In July 2021, a spectator at a local sports ground in Brisbane was crushed by a tower frame scaffold. Initial enquiries indicate the scaffold appears to have blown over because of possible wind gusts, fatally crushing the man.
Investigations are continuing.
These findings are not yet confirmed, and investigations are continuing into the exact cause.
Ways to manage health and safety
Taking steps to manage risks is a condition of doing business in Queensland. Effective risk management starts with a commitment to health and safety from those who manage the business. If an incident occurs, you'll need to show the regulator that you’ve used an effective risk management process. This responsibility is covered by your primary duty of care in the Work Health and Safety Act 2011.
Use the hierarchy of controls to help decide how to eliminate and reduce risks in your place of work. The hierarchy of controls ranks types of control methods from the highest level of protection and reliability to the lowest. It’s a step-by-step approach to eliminating or reducing risks. You must work through the hierarchy of controls when managing risks, with the aim of eliminating the hazard, which is the most effective control.
Possible control measures to prevent similar incidents
A scaffold needs to be designed for the most adverse combination of dead, live and environmental loads that can reasonably be expected whilst it is erected. The design of the structural members and components of a scaffold should comply with the Australian Standard (AS/NZS 1576 Scaffolding) series of documents. The design of the scaffold should take into account the:
- strength, stability and rigidity of the supporting structure
- intended use and application
- whether it will be in place for a prolonged period
- safety of those building, altering, and dismantling it
- safety of those using it
- safety of those in the vicinity.
This incident has highlighted the risk of a tower frame scaffold overturning during adverse environmental conditions. Effective controls for the risk of a mobile scaffold collapse are often made up of a combination of controls. Some common control measures can include but are not limited to the following examples:
- Ensuring modular tower frame scaffolds are supplied with information regarding their safe use and erection. If the scaffold is to be altered, contact the manufacturer or supplier for additional guidance. All modular tower frame scaffolds are to be erected and used in accordance with manufacturer’s specifications.
- Consider environmental loads, particularly the effects of wind and rain on the scaffold. For example, environmental loads imposed by wind and rain may be heightened if perimeter containment screening, cladding or signs are attached to the scaffold. The effects of climatic conditions such as electrical storms on the scaffold should also be considered. Environmental factors should also be factored in when determining the height of the scaffold relative to the base dimension.
- The geographical location of the site will have a bearing on the severity of wind on the structure. Wind generally has less effect in built up or hilly areas. AS/NZS 1170.2 Structural Design Actions - Wind Actions specifies four different terrain categories that should be taken into consideration by an engineer as well as basic wind speeds for the different zones.
- Incorporate appropriate bracing at the base of mobile scaffolds to provide greater stability. The person with management or control of a scaffold at a workplace must prevent unauthorised access to any incomplete or unattended scaffold. This could include providing barricading and signage on/or around the perimeter of the scaffold.
- The scaffold should be inspected by a competent person to ensure it remains in a safe condition. This is particularly important in circumstances where the scaffold is left in place for extended periods. Inspection records should be kept on site and include the location, date and time of inspection, comments, and details of the person who conducted the inspection.
The control measures put in place should be reviewed regularly to make sure they work as planned.
- Scaffolding code of practice 2021 (PDF, 1.63 MB)
- Managing the risk of falls at workplaces code of practice 2021 (PDF, 3.9 MB)
- How to manage work health and safety risks code of practice 2021 (PDF, 0.65 MB)
- AS/NZS 1576.1:2019 Scaffolding General requirement – subscription required
- AS/NZS 1170.2: Structural design actions – Wind actions – subscription required
- AS 4576:2020: Guidelines for scaffolding – subscription required
Support for people affected by a serious workplace incident
For advice and support: