In November 2018, a segment of scaffold approximately 17 metres long and 8 metres high on a housing construction site collapsed onto a neighbouring residential house. The house was occupied at the time of the incident. Early investigations suggest the scaffold may have been free standing at the time and had not been tied back to the building or other structure. No one was injured as a result of the collapse. Investigations are continuing.
Preventing a similar incident
When scaffolding is erected it is important that scaffolding ties, back to the building or structure, are installed progressively as the height of the scaffolding increases. If ties are not installed until the scaffolding reaches its full height there is a high likelihood that the scaffolding will collapse, placing workers and members of the public at risk. All ties are to be installed in accordance with the scaffolding plan and are to withstand a minimum tensile or compressive force of 6kN. If there is any doubt about the ability of a tie anchorage to withstand this minimum load, the advice of a professional engineer should be sought.
The assembly, alteration, use and dismantling of scaffold may expose workers to the risk of a serious fall or being struck by falling objects, such as scaffold components, tools, or in the event of a collapse, the entire scaffold. The person with management or control of a scaffold at a workplace must prevent unauthorised access to any incomplete or unattended scaffold.
Planning before scaffolding work starts can help eliminate many of the associated health and safety risks. An effective plan will help identify ways to protect people who are:
- erecting, dismantling, maintaining and altering the scaffolding
- using the scaffolding
- near the scaffolding (for example, other workers and members of the public).
A scaffold plan is one tool that can assist you to safely plan and manage scaffold work.
Consider the design, shape and location of the building or other structure when selecting the type of scaffold to be used. Choose a scaffold system that is most adaptable to the contour of the building or other structure, particularly if a modular scaffold is being considered. Consider the purpose for which the scaffold is to be used, for example, bricklaying, plastering or demolition.
Scaffolds should be erected in accordance with the designer's instructions and the scaffold plan. A person doing scaffolding work more than four metres in height must hold a certificate for basic, intermediate or advanced scaffolding.
Procedures must be developed for inspecting and maintaining scaffold to ensure it remains in a safe condition. Inspecting scaffolding on site is particularly important when it is in place for a prolonged period of time.
There are around five accepted workers' compensation claims each year involving scaffolding or formwork falling on a worker. Since 2012 there have been 291 notified incidents in the construction industry involving scaffolding or formwork.
Prosecutions and compliance
In 2018, a company was fined $45,000 after it was established the perimeter scaffolding on a construction project had not been adequately inspected and maintained. A number of deficiencies were established, including: multiple areas with missing scaffold planks leading to penetrations in the working platform and presenting a fall from height risk; unsecured scaffold planks creating a risk of fall from height and also trip hazards; missing tie-bars and hop-up support brackets; multiple areas where scaffold components and construction materials were placed on scaffold creating trip hazards or a risk they may fall and strike those underneath. Other workers had been working on the scaffold during this time to undertake their various trades despite the hazards.
In 2018, two workers employed by a scaffolding company were fined $15,000 each when a tradesman received serious injuries because of an improperly secured scaffold floor plank which dislodged. He fell 4.2 metres to the concrete floor below, striking his head on the scaffolding as he fell. One of the workers had signed off on a scaffold handover certificate (that indicates the scaffold is safe and compliant for workers to use) without inspecting the scaffold. He indicated that he took his more experienced co-worker's word that it was safe and compliant when in fact the co-worker had forgotten to replace a ledger (a horizontal brace to secure floor panels) as they moved the scaffold higher.
- How to manage work health and safety risks Code of Practice 2011 (PDF, 1.02 MB)
- Scaffolding Code of Practice 2021 (PDF, 1.63 MB)
- Managing the risk of falls at workplaces Code of Practice 2018 (PDF, 2.31 MB)