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New Scaffolding Industry Safety Standard in NSW

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SafeWork NSW has launched the new Scaffolding Industry Safety Standard (‘the Standard’) which was developed in response to the fatality of one young worker and permanent life-changing injuries to another in 2019.

The new industry safety standard is aimed at principal contractors, scaffolders, engineers and other entities involved in scaffolding.

What came out of the investigation?

The investigation by SafeWork NSW identified issues with the planning, design, management and modification of the scaffold, as well as a lack of clarity regarding its duty rating.

The investigation also identified a need for clear written guidance regarding:

  • Management of contractors
  • Management of scaffolding work
  • Management of erected scaffolds, particularly on-going modification
  • Training and qualification of workers
  • Role of engineers, sign-offs and verifications

The following were also noted as critical factors leading to the development of the Standard:

  • There was a prohibition notice on the site at the time the incident occurred.
  • More than 50 per cent of the scaffolding inspected was not compliant with the WHS legislation at the time of the investigation.
  • At the time of the fatality, the scaffold was being dismantled progressively and its hoist was overloaded with pallets of bricks to take advantage of that piece of equipment before it was removed.
  • Several months earlier, the company discovered that various trades at the site were tampering with and removing scaffold ties and arranged for Synergy to conduct weekly inspections of the structure but no inspections were conducted in the month leading up to the fatality

Why is this important?

  • Promoting a safe work environment and ensuring safe work practices are crucial to mitigating risks to serious incidents, accidents resulting in injuries (permanent or otherwise) or, worst case, a death on site. The penalty imposed on the company was $900,000 for a category 2 breach of the WHS legislation.
  • The findings of the SafeWork NSW investigation warned that nearly 50 per cent of scaffolding inspected did NOT comply with the WHS legislation. Unfortunately, this is not uncommon across all jurisdictions and feedback received from members is that compliance in scaffolding can vary.

 

This includes, but not limited to,

  • ensuring that routine inspections are occurring as required – including visual inspections on a regular basis,
  • ensuring any part of the scaffolding is not being dismantled or altered by any person, unless they are authorised/qualified to do so and/or that all required components are in place (including tie offs),
  • ensuring that scaffolding is not being overloaded and are only being used for its intended purposes.
  • A failure to comply with WHS obligations can have serious implications for the business – such as court proceedings and penalties for a breach of the WHS laws – not to mention the loss of time/productivity due to injury, investigations, impact on reputation as well as other implications such as your eligibility to tender for future works.

Further information about the launch of the Scaffolding Safety Standard can be found here.

 

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