SCDF officers may soon get powers to investigate people & enter premises for fire safety violations
Updating the Fire Safety Act allows the SCDF to respond effectively to fire safety risks.
A new Fire Safety Bill proposes granting officers of the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) additional powers of investigation under an amendment to the Fire Safety Act (FSA).
This will empower them to:
- Investigate any person for violations of fire safety.
- Take statements from people about possible offences, if there is “reasonable suspicion” they may have committed any.
- Enter any premise that may have evidence linked to offences under the Fire Safety Act.
New powers for SCDF officers
Currently, SCDF officers have to wait until someone fails to comply with a Fire Hazard Abatement Notice before taking action, which is not ideal when dealing with potentially lethal fire hazards.
Officers also can’t summon individuals to give statements relating to fire investigations, or enter a premise that is not directly related to Fire Safety Act violations — like the offices of vendors of fire safety products.
But that could change if the Bill is passed.
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) noted that fire fatality rates are low, and the number of fire incidents remained “stable”.
However, recent incidents such as the Jalan Buroh industrial estate fire, which claimed one life and left two injured, have put fire safety back in the spotlight.
Building owners will have to comply if necessary for fire safety
The Bill also proposes allowing the Commissioner of the SCDF to order building owners to install critical fire safety upgrades — such as fire alarm systems and fire hose reels — if it is deemed necessary for public safety.
The SCDF will assess which buildings need fire safety upgrades based on risk factors such as the building’s age, its purpose and the profile of its occupants.
Under the Bill, the SCDF will also be empowered to prevent and stop the use of non-compliant regulated fire safety products.
It can do this by taking action against any party in the supply chain — like suppliers of fire safety products, contractors and certification bodies.
It will also penalise anyone who supplies or offers to supply such products, installs them, or allows them to be installed.
The Bill will also give SCDF officers the power to stop the sale, recall, remove, dispose, rectify and test any non-compliant fire safety product.
Tougher penalties for fire offences
In order to improve deterrence, the Bill will impose harsher penalties for five serious offences under the Fire Safety Act.
These offences mainly relate to the unauthorised change to the use of premises, which may render existing fire safety measures inadequate.
Another such offence, said the MHA, is the failure of Qualified Persons and Registered Inspectors to carry out their duties responsibly when certifying fire safety work.
The new penalties include maximum fines of up to S$200,000 from S$10,000 and a possible jail sentence of two years.
“The increased penalties reflect the severity of these lapses in fire safety. QPs and RIs play a critical role in ensuring that buildings meet the fire safety standards stipulated in the Fire Code.
Failure to perform their roles responsibly could result in drastic consequences such as loss of lives and damage to property.”
Third-party officers to lend support
Finally, the SCDF will be allowed to appoint third-party officers to conduct building inspections and routine checks.
The Bill also introduces a licensing framework to regulate third-party fire alarm operators to ensure minimum service standards and penalise false alarms.
Existing regulatory processes will also be refined for clarity, which will hopefully reduce the number of fire incidents breaking out.
Top image from SCDF’s Facebook page.