The WHS Regulations Related to Scaffolding

A successful scaffold job starts right with the design. Not only must the final structure be stable, but the components should be safe to manufacture, assemble and use for their intended purpose. The safety of workers and end-users takes precedence in any scaffolding project. We must strive to not repeat the tragic incident at a high school in Sydney that left over a dozen children injured after a scaffolding collapse.

If you are a designer, contractor, worker or officer, you are legally duty-bound to mitigate risk. In recent years, over 800 companies have been fined hefty sums for violation of WHS regulations. Choosing the right scaffold suppliers can save you tons of trouble in litigations, compensations and ill repute.

Here are the stages of a comprehensive checklist recommended by the SWA that you can use to evaluate the safety of your access structure.

  • Choose the right scaffold for the job.
  • Design the scaffold to abide by Parts 5 and 6 of WHS Regulations:
    • Is it suitable for intended use?
    • Does it pose minimum risks and hazards for end-use workers?
    • Did you consider the foundation and ground condition?
    • What is the load-bearing capacity of a surface or suspension system?
      • Dead loads
      • Live loads
      • Environmental loads
    • Are scaffolding bracing and anchors optimised for risk reduction?
    • Are measures taken for edge protection, containment sheeting, safe entry and exit?
  • A clear and flexible system of work must be in place.
    • Are workers licenced and competitive?
    • Are exclusion zones marked out?
    • What systems are in place to arrest a fall?
    • Are permits-to-work in place?
    • What are the emergency arrangements?
    • Are inspections and maintenance scheduled?
  • Suitable competency and licencing must be in order as per WHS classes.
    • Basic, Intermediate or Advanced
  • Required Documentation must be in place before work starts.
    • Designer’s safety report
    • Safe work method statements (SWMS) for high-risk construction (risk of falling greater than two metres)
      • Identify the high-risk work
      • Specify health and safety hazards
      • Risk controlling measures
      • Implementation, monitoring and reviewing of the above measures
    • Scaffolding plan in cases where SWMS do not apply
    • WHS management plan (where the cost of construction work is $250,000 or more)
      • List of people with health and safety responsibilities
      • Arrangements for consulting and incident management
    • Plant design registration for pre-fabricated scaffolding
    • Emergency plan
  • Scheduling inspection and maintenance.

As a catch-all, you need to ensure you have known the following steps:

You must identify hazards. You have to assess the risk factors. It is necessary to have control over these risk factors. And finally, you must review some control measures.

The past few years have seen an increase in the number of violations of scaffolding guidelines. In 2019, a Safe Works team inspected more than 700 sites in NSW. 44% of scaffolds were found to be missing vital components, and 36% of them were altered by ‘unlicenced’ workers.  This is a grim reminder that the scaffold industry must gear up its compliance game. The checklist given above should serve as a handy tool to keep track of all the regulatory and safety measures you must comply with.

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