Fire safety remains a priority for Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES), as inspectors continue to identify illegal and unsafe budget accommodation buildings.
Fire and Emergency Services Minister Craig Crawford said today (Saturday) QFES had conducted more than 7200 inspections since January 1, 2007 - on almost 3400 buildings suspected of operating as illegal budget accommodation.
“QFES Safety Assessment Officers regularly conduct routine inspections of budget accommodation across Queensland, including boarding houses, backpackers, share houses and pubs,” Mr Crawford said.
“Budget accommodation buildings are popular around Universities and throughout regional Queensland, where there is a demand for casual workers like fruit pickers.”
Budget accommodation buildings are where six or more “unrelated” persons have shared access to a bathroom or sanitary facilities.
Mr Crawford said legislation was passed to regulate budget accommodation buildings and fire safety standards after the Palace Backpacker Hostel blaze in Childers, which claimed 15 lives in 2000.
“In the wake of that tragedy, Queensland implemented some of the toughest fire safety standards in Australia,” Mr Crawford said.
“The legislation was implemented to mitigate the risk associated with these buildings, so it’s crucial we continue taking preventative action to avoid another serious tragedy from occurring – it is essential providers place a priority on safety over profit.
“Fire safety mechanisms are now required to reduce the risks in budget accommodation buildings, including fire safety management plans, emergency lighting and early warning systems,” he said.
Inspections have resulted in 1,626 requisitions being issued state-wide to reduce numbers to less than six unrelated people, as well as 284 Notices to upgrade existing fire safety systems and 401 Infringement Notices for fire safety breaches.
QFES has successfully prosecuted 173 budget accommodation providers since January 1, 2007 – with 10 of those prosecutions occurring between January 1, 2017 and May 30, 2018.
Prosecutions have resulted in imprisonment and significant fines being imposed by the courts, with offenders including a Caboolture budget accommodation provider - who was fined personally and through his company - a total of more than $1.1 million, as well as being handed a suspended jail term for breaching fire safety regulations between 2009 and 2013.
QFES Commissioner Katarina Carroll said that while the majority of budget accommodation providers complied with fire safety standards, operators unfortunately continued to ignore warnings.
“QFES has issued several fines relating to budget accommodation providers disabling fire alarms,” Ms Carroll said.
“This behaviour is unacceptable, especially when fire detection and alarm systems are proven to save lives. QFES Safety Assessment Officers will continue to inspect new, illegal and unregistered budget accommodation buildings across Queensland."
Minister for Fire and Emergency Services
The Honourable Craig Crawford