Construction industry on notice: expect increased scrutiny of scaffolding

Released 16/10/2017 - Joint media release

The ACT Government has put the construction industry on notice for scaffolding safety following a number of recent incidents as well as the extremely concerning results of WorkSafe ACT’s recent proactive audit into scaffolding safety.

Minister for Workplace Safety and Industrial Relations Rachel Stephen-Smith and Minister for Regulatory Services Gordon Ramsay said considering working at heights was one of the highest risk work activities, there would be zero tolerance for companies who cut corners by installing unsafe scaffolding. Also targeted would be workers unsafely modifying scaffolds on site.

“What we saw through WorkSafe ACT’s recent proactive audit into local commercial and residential scaffolding was that only one in five scaffolds checked was fully compliant,” Minister Stephen-Smith said.

“Frankly this is not good enough and there is no excuse for this kind of disregard for worker safety. WorkSafe ACT will be responding strongly to any scaffolding safety issues detected in the ACT.”

Minister Ramsay said that with dangerous scaffolding found at construction sites involved in safety incidents this week – at Kambah and Coombs – the message was clearly not getting through to industry.

“Safe scaffolding is not an optional extra - it is a critical component of a safe worksite and properly installed scaffolding can be the difference between safety and catastrophic injury or death,” he said.

“Too often, we’re seeing checked or approved scaffolding being modified on site (such as sections removed to fit building materials or equipment onto the scaffold) and these modifications remaining unchecked and unsafe.

“WorkSafe ACT has provided a range of instructional and educational information on scaffolding safety to industry and it can also be found on the construction portal of the Access Canberra website.

“Local scaffolding suppliers as well as commercial and residential sites are on notice. Scaffolding will be checked and any safety breaches will be dealt with swiftly.”

Key safety areas identified through WorkSafe’s proactive audit 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.

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.

“Many of these incidents could have been prevented and we will not tolerate for worksites that put workers at risk through unsafe installation, maintenance, modification or unsatisfactory checking of scaffolding,” Minister Stephen-Smith said. “Take this as an official warning.”

- Statement ends -

Section: Rachel Stephen-Smith, MLA | Gordon Ramsay, MLA | Media Releases

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