The Scaffolding Code of Practice 2021 commences 1 July 2021 following a review of the Scaffolding Code of Practice 2009 by an industry steering group.
Key changes include (but are not limited to) the following:
- A new table recommends when an engineer, rather than a scaffolder or competent person, should design, verify and undertake the initial inspection of various scaffolds. These recommendations are based on the level of risk and largely reflect current industry practice.
- Requirement for two means of access and egress for external perimeter scaffolds over a certain size, excluding detached dwellings. One means of access and egress should be suitable for emergency stretcher access.
- A recommendation that the step height from the scaffold stair module on to the working platform should be minimised so it is no more than 300 millimetres when there is a change in direction between landings. A cost-effective way for industry to meet this new requirement involves replacing existing 1.5 metre stair modules with 2 metre modules. This section will have a delayed commencement and will only apply to stand-alone scaffolding where erection commences 12 months after 1 July 2021.
- Amendment to advise that where it has been identified non-destructive testing (NDT) for cracks in high stress areas of suspended scaffold components is needed to identify cracks not easily visible, the NDT should be conducted every three years.
Key changes in the Scaffolding Code of Practice 2021
Information on 'Planning and design' has been moved towards the beginning of the code. Design and planning should both be considered before scaffolding work begins.
- Improves layout and readability with all design and planning aspects covered in the beginning of the code.
A new table sets recommendations on when an engineer should design verify and undertake the initial inspection of various scaffolds rather than a scaffolder or competent person. The recommendations are based on the level of risk and largely reflect current practice. The requirement for an engineer to undertake the initial inspection of:
- loading bays greater than 9 metres or 2 tonnes
- perimeter demolition scaffold more than 9 metres
- public access structures.
- Provides clarity to industry on the types of high-risk scaffold that should be design verified or have an initial inspection by an engineer.
- Following the recommendations in the table will assist in reducing the risk of inadequately designed or installed scaffold collapsing.
The code currently sets out that the principal contractor or person conducting the business or undertaking (PCBU) is responsible for preparing the ground and providing advice in writing to the scaffolder on its bearing capacity.
The code has been updated to include additional information on the risk of a hard crust over soft ground. Advice is provided that if there are doubts the principal contractor may need to engage the services of a competent person, such as a geotechnical engineer, to assess the ground and specify suitable control measures.
- Raises awareness of industry to the risk of soft ground is hidden by a hard crust.
- A proper assessment of ground conditions is important to ensure the scaffold load is suitable to the ground conditions and that appropriate control measures are used where necessary.
Safe work practices and control measures for tying scaffolding has been substantially redrafted to greater clarification to industry. The updated information is based on the Australian Standard for scaffolding (AS/NZS 1576.1).
Information has been included on the use of post installed anchors to avoid failures of these type of anchors. Information on post-installed anchors is based on AS/NZS1576.1.
- Tying the scaffold to the supporting structure is critical to the stability of the scaffold. The code will reflect the current industry standard set in AS/NZS 1576.
Updated to require two means of access and egress for external perimeter scaffolds with a top working platform more than 8 metres high and a length of more than 60 lineal metres. One means of access and egress should be suitable for emergency stretcher access. The height and length parameters mean that this requirement will not apply to smaller scaffolding installations, including scaffolding on detached housing. The code sets out that existing means of access and egress can be used providing they are safe.
Specifications are provided for temporary stairways, including where they are being used for stretcher access that are consistent with AS/NZS 1576.1.
- Having two means of access and egress means that if one becomes temporarily unavailable workers, are still able to be safely evacuated from the scaffold in case of an emergency.
- Where a worker is seriously injured emergency services need to have stretcher access to safely retrieve the injured worker.
N.B. The new section on Step heights has a delayed commencement. Section 220.127.116.11 applies to stand-alone scaffolding where erection commences 12 months after 1 July 2021.
A new recommendation that the step height from the scaffold stair module on to the working platform should be minimised so that it is no more than 300 millimetres. This only applies where there is a change in direction between landings.
Scaffold stairs modules are typically 1.5 metres vertically in height on scaffolds which usually have 2 metre lift heights. This creates an issue with the final step height from the scaffold stair, on to the working platform being approximately 500 millimetres.
This creates a significant risk of a slip, trip or fall hazard especially as workers may be turning and bending to access the work platform from the scaffold stair while carrying tools and equipment.
A cost-effective way for industry to meet this new requirement involves replacing existing 1.5 metre stair modules with 2 metre modules.
- Minimising the step height is expected to reduce the risk of fall injuries in the industry.
- Falls from heights are the most common cause of injuries to scaffold workers. Sixty six percent of the workers’ compensation claims for falls from height are serious claims requiring five or more days off work.
Additional information has been included to clarify that each PCBU using the scaffold is responsible for cleaning up any mess, waste and spills when they have finished using the scaffold. The principal contractor or person with management and control of a construction site has ultimate responsibility for ensuring systems are in place to maintain a safe work environment on the scaffold and that each PCBU leaves the scaffold without risks to health and safety.
Many different trades and workers use a scaffold during the life of a construction project. Falling objects can pose a significant risk and have caused serious injuries to workers on scaffolding, especially when dismantling scaffold. There are also risks from hazardous substances.
- This new section provides clarity on responsibilities for making sure the scaffold is free of objects, debris and hazardous substances.
- It is expected that this will improve housekeeping practices and safety for workers on scaffolding, especially when dismantling scaffold.
Additional information has been included in the code on specific hazards:
3.3 Fixed plant
The code recommends that site specific procedures should be developed to minimise the risks associated with fixed plant, for example tower cranes operating in close proximity to a scaffold.
3.8 Unauthorised access, use or alteration
Scaffold can be in place for a long time and used by workers from many different trades and serious injuries and fatalities have resulted from unauthorised alteration of scaffold. This section sets out the regulatory requirements under the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 for persons with management or control of scaffolding to prevent alterations or interference with scaffold.
3.9 Scaffold quality
General advice is provided on constructing scaffold with materials that are resistant to corrosion and weathering as well as other factors to consider, for example scaffold load.
3.12 Fire and explosion
There have been serious scaffold fires interstate as a result of the use of flammable perimeter containment screening products and SafeWork NSW has issued a safety alert on this issue. Fires can have catastrophic consequences resulting in serious injuries or death to workers as well as significant property damage. The code has been updated to include information on fire and explosion hazards and responsibilities.
- Provides consistency with current requirements in the WHS Regulation for plant, including scaffolding.
- Raises the awareness of industry on a number of specific hazards that have the potential to cause death or injury when working with scaffolding.
A new section on gaps has been included. There is almost always a gap between the working face of a scaffold and the building or structure being constructed. Gaps can create risks for falling objects and due to the distance objects can fall the risks can be significant.
The code includes information from AS/NZS 1576.1 on the dimensions of allowable gaps. Due to the significant risk of serious injury and death from falling objects it is recommended that gaps should be eliminated over common access and egress points.
- The code will reflect the current industry standard set in AS/NZS 1576.
Amendment to advise that where it has been identified that non-destructive testing (NDT) for cracks in high stress areas of suspended scaffold components is needed to identify cracks that are not easily visible, the NDT should be conducted every three years. This is intended to provide guidance to duty holders as to when NDT may be needed to identify cracks not easily visible. The failure of critical welds on a swing stage scaffold can have catastrophic consequences.
- The code currently recommends NDT testing of high stress areas and this change provides clarity to industry how frequently NDT testing should be undertaken.