Upcoming changes in 2024
From 2024, a new centralised essential safety measures (ESM) model will be set up to support schools to meet testing, inspection and reporting requirements (rectification works will remain the responsibility of schools).
This centralised model of inspection and testing will be funded from the ESM component of the Student Resource Package (SRP). From the start of 2024 this funding will be held centrally to fund the program of ESM inspection, testing and reporting.
Schools will continue to be responsible for ensuring all required ESM activities, including reporting, are up to date and complete throughout 2023. The VSBA will also continue to support ESM pilot schools throughout 2023.
The VSBA will provide schools with updates about the transition to the 2024 model in terms 3 and 4 this year.
For more details about the new model, refer to the New centralised essential safety measures program fact sheet .
This policy sets out the routine actions schools must take to maintain their essential safety measures (ESMs).
- ESMs are building safety features such as fire detection and alarm systems, fire doors, emergency lighting and fire hydrants. When maintained correctly, ESMs protect students, staff and visitors in the event of a fire or other emergency.
- Each school has an ESM maintenance schedule that lists all the ESMs on site. The ESM maintenance schedule also lists inspection, testing and maintenance requirements for those ESMs (ESM activities).
- The Building Regulations 2018 and the Victorian Registration and Qualification Authority require schools to evidence their school building maintenance activities with records and reports and to prepare an Annual Essential Safety Measures Report (AESMR).
- Principals are responsible for overseeing ESM activities and must record evidence of ESM activities in the required annual ESM report. Schools must follow the steps set out in the ESM quick reference guide to ensure these activities are undertaken correctly.
- To assist schools with this task, the Victorian School Building Authority (VSBA) has established an Essential Safety Measures Panel (ESM Panel) of qualified service providers to annually audit schools maintenance activities and complete the required annual ESM report.
- The VSBA reviews annual ESM reports to ensure schools remain compliant with legal and regulatory requirements for ESM. Further support to schools on ESM matters is provided by the VSBA ESM Team – refer to the contact details section.
- This policy falls within the 'Manage' stage of the School Asset Lifecycle.
ESMs are the safety features required in a building to protect occupants in the event of an emergency. ESMs may include fire detection and alarm systems, fire doors, emergency lighting and fire hydrants. If a fire or other emergency occurs, well maintained ESMs can provide occupants with more time to exit the building and lessen the chance of harm resulting from any incidents. ESMs require ongoing care and maintenance.
The Building Regulations 2018 and the Victorian Registration and Qualification Authority’s minimum standards require principals to oversee general and specific inspections, testing, maintenance and record-keeping activities for ESM. Each school site has an ESM maintenance schedule that lists the ESMs installed in a school and the inspection, testing and maintenance requirements for those ESMs (ESM activities).
The ESM quick reference guide sets out the activities that schools must undertake as well as the roles and responsibilities of department staff in supporting schools to meet these ESM obligations. This guide contains guidance and resources to help schools undertake or commission ESM activities.
Management of ESM activities and record keeping
Schools must follow the steps set out in the ESM quick reference guide to ensure that required routine ESM inspection and testing are undertaken correctly, and by appropriately qualified or competent persons.
Schools must ensure records of these activities are accurately maintained throughout the year and documented in the Annual Essential Safety Measures Report (AESMR), to be submitted to the VSBA at the same time each year.
The VSBA strongly encourages schools to engage the services of VSBA nominated service providers to conduct the audit and annual reporting.
Schools are required to set up their routine ESM maintenance tasks and building maintenance activities in the Asset Information Management System (AIMS).
Additionally, schools are required to respond to and rectify any ESM defects identified during routine inspection and testing or during the annual audit and preparation of an AESMR.
The Essential Safety Measures Panel
The Essential Safety Measures Panel (ESM Panel) is comprised of qualified service providers recommended by the VSBA. The ESM Panel is a resource to help schools meet their annual ESM review to satisfy the Building Regulations 2018 (Vic) requirements.
ESM Panel service providers can assist schools by undertaking the following ESM record-keeping activities:
- reviewing and updating the ESM maintenance schedule as required
- providing an annual inspection report of maintenance activities undertaken at a school site
- preparing the AESMR
- providing property data that summarises the school assets, the ESM maintenance schedule and any observations of the school’s ESM activities or defects.
The VSBA strongly encourages schools to engage service providers from the ESM Panel to conduct their annual ESM audit on their school site/sites, as these service providers have been verified for quality of ESM services.
Refer to the ESM quick reference guide for further details on engagement of the service.
Monitoring ESM activities
Schools will be notified via the Asset Information Management System (AIMS) 2 months prior to the anniversary date to arrange for their annual audit and AESMR.
The department’s responsibilities for maintenance of ESM
The VSBA helps schools meet their ESM compliance requirements by:
- managing the resources that help schools meet their annual ESM compliance
- monitoring schools’ AESMRs to ensure compliance with legal obligations
- managing agreements with each service provider on the ESM Panel by verifying service provider qualifications and monitoring the quality of reporting and performance
- assisting with mandatory monitoring and reporting of asset management in school facilities (using AIMS where possible)
- responding to non-compliance at a school and system level through direct support to schools or revision of policies and procedures.
The VSBA and the appropriate regional office will contact any school failing to lodge an AESMR, or where the report is sub-standard, and work with them to ensure the mandatory requirement is completed.
Funding for ESM activities
Schools are to fund their ESM activities from their budget, including with the allocations through the Student Resource Package (SRP).
Funding is allocated to schools for routine ESM inspection and testing and for the preparation of an AESMR by a qualified service provider. The funding line is as specified under the Student Resource Package – School Infrastructure, Annual Contracts and Essential Safety Measures (ESM) at SRP Guide Reference 36.
Any repairs or rectification is to be funded from the maintenance and minor works allocation in SRP at SRP Guide Reference 35. This maintenance funding line is a supplement to the school’s budget in meeting the costs associated with repairs that ensure ESM items perform at the level required to fulfil their purpose.
For any queries or concerns regarding ESM compliance contact the Victorian School Building Authority's ESM Team on 03 7022 0075 or email email@example.com
Schools can also discuss ESM compliance matters with their regional OHS officers or area senior provision and planning officers (area SPPOs). refer to Region and area (staff login required).
If your school has been damaged in an incident or event and you require assistance to make the site safe, please call the Make-safe service provider Programmed Facility Management on 1300 133 468. Refer to the Make-safe guidelines and the Managing and Reporting School Incidents (including emergencies) Policy for more information.
ESM activities are the inspection, testing, maintenance and record-keeping requirements set out in a school’s ESM maintenance schedule. Principals are responsible for overseeing ESM activities with assistance from qualified service providers.
A person who has acquired through training, qualification, experience or a combination of these the knowledge and skill enabling them to correctly perform the required task (for example, handyperson, electrician or plumber, and so on).
Reviewed 24 March 2023