Home Insulation Safety Plan update

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20 April 2011
Media Release
Joint Media release Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, Hon Mark Dreyfus QC MP
GC 93/11

Greg Combet, Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, and Mark Dreyfus, Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, today provided a comprehensive update on the Government’s Home Insulation Safety Plan.

The Home Insulation Program (HIP) was closed in February last year. The Home Insulation Safety Plan was subsequently developed and included a comprehensive safety inspection component.

Under the Foil Insulation Safety Program (FISP) all households with foil insulation installed under the HIP were offered a safety inspection, with the option of having the foil insulation removed or, on the advice of a licensed electrician, safety switches installed.

Under the Home Insulation Safety Program (HISP) the Government committed to inspect a minimum of 150,000 households insulated with products other than foil insulation. These inspections were targeted at installations based on a risk assessment.

In addition to the Government-initiated inspections, any household with insulation installed under the HIP has been able to request a safety inspection through the Safety Hotline (13 17 92).

Based on the result of independent advice and analysis the Government will conclude both the HISP and FISP upon completion of the committed inspections.

Under the HISP the Government will continue to undertake targeted inspections until the commitment to inspect a minimum of 150,000 homes with non-foil insulation is reached. It is anticipated that this will occur by mid 2011.

The Government will also move to finalise inspections under FISP subject to the completion of the remaining inspections.

Under FISP there have been a number of households with foil insulation that have either refused an inspection or have not been able to be contacted.

To provide further reassurance to all HIP households, the Government will continue to offer free inspections to any household that previously has not had an inspection and has concerns about insulation installed under the HIP until June 2012.

To help facilitate these households receiving an inspection the Government will shortly be placing public notices in appropriate national papers to encourage anyone who is yet to have a foil insulation inspection, or any householder with concerns, to contact the Safety Hotline on 13 17 92.

Independent Advice on Inspection Programs

In October last year, the Government commissioned CSIRO to conduct a statistical analysis of the of the safety inspection results. This analysis examined the extent of insulation related fire incidents that occurred prior to the commencement of the HIP and compared them to the rate at which fire incidents were occurring in homes with insulation installed under HIP.

The CSIRO also developed a risk profile to help further refine our inspection programs.

In January this year, Booz and Company were contracted to provide advice and recommendations to the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency on a proposed completion strategy for HIP, to ensure that any remaining risks associated with the installation of insulation under this Program have been identified and are adequately addressed.

The Government’s key priority has always been safety. The Government’s inspection programs sought to reduce the fire risk associated with the HIP and reduce it to a level comparable to that which existed prior to the commencement of HIP.

The overall results show that 24% of dwellings did not comply with Australian Building Codes standards. Safety risk is not the same as fire risk. The CSIRO report states:

Safety risk is defined as failing to meet the building codes and other relevant standards identified under the Home Insulation Program Guidelines. It is expressed as a percentage of dwellings inspected. Safety risk is not the same as the fire risk. The HIP guidelines prescribe conformance to relevant Australian Standards and the Building Code of Australia where relevant. These tend to be conservative, so that many relatively minor departures may not constitute a risk of fire. Further, safety risk is assessed at a point in time and conditions in the roof space will change over time due to weather, rodents, human activity and so on.

The independent advice confirms that there is always an underlying inherent risk in having insulation installed. CSIRO analysis has confirmed that the fire incident risk that existed for houses with insulation installed prior to the HIP was around 2.4 incidents per 100,000 homes (based on data provided by the Australasian Fire and Emergency Services Authorities Council (AFAC)).

CSIRO’s analysis also shows that the risk of a fire incident occurring in homes with insulation installed under the HIP has now fallen to around 2.5 incidents per 100,000 homes.

In other words, the fire incident rate for HIP households has now fallen to the level that existed before the HIP and is continuing to trend downwards.

The Booz and Company review found that inspecting households beyond the current levels is not likely to have a material impact on the reduction of risk. That is the Government’s safety inspection programs have successfully mitigated risk down to a level comparable to those that existed prior to HIP.

The full reports, along with a comprehensive update, will be made available at the Home Insulation Safety Plan section of the Department's website.

All work under the Home Insulation Safety Plan will be funded from within the program budget for HIP. Any remaining funds will be returned to the Budget.