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Statistics highlight scaffolding risks and negligence

Workplace Health and Safety Queensland issued 1265 enforcement notices for scaffolding contraventions in 2021-22, including 338 prohibition notices to stop activities with a serious risk to safety. Another 140 non-compliances with scaffolding were rectified while inspectors were still on site.

A recent review of the year’s statistics reveals that in the residential construction sector, non-compliances with scaffolding were the second highest area of non-compliance.

The review found that a common problem with scaffolding is poor maintenance, with missing components and routine inspections not being undertaken. Another common problem is the gap between the scaffold and the building. An internal gap of 225mm from the scaffold working deck to the building structure is allowable for a working face. A gap of only 100mm is allowable if it is not a working face and vertical gaps of 300 mm from the top of a floor level and from the underside of soffit level are allowable. If the internal gap is more than 225mm, the risk of a fall must be controlled with edge protection on the inside edge of the platform or by installing a hop up platform.

Gaps should be eliminated over common access and egress points to protect people using the areas below the scaffold from falling objects. Even if there is no risk from falling objects, the gap should be minimised to control the risk of slips, trips and falls for workers accessing the scaffold. Gaps should be controlled if work is occurring above or alongside the gaps.

Regardless of the size of the gaps between the scaffold and building or structure, a risk assessment should always be undertaken to determine the level of risk for workers based on the activities being undertaken or that could be undertaken and the risk of falling objects.

People using the scaffold sometimes alter it, for example by removing components. All contractors using the scaffold are responsible for the safety of their workers while they are using it. This means they are responsible for ensuring it is not altered by their workers, and that changes are only made by the scaffolder (or a competent person when the scaffolding work does not require a high-risk work licence).

There can sometimes be uncertainty about who is responsible for the scaffold.

Initially, the scaffolder is responsible for ensuring the scaffold is compliant while it is being erected and before handover and use by other workers.

The person who commissioned the scaffold has a duty to ensure the scaffolding work does not adversely impact on the health and safety of other workers on the site during this time.

After the scaffold has been handed over, the principal contractor is responsible for monitoring and maintaining it, including ensuring it is not altered or overloaded.

However, remember that all contractors using the scaffold also have a responsibility while they are using it.

Further information

For more information, refer to the revised Scaffolding code of practice 2021 (PDF, 1.63 MB).