Scaffold safety crackdown for NSW

Published: 03/07/2020

Scaffold safety crackdown for NSW

Construction workers across NSW are being warned of the dangers from unsafe scaffolds as Safe Work NSW launches another targeted safety campaign. Those who breach the safety rules could face on-the-spot fines plus possible suspension of scaffolding licences.

The major scaffold collapse on a Sydney construction site in 2019, which resulted in the tragic death of a young worker and another seriously injured, served as a reminder to construction site managers of the potential dangers of scaffolding and prompted Safe Work NSW to implement a new compliance program called 'Operation Scaff Safe'.

Over the course of the 12-month safety blitz, inspectors issued more than 1,300 notices related to scaffolds, including 131 on-the-spot fines totalling at $432,720.

These poor scaffold compliance rates revealed that a continued focus on scaffold safety is still required in the NSW construction industry. In March, Safe Work NSW launched another targeted scaffold campaign, 'Scaff Safe 2020', to address these ongoing issues.

What are the most common incidents involving scaffolds?

Scaffolding incidents most commonly involve:

  • People falling from scaffolding structures that have either been poorly erected, incomplete or altered without authorisation
  • People falling from scaffolding structures due to misuse eg. Standing on the guardrails
  • Scaffold collapse or failure of components due to incorrect assembly, incompatible parts, overloading of structures or alterations done by those who are not authorised to do so
  • Objects falling off scaffolding structures and hitting the people below
  • Scaffolds being struck by mobile plant vehicles or being caught up with a crane

What is Scaff Safe 2020?

Under the new initiative, employers and workers across NSW can expect to see continued site visits from Safe Work NSW inspectors, as well as targeted interventions and case management for the poor performing businesses, scaffold suppliers and installers that were identified under last year's campaign.

Safety inspectors will be checking to ensure that:

  • Scaffolds are built to Australian standards
  • Scaffolds are not missing any components
  • Those erecting, dismantling or altering scaffolds hold the appropriate High-Risk Work (HRW) Scaffolding Licence
  • Scaffolds remain safe and compliant throughout the course of the build project

If an inspector believes workers lives are at risk or that scaffolding work has been undertaken without the required licence, on-the-spot fines of $720 for individuals and $3,600 for employers can be issued. Those doing the wrong thing could also have their licence suspended or cancelled, and any compliance action taken will be publicly displayed on licence records.

What can site supervisors do?

Safe Work NSW have made it clear that there is a zero tolerance for businesses who put the lives of workers at risk by permitting scaffolds on their site that are not safe or compliant with Australian standards.

Principal contractors and site supervisors can help manage the risks associated with the scaffolding used on site, by ensuring:

  • The scaffold is only erected, altered or dismantled by a worker with the appropriate HRW licence
  • The scaffold has been inspected before the first use, prior to use after alterations or repairs and after an event that could affect the integrity or stability of the scaffold e.g. storms, unauthorised modifications etc.
  • A handover certificate is obtained from the scaffolder and kept on site for the duration of the project
  • That it is clearly explained during site inductions that unlicenced workers are not to alter a scaffold and are given the appropriate contacts should a scaffold need repair or alteration
  • Workers are prevented from accessing areas where scaffolding is incomplete
  • That scaffolders provide a Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS) before starting any high-risk construction work, which must be kept on site for the duration of the project

The safety and integrity of any scaffolding used on a site needs to be managed throughout the entire duration of a construction project. To ensure you have a safe and compliant scaffold on your construction site, you can use this checklist to conduct a basic inspection.

Please note, that while this safety initiative applies to construction sites in NSW, scaffold safety is taken seriously in all states and territories in Australia. Setting clear policies and safety procedures regarding the scaffolding on site can help avoid unnecessary accident or injury.

How Coverforce can help

As a specialist provider of insurance and risk advice to the construction industry, we understand the significant insurance risks and exposures that might affect building projects.

For sound risk management advice tailored to your business and quality insurance cover at competitive rates contact your local Coverforce Office or call 1 3000 COVER.

The information provided in this article is of a general nature only and has been prepared without taking into account your individual objectives, financial situation or needs. If you require advice that is tailored to your specific business or individual circumstances, please contact Coverforce directly.

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