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WORKSAFE
ACT

SCAFFOLDING
AUDIT REPORT

October 2017
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CONTENTS

Executive Summary 3
Methodology 4
Inspections 5
Safety Rectifications 5
Summary of Findings 6
Commercial......................................................................................................6
Residential.......................................................................................................6
Recommendations 7
Table 1 – Summary of Audit Findings - Commercial 9
Table 2 – Summary of Audit Findings - Residential 9
Table 3 – Summary of Audit Findings – Total 10
Appendix A 11
Scaffolding - Checklist...................................................................................11
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Executive Summary
Scaffolding is a high risk work activity. Although they are often erected to aid safety
on a worksite, incorrect installation and use can make a worksite more hazardous. In
2016, WorkSafe ACT investigated four significant incidents relating to falls from
heights/falls through voids. There have been 476 claims for workers compensation
lodged in the ACT relating from falls from heights since 2014.
In response, the ACT Work Safety Commissioner issued a Scaffolding Safety Alert
(the Alert) followed by a well publicised audit program of the installed scaffolding
industry. In all, scaffold across 26 construction sites consisting of five large
commercial properties and 21 medium and single residential sites were visually
inspected from March to May 2017.
The audit outcomes revealed that there were a number of serious safety concerns
identified in each sector. While the level of compliance for both the residential and
commercial sectors was similar in some areas, however it was identified in each
sector where significant improvement was necessary. In the commercial sector only
one out of 5 scaffolds was completely compliant with respect to access openings.
The residential sector was particularly poor in the area of base design and use.
Total compliance levels varied from 58 per cent to 89 per cent across the total
inspections undertaken in the audit. Key safety areas identified included:
 insufficient fall protection at entry and exit points;
 incorrectly installed ladders and stairs;
 no safe entry and exits provided on every working platform; and
 no sole plates under all base plates.

Many of the non-compliance issues in the commercial sector could be quickly


rectified at the time of inspection and prior to inspector/s leaving the site.
Three Prohibition Notices were issued in the residential sector as part of the audit
program where immediate rectification of safety breaches was required. These
breaches, which were sufficiently serious to require work to stop, related to lack of
protection for fall from heights, no scaffold tag on scaffold with workers located
above on decks and missing components integral to the safety of the scaffold
structure.
In addition, three Improvement Notices were issued in the residential sector. One
Improvement Notice related to the PCBU not providing written sign off that the
scaffold was safe for use. Two Improvement Notices were issued as a competent or
licensed person had not inspected the scaffold within the last 30 days as required.
As part of the audit, WorkSafe ACT inspectors worked closely with site operators and
provided considerable education and assistance to encourage on-going compliance.
WorkSafe ACT will be engaging with the Housing Industry Association, Masters
Builders ACT, union representatives and other key stakeholders to reinforce safety
requirements and emphasise the need for compliance.
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Introduction
WorkSafe ACT’s primary function is to regulate the work health and safety laws in
the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) through a mixture of education and compliance
activities.

Scaffolding is a high risk work activity. Scaffolding of more than four metres in height
can only be erected, altered and dismantled by a competent and appropriately
licensed person as defined under the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011.

Scaffolds are commonly involved in worksite injury. Although they are often erected
to aid safety on a worksite, incorrect installation and use can make a worksite more
hazardous. Falling from a scaffold can be fatal. Even a two metre fall can injure,
maim or kill. Falls are the leading cause of death in Australian construction every
year.

In 2016, WorkSafe ACT recorded four significant incidents relating to falls from
heights/falls through voids. Some incidents resulted in infringement notices issued or
other enforcement action taken by WorkSafe ACT. Two incidents are under active
investigation. There have been 476 claims for workers compensation lodged in the
ACT relating from falls from heights since 2014.

The most common causes of scaffolding accidents are:


 scaffolding collapse (before, during and after placement of the scaffold);
 work near overhead electric lines;
 impacts by mobile plant and other workplace traffic;
 mixing components from different scaffold systems (for example, mixing
aluminium tubing with steel tubing);
 falls from heights; and
 objects falling from overhead scaffolding.

In response to these incidents, the ACT Work Safety Commissioner issued a


Scaffolding Safety Alert (the Alert) to industry. This was followed by an extensive
audit program of the installed scaffolding industry. The audits, conducted from March
to May 2017, focussed on the set up and use of scaffolding and its supporting
structures backed up by appropriate documentation.

Methodology
The Alert reminded workers and Persons Conducting a Business or Undertaking
(PCBU) that a high risk work licence is required for scaffolding work and that trades
working on or around scaffolding must have a Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS)
in place describing the hazards and the control measures in place to ensure they
undertake their work safely.
The Alert focused on the importance of a competent or licensed person to
undertaken an inspection:
 before the scaffold is used for the first time;
 after an incident that might reasonably be expected to affect the stability or
adequacy of the scaffold or its supporting structure – e.g. after a severe storm;
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 before the scaffold is used following repairs; and


 at intervals not exceeding 30 days.
The objective of the audit was to identify current levels of compliance with
scaffolding safety and provide education and advice to workers and site managers
on the safe work practices and risks to health and safety posed by working on, and
around, scaffolding.

The audit program involved a general visual inspection of the scaffold across 26
construction sites consisting of five large commercial properties and 21 medium and
single residential sites.

The following legislation, standards and guidance material were referenced and
applied in the audit program:

 Work Health and Safety Act 2011;


 Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011;
 Scaffolding and Lifts Act 1912;
 Scaffolding and Lifts Regulations 1950;
 AS1576.1 – Scaffolding General Requirements;
 AS1576.6 – Metal tube and coupler scaffolding; and,
 Safe Work Australia – Guides for scaffolding.

Inspections
The audit program highlighted a number of safety risks which are detailed further in
the Summary of Findings section of this report.

44 listed checkpoints were inspected at 26 sites. The list of checkpoints is outlined in


Appendix A. Inspectors used a checklist to ensure a consistent approach with each
site. Inspectors were instructed to enforce requirements and to take immediate
action to mitigate any safety risks identified while on site.

An inspection register was created for each audit to record findings and actions
taken.

All scaffolding equipment as well as documents and records (including high risk work
licences, scaffolding tickets, SWMS, engineering specifications, handover certificate,
white card, general induction, regular inspections and contact details of the
scaffolder) were physically inspected.

Safety Rectifications
Three Prohibition Notices were issued as part of the audit program requiring
immediate rectification of safety breaches. These breaches, which were sufficiently
serious to require stop work and immediate attention, related to:

 inadequate protection from falls from heights;


 inadequate safety signage indicating active workers above; and
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 unsafe ladder access to scaffold, missing bottom ledgers, base plates not
supported by sole boards, mid-rails missing and access ladder stiles bent.

Summary of Findings
All items listed in Appendix A were investigated for compliance.

A summary of findings for the commercial and residential sectors are outlined in
tables 1 and 2 respectively, with combined results in table 3.

Overall, while the level of compliance was similar in both sectors for many items,
there were a number of serious safety concerns identified in each sector. In relation
to the residential sector, half the sites had poor design and use of scaffolding while
in the commercial sector ‘access openings’ were found to be poor with 20 percent
compliant.

Other concerns found overall were the poor entry and exit compliance in both
sectors along with the poor platform and edge protection.

Commercial
While fundamental design and erection methods were generally adequate, poor
compliance in the area of entry and exit where there was insufficient fall protection.

Poor compliance (only 20 percent of sites compliant) for access openings was a
concern where protection from vehicle collision was lacking or needed to be
upgraded. Other issues were in relation to the span over the opening not including
additional support and the span over the opening was not spurred.

Most non-compliant issues were remediated at the time of inspection without the
need to issue any Prohibition or Improvement Notices.

Residential
Non-compliance was found in some fundamental design aspects in almost half of the
residential sites visited. The main issues were in relation to base design and use
(uneven ground and no sole boards); entry and exit (stairs and ladders incorrectly
installed); platform and edge protection (gaps greater than 225mm, no clear access
on decks and lap boards not installed correctly).

Other issues found included the following:


 no handover certificate;
 no regular inspections;
 working platforms not identified;
 maximum loading capacity of each work platform not known;
 base plates not on each standard;
 insufficient fall protection at entry and exit points; and
 no safe entry and exits provided on every working platform.

Due to serious safety concerns three Prohibition Notices were issued requiring
immediate rectification before use of the scaffold could continue. These issues
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involved breaches that related to lack of protection for fall from heights, no scaffold
tag on scaffold with workers located above on decks and missing components
integral to the safety of the scaffold structure.

The inspections revealed that the PCBUs were not complying with the Work Health
and Safety Regulation 2011, section 225(3)(c), to ensure that an approved
competent person had returned to the site within the regulated 30 day period to re-
certify and approve the scaffold as safe and fit for use. It is noted that such a site
visit should be recorded by completing the date of inspection on the scaffold tag
attached to the subject temporary structure. Further, inspections revealed missing
mid and top rails on scaffold which clearly poses an immediate risk of a fall from
height potentially causing serious injury. It was also identified that there were
missing components such as sole plates on the footing of the scaffold and unlevel
scaffold installed at the base level. Due to the imminent risk that these serious
situations created, Prohibition Notices were issued to have the scaffold’s unsafe
condition immediately rectified.

In addition, three Improvement Notices were issued in the residential sector which
related to non compliance with section 225 (2) & (3) of the Work Health and Safety
Regulation. One Improvement Notice was issued for non compliance under
subsection (2) identifying that no written sign off by a competent person was
received by the PCBU stating scaffold was safe for use. Two Improvement Notices
issued under subsection (3) for non compliance after detecting that no inspection by
a competent person had been undertaken of the scaffold within the 30 day period
required.
All Improvement Notices required a full inspection and written confirmation by a
competent person certifying the scaffold was safe for use. The Improvement Notices
were lifted upon reinspection and verification by WorkSafe inspectors.

Recommendations
WorkSafe ACT recommends a higher level of focus by all employers and employees
on fundamental safety issues when using scaffolding. This can principally be
sourced from WorkSafe ACT’s targeted engagement and education programs
including safety videos in the residential housing sector in particular. As a priority,
WorkSafe ACT will discuss with the Australian Skills Quality Authority and Registered
Training Organisations on enhancing the safety risks emphasised in training for the
High Risk Work Licence.

WorkSafe ACT will be further engaging with the Housing Industry Association,
Masters Builders ACT, union representatives and other key stakeholders to reinforce
safety requirements and emphasise the need for compliance. While the enhanced
engagement and education program will encompass all elements for the safe use of
scaffolding, focus will be on elements recording high levels of non-compliance
including:
 entry and exit (approximately 40 per cent non-compliance rate );
 platforms and edge protection (approximately 40 per cent non-compliance
rate); and
 base design and use (approximately 40 per cent non-compliance rate).
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Working in a constructive and educative way with industry is Worksafe ACT’s


primary method of obtaining compliance. WorkSafe ACT will educate scaffolders and
principal contractors on the interpretation of Australian Standard 1576 and relevant
Codes of Practices relating to controlling fall from heights. Engagement will be
undertaken via safety newsletters, regular updates posted on the Access Canberra
website and during ongoing operational inspections.

While engagement and education is key, if a stakeholder is unwilling and/or unable


to achieve a satisfactory rate of compliance by these methods, the issuance of
notices and other enforcement activities will be undertaken. WorkSafe ACT will be
conducting an industry wide randomised audit of scaffolding use with an emphasis
on the above mentioned elements. Following evaluation of the audit findings and
ongoing spot checks, WorkSafe ACT will determine what specific actions should be
taken across industry as a whole and at stakeholder level.
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Table 1 – Summary of Audit Findings - Commercial

Complian Non- Total Complia Non- Notices


t complia Audits nt % complian issued
nt t%
Base Design and Use 4 1 5 80 20
Location and Vicinity 4 1 5 80 20
Scaffolding Structure 4 1 5 80 20
Foundation 4 1 5 80 20
Entry and Exit 3 2 5 60 40
Platforms and Edge Protection 3 2 5 60 40
Scaffolding Ties 3 2 5 60 40
Access Openings 1 4 5 20 80
Prohibition Notices Issued 0
Improvement Notices Issued 0

Table 2 – Summary of Audit Findings - Residential

Complian Non- Total Complia Non- Notices


t complia Audits nt % complian issued
nt t%
Base Design and Use 11 10 21 52 48
Location and Vicinity 19 2 21 90 10
Scaffolding Structure 18 3 21 86 14
Foundation 17 4 21 81 19
Entry and Exit 13 8 21 62 38
Platforms and Edge Protection 13 8 21 62 38
Scaffolding Ties 16 5 21 76 34
Access Openings 18 3 21 86 14
Prohibition Notices Issued 3
Improvement Notices Issued 3

Table 3 – Summary of Audit Findings – Total


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Complian Non- Total Complia Non- Notices


t complia Audits nt % complian issued
nt t%
Base Design and Use 15 11 26 58 42
Location and Vicinity 23 3 26 88 12
Scaffolding Structure 22 4 26 85 15
Foundation 21 5 26 81 19
Entry and Exit 16 10 26 62 38
Platforms and Edge Protection 16 10 26 62 38
Scaffolding Ties 19 7 26 73 27
Access Openings 19 7 26 73 27
Total Prohibition Notices Issued 3
Total Improvement Notices Issued 3
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Appendix A
Scaffolding - Checklist
The following checklist will assist you in completing verifications of
prefabricated modular scaffolding. Some information collected will aid in
identifying emerging issues to inform future programs.

Inspector: Visit Date: Time:


Site Address:
Site Type: Commercial Residential Demolition Other:
Developer: ABN:
Principle Contractor: ABN:
Contact Person: Phone: Fax:
WC Certificate of Currency (Y/N): WC Policy No:
Consistent with WIC (Y/N): No Employees:
Scaffolder Contractor: ABN:
Contact Person: Phone:
BASIC DESIGN AND USE: Y N N/A
1 Handover certificate for completed scaffold
2 R225(2)
Regular scaffold inspections
3 R225(3) platforms are identified
Working
4 Non-working platforms are blocked off
5 Maximum allowed loading on each working platform is
known
6 Not loading multiple platforms in a single bay
LOCATION AND VICINITY: Y N N/A
7 Protection for public provided
8 Sufficient distance to power lines
9 Sufficient controls for overhead cranes
10 Protection from vehicle collision
SCAFFOLD STRUCTURE: Y N N/A
11 Scaffold is erected plumb, level and square
12 Longitudinal/face bracing is adequate
13 Transverse/end bracing is adequate
FOUNDATION: Y N N/A
14 Erected on suitable foundation
15 Controls to prevent deterioration of the supporting
foundation
16 Baseplates on every standard
17 Suitable soleboards used (may not be necessary on hard
level surfaces)
18 Standards are bearing onto soleboards
ENTRY AND EXIT: Y N N/A
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19 Safe entry and exit provided to every working platform
20 Stairways installed correctly
21 Ladders installed correctly
22 Sufficient protection from falls at entry and exit points
PLATFORMS & EDGE PROTECTION: Y N N/A
23 At each lift platforms are fully planked/decked
24 Planks/decks are in good condition
25 Clear access is provided along working platforms
26 Lapped planks are secured from uplift
27 Planks overlap supports by 150 - 300mm (not applicable
for captive planks)
28 Gap between scaffold platforms and building does not
exceed 225mm
29 Hop-ups installed at correct height (up to lm, however
>0.5m requires suitable access)
30 Hop-up tie bars installed
31 Edge protection provided where a person could fall
32 Containment sheeting provided where objects could fall
R54 & 55
33 Wind loads from containment sheeting included in design
SCAFFOLD TIES: Y N N/A
34 Ties in accordance with installation design (or
manufacturers/suppliers instructions)

35 Ties have been situated to suit work schedule


36 Ties pick up two standards or two ledgers
37 Ties do not obstruct clear access on working platforms
38 Suitable anchorage type used
39 Supporting structure has sufficient strength
ACCESS OPENINGS: Y N N/A
40 Specific engineering design has been completed
41 Span over opening includes additional support
42 Span over opening is spurred
43 Transverse bracing installed
44 Protection from vehicle collision
RESEARCH QUESTIONS: Y N N/A
1 Was the scaffold installation designed by an engineer?
2 Did the scaffold height exceed 10 lifts?
3 Did the lift height exceed 2m?
4 Was each lift fully decked?
5 Was there engineers approval for ties using drilled in or
friction anchors?