to check that the installation doesn’t damage anything in the slab or any embedded services. Often when we install safety bollards at fire exits, we use a surface mounted method, and fixings are BCA compliant so they don’t go any deeper than 50 mm into the concrete surface. But if you’re installing inground safety or car bollards, you’ll need to check for underground dangers like pipes, gas lines, and electric cables before excavating or drilling. Blueprints of site plans typically include this information. But you should also conduct a slab scan and a Dial before you Dig report with the proper authorities before you dig or drill.
Benefits of safety bollards
Aside from meeting the BCA requirement in fire exits, safety bollards provide a range of other benefits, including:
- Safety for pedestrians. Bollards reduce the likelihood of a vehicle collision across areas such as car parks, building entrances, schools, airports, hospitals, schools and universities, and bike lanes
- Protection of your physical building assets. Bollards stop cars from crashing into your building, damaging property and possible people!
- Restricting access. Safety bollards keep vehicle and pedestrian areas separated, especially in common zones just like remote control parking bollard in car parks. They delineate between the different uses.
- Protecting from ram raids. Safety bollards can reduce the chances of someone deliberately or recklessly driving into a storefront, by providing an additional physical blocking barrier
- Provide temporary traffic management. You may need traffic flow altered during certain days/ times, to align with peak hour, and removable bollards are a great way to facilitate this.
- Improve aesthetics. Decorative bollards can provide protection for driveways for homes, businesses and other landscaped areas, such as public parks and shared access points. They provide a more architectural appearance.
Safety Bollards at Fire Exits are a good thing
Safety Bollards provide great protection against accidental collisions, reducing maintenance costs and downtime. If you have a building with any fire exits in Australia, you need to ensure that they are free from obstructions so they can easily be accessed by people during emergencies. Safety bollards suit this purpose and they are relatively easy to install in emergency exits and stairwells in parking lots.
For building or facilities managers, safety bollards are an integral part of your facilities management and fire safety implementation to protect people and your building assets.