Construction industry warned after audit finds scaffolding safety breaches

Ian Bushnell 9 October 2017

The ACT’s construction industry is on notice after an audit found serious safety concerns in scaffolding on both commercial and residential sites.

Insufficient fall protection, a lack of safe entry and exits and incorrectly installed ladders and stairs on construction scaffolding are some of the key safety concerns identified by the WorkSafe ACT audit.

Work Safety Commissioner Greg Jones warned that action would be taken against repeat offenders.

Mr Jones said WorkSafe ACT inspected scaffolding across 26 construction sites between March and May 2017, which included large commercial sites as well as medium and single residential sites.

He said the concerns identified through the audit were troubling, with total compliance levels varying from 58 per cent to 89 per cent.

While issues on commercial sites were able to be quickly rectified, WorkSafe ACT had issued three Prohibition Notices and three Improvement Notices in the residential sector during the audit.

As well as continuing to check scaffolding as part of its regular site inspections, WorkSafe ACT would also conduct a follow-up audit to check on compliance.

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 but Mr Jones said that where repeat breaches or ongoing compliance issues were identified, regulatory action would be taken.

“We found in the commercial sites we checked that only one out of five scaffolds were compliant with respect to access openings,” Mr Jones said.

“It was troubling that most of the commercial scaffolds were not compliant in this area.”

In the residential sector, inspectors found instances of incomplete scaffolding with key elements of the structure missing and also a lack of fall protection.

“Falls from a height can cause catastrophic injury to workers and it is important that scaffolding on every site is not only installed correctly but regularly checked and maintained,” Mr Jones said.

“There have been more than 470 claims for workers compensation lodged in the ACT relating to falls from heights since 2014 and a number of significant incidents have been investigated by WorkSafe ACT.”

Mr Jones said many of these incidents could have been prevented and scaffolding safety needed to remain a key priority.

The audit report can be found here.

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