School operations

Buildings and Grounds Maintenance and Compliance

Essential Safety Measures

A new centralised Essential Safety Measures (ESM) model is in place to support schools in meeting testing, inspection, and annual ESM reporting requirements. The Victorian School Building Authority (VSBA) will coordinate qualified ESM service providers to undertake school ESM inspections, testing and annual reporting from Monday 1 January 2024. Schools are no longer required to arrange the inspection, testing and annual reporting activities for ESM items.

Key actions for schools

  • The VSBA coordinates and manages the annual ESM reporting and ESM testing and inspections for all schools.
  • Schools must oversee the testing and inspections coordinated by VSBA.
  • Schools must respond to and rectify any ESM defects identified during:
    • routine inspection and testing or
    • the annual audit and preparation of the Annual Essential Safety Measures Report (AESMR).
  • Schools must display a current occupancy permit in a prominent and accessible position.


Correctly maintained Essential Safety Measures (ESM) protect building occupants in the event of an emergency by providing occupants with more time to exit the building and lessening the chance of harm resulting from any incidents. ESMs are building safety features that may include fire detection and alarm systems, fire doors, emergency lighting and fire hydrants.

The Building Regulations 2018 (Vic)External Link 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.

The Victorian School Building Authority (VSBA) coordinates qualified ESM service providers to undertake school ESM inspections, testing and annual reporting.
Schools are responsible for ESM defect rectification works and receive funding for rectification work through the Maintenance and Minor Works budget line in the SRP. These work orders will continue to be actioned in the Asset Information Management system (AIMS).

ESM – mandatory compliance obligations

The department’s infrastructure related compliance and monitoring approach is defined by key steps which identify, manage and monitor compliance with obligations relating to school infrastructure. These stages outline the responsibilities of both schools and the department in meeting their infrastructure obligations, including ESM.


Each school campus has an ESM maintenance schedule that lists the ESM items which require inspection, testing and maintenance. This maintenance schedule is specific to each school and can be found in AIMS.

The quick reference guide, ESM – Locating an ESM Maintenance ScheduleExternal Link , will provide further instructions on locating a schools maintenance schedule.


The VSBA coordinates and manages ESM testing and inspections for all schools. This includes the preparation of the AESMR.

The VSBA will manage agreements with each ESM service provider.

Schools must:

  • oversee inspections, testing, maintenance, and record-keeping activities for ESM. This includes the inspections and testing coordinated by the VSBA
  • respond to and rectify any ESM defects identified during routine inspection and testing or during the annual audit and preparation of an AESMR.


The VSBA will monitor compliance of these mandatory maintenance requirements, including:

  • monitoring the quality of reporting and performance
  • responding to non-compliance through direct support to schools
  • revising department policies and procedures as required.

Schools will be notified ahead of ESM testing and inspections occurring under the centralised model. The outcomes of these will be stored in AIMS and will be accessible by the school. This will support schools in undertaking any maintenance or rectification works of ESM items.

The Essential Safety Measures Audit Panel

The VSBA allocate and coordinate ESM audit service providers across Victorian government schools.

The auditors will verify that the ESM activities have been completed by:

  • reviewing and updating the ESM maintenance schedule
  • providing an annual inspection report of maintenance activities undertaken at a school campus
  • preparing the AESMR
  • emailing the AESMR and supporting documents to the VSBA
  • providing property data that summarises the school assets, the ESM maintenance schedule and any observations of the school’s ESM activities or defects.

Funding for ESM activities

The centralised model of inspection and testing is funded from the ESM component of the Student Resource Package (SRP). This funding is held centrally to fund the program of ESM inspection, testing and reporting.

Any repairs or rectification remains the responsibility of schools and 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.

Occupancy permit

An occupancy permit (OP), also commonly known as an occupancy certificate, is a declaration issued by the relevant building surveyorExternal Link that a building or part of a building is safe for occupation.

An OP will contain specific conditions of occupation such as the requirement for the maintenance of ESMs within the building, structure, or place of public entertainment.

By displaying the occupancy permitExternal Link in an approved location the owner becomes publicly accountable for the conditions that they (or a tenant) must comply with in order to safely continue to occupy the building.

Under the Building Regulations 2018 (Vic), schools are required to display their current OP. The OP provides crucial information to emergency services in the case of an emergency and information for auditors for inspections.

Designated building entry point

Designated building entry point (DBEP) or designated site entry point (DSEP) is an entry point to a building that provides fire fighters information identifying the location of a fire alarm consistent with Australian Standard AS 1670.1 and Australian Standard AS 2118.1. Often this is the ground floor main public entry to a building.

It is recommended to fix the occupancy permit to the internal wall at the side or adjacent to the designated building entry point. It is common practice to mount the occupancy permit within a frame.


ESM activities
ESM activities are the inspection, testing, maintenance and record-keeping requirements set out in a school’s ESM maintenance scheduleExternal Link .

Examples of what is included in ESM (but not limited to):

  • emergency lighting
  • exit signs (including directional signs)
  • fire extinguishers and hose reels
  • smoke and heat alarm systems.

Examples of what is not included:

  • air conditioning systems (annual contract)
  • asbestos
  • backflow prevention device annual test (routine maintenance)
  • pest control (routine maintenance)
  • playground inspections and audits (routine maintenance)
  • testing and tagging of electrical equipment (routine maintenance)
  • thermal imaging of electrical switchboards (routine maintenance).

Suitably qualified person
Rectification works should be undertaken by a person who is suitably qualified, with the required knowledge and skills relevant to the nature of the work to be undertaken.


For any queries or concerns regarding ESM compliance contact the Victorian School Building Authority's ESM Team on 03 7022 0075 or email

Schools can also raise a ticket directly via the Services PortalExternal Link . Select 'IT Faults and Issues' and set the affected service as 'AIMS’. Then select the appropriate sub-service, ‘Essential Safety Measures’.

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 contactsExternal Link (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.

Guidance on the new centralised Essential Safety Measures (ESM) model in place to support schools in meeting testing, inspection, and annual ESM reporting

Reviewed 29 February 2024

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