The Heads of Workplace Safety Authorities (HWSA)1 has recently launched a national OHS compliance campaign in relation to scaffolding.2 The campaign is focused on achieving three key outcomes:

  • Increasing the level of scaffold compliance with AS 1576 within the construction industry;
  • Providing a baseline on the current level with which scaffolding is being erected and maintained in compliance with AS 1576; and
  • Identifying the reasons for non-compliance with AS 1576.

Why is there a campaign about scaffolding?

The campaign is being undertaken following a number of recent incidents involving scaffolding in NSW, Queensland and Victoria, which have resulted in death or serious injury. Other significant consequences of these incidents include:

  • “near misses” for members of the public;
  • closure of roads and disruption to adjacent businesses;
  • disruption to public transport and vehicle traffic;
  • inconvenience to the public; and
  • cessation of building works for considerable periods of time.

What will the campaign involve?

The campaign will be an Inspector-delivered operational compliance campaign with at least 800 site inspections. Data will be collected from each of these sites using a checklist sheet. More specifically, the campaign will be run in two separate stages:

  1. Site inspections to enforce AS 1576 and identify reasons for non-compliance;
  2. Site inspections to determine the level of continued compliance with AS 1576.

The campaign will cover all types of scaffolding including:

  • prefabricated;
  • aluminium;
  • trestle; and
  • swinging stages.

The campaign will not cover scaffolding that is less than 2m in height (from working platforms) or workplaces that are not construction sites.

HWSA safety campaigns are generally run with an intention to educate industry through a balance of information, assistance and enforcement activity. There has been no indication from regulators as to the approach to be taken in this particular campaign. Given that the OHS regulatory authorities consider the risks associated with scaffolding to be very serious following recent incidents it is likely that enforcement action will be taken in cases involving anything more than the most minor non-compliance.

Stage 1

The current timetable for the campaign indicates that Stage 1 will be undertaken between 1 August and 30 September. This stage will involve 795 site visits across NSW, Victoria, Queensland, SA, WA, NT and Tasmania with 250 of those visits in NSW, 200 in both Victoria and Queensland and 50 in both Western Australia and South Australia.

Stage 2

The current timetable suggests that inspections for Stage 2 will commence on 1 April 2010. These inspections will aim to identify long term compliance issues by collecting data on whether compliance has continued following Stage 1.

Key messages of the campaign

The HWSA has indicated the key messages for authorities liaising with their stakeholders during the campaign.

  • The campaign is designed to ensure compliance with existing workplace safety laws in relation to scaffolding;
  • Increase industry awareness of the safety issues associated with using unsafe scaffolding;
  • Recent incidents have highlighted a need to be vigilant when erecting, altering, using and dismantling scaffolding; and
  • A wide range of trades that use scaffolding are exposed to significant risks of death and injury when the scaffolding does not comply with AS 1576.

What should you do?

If you are involved in the design, supply, erection or use of scaffolding at a construction site or if you are you manage or control a construction site where scaffolding is being used then you should immediately review the safety of that scaffolding to ensure that it complies with AS 1576 before inspections commence on 1 August 2009.