Fire Escapes - what are the rules?

Page Outline: 


Introduction to Fire Escapes

Persons who manage or control workplaces must ensure entering and leaving the workplace is safe and without risks to health as practicable.

The specific requirements applying to fire escapes (and hallways leading to fire escapes) are found elsewhere - as builders, architects etc would be aware. Buildings must now comply with the Building Code of Australia - which has been given the status of building regulation by Australia's states and territories.

NOTE: NCC 2015 was adopted as law by the States and Territories on 1 May 2015. It is updated and adopted regularly. NCC 2020 is now available and has been adopted by the States and Territories.

The information on this page is general and for HSRs and workers only.  Employers and builders must seek separate advice from qualified architects or other suitably qualified professionals. 

Back to top


Fire Escapes in the OHS Act 2004

Under health and safety legislation occupiers of workplaces have duties with regard to emergency exits from buildings. Section 26 of the Victorian Occupational Health and Safety Act, 2004 specifies that persons who 'manage or control workplaces':

  1. A person who (whether as an owner or otherwise) has, to any extent, the management or control of a workplace must ensure so far as is reasonably practicable that the workplace and the means of entering and leaving it are safe and without risks to health.
  2. The duties of a person under sub-section (1) apply only in relation to matters over which the person has management or control.

This clearly means that the occupiers of workplaces must ensure that emergency exits are adequate at all times.

Back to top


Fire Escapes in the Compliance Code

Further to this, the following can be found in the Compliance Code Workplace facilities and the working environment

Emergency exits and access

144. In workplaces that are buildings, the location of doors need to be clearly marked and signs posted to show the way to the exit doors for emergency evacuation. Employers need to ensure that emergency exits in buildings comply with the National Construction Code.

145. Employers need to ensure that access and egress, such as paths to exits, comply with the National Construction Code and are safe. ‘Paths to exits’ includes the space between plant, equipment, structure and materials.

146. Aisles and passageways in buildings need to be kept clear of obstructions at all times. In factories, warehouses, depots and similar buildings, aisles and passageways should be clearly marked so that the exit routes can be easily seen in an emergency. For example, side borders can be marked by a permanent line of white, yellow or clearly contrasting colour at least 50mm wide or by glowing markers.

Emergency planning

199. Employers should plan for emergencies in all workplaces that they manage or control.

200. Employers must provide information, instruction and training to employees. OHS Act s21 This needs to include emergency response procedures, including to employees with designated roles, such as fire/emergency evacuation wardens where appropriate.

201. Employers need to ensure that paths to exits are safe and comply with access and egress requirements. Aisles and passageways in buildings need to be kept free of furniture or other obstructions at all times. In factories, warehouses, depots and similar buildings, aisles and passageways should be clearly marked so that the exit routes can be easily seen in an emergency. For example, side boundaries can be marked by a permanent line of white, yellow or clearly contrasting colour at least 50mm wide or by glowing markers.

202. Employers, or persons with management or control of workplaces, need to provide emergency response features such as firefighting equipment, smoke hazard management and emergency lighting, exits
and warnings in buildings.

Back to top


See Also:

Compliance Code for Workplace facilities and the working environment

More information on Fire and Emergency Evacuation on this site.

The National Construction Code - 2019: The Building Code of Australia and The BCA Guide (This is available from here) It is free to access once you have registered (go to the NCC registration page to register and get access to the Code and guide). 
NOTE: the National Construction Code 2020 is now available on a revamped ABCB website.

Last amended May 2024

Back to top