Scaffolding collapse provides warning for people in construction jobs

All industries around Australia come complete with their own unique set of challenges and hazards that require careful attention to mitigate.

This is especially true for people in construction jobs, with projects often requiring them to work around heavy machinery and at great heights. To keep themselves, other workers and the surrounding area safe, construction staff should be up to date with all codes and regulations while keeping an eye on dangers that arise on site.

Recent incidents in NSW confirmed the need for staff to stay vigilant, with scaffolding collapsing in two separate incidents.

What went wrong?

In one incident, scaffolding at a building site collapsed and spilt debris on to a public road. Unfortunately, some of the workers were injured in the event. Thankfully, however, no one was killed and the ensuing dispersal didn’t affect any members of the public passing by.

On another occasion, a similar collapse saw scaffolding end up in an adjacent laneway and over private property after its structural integrity was compromised. Fortunately, there were no injuries in this example.

According to WorkCover NSW, both incidents occurred after the scaffolding was rearranged in the later construction stages, proving that no matter how close a project is to completion, safety standards must still be observed.

How can it be prevented?

WorkCover NSW advocates minimising the changes to scaffolding structures during construction. While some projects do change as they develop, original plans should allow as much work as possible to be done without drastic reconfiguring. This reduces the risk of oversights if scaffolding is moved late in a building’s timeline.

Prevention and preparation are they keys to safety in these scenarios. People with high risk work licences should be tasked with all construction and alterations of scaffolding, and should also ensure that the materials can handle the proposed loads.

The Queensland Government’s Department of Housing and Public Works recommends conducting a risk assessment to identify any risks or hazards present on site before work commences. This is essential when planning where to put scaffolding as well, as workers need to be familiar with the location to ensure it can be constructed safely.

Who is responsible?

In broad terms, everyone on site is responsible for the safety of themselves and all other workers. However, there are also specific duties under law that need to be observed.

Safe Work Australia states that designers, scaffolding contractors and principal contractors for projects worth more than $250,000 have specific responsibility for providing safe scaffolding under Australian law.