This alert reminds persons conducting a business or undertaking to inspect and maintain scaffolding and its components, including stair flights.

Background

In a recent incident, a worker injured his back from a fall when a scaffold stair flight dislodged from its supporting transoms, while he stepped on the stair flight.

Image showing deteriorated lower horizontal section of stair flight

Contributing factors

Preliminary findings indicate that the stair flight's lower horizontal section had deteriorated over time without being noticed during any inspection.

Action required

Persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBUs) must ensure that scaffolding systems (ie all scaffold components and the stairs) do not threaten the health and safety of persons who construct and use them or may be affected by their use. In particular, they must have a safe system of work that ensures scaffolding is inspected, transported and stored without damage, safely used, cleaned, maintained and/or repaired.

Suppliers, installers and contractors managing and using scaffolding systems all have work health and safety duties. Below are some key obligations relating to scaffold stair systems (stair flights), for each of these PCBUs.

  • Scaffolding suppliers must inspect all stair flights for damage before they leave their premises and also upon their return. They must also undertake testing and inspections as per manufacturer's instructions, taking into account their design life.
  • Scaffolders and scaffolding installers who hold a current high risk work licence to undertake scaffolding work must inspect all stair flights for damage and/or deterioration before installing, and provide written confirmation that the scaffolding is complete (including the stair flights) to the person with management and control of the workplace after their installation. Inspection should also occur after stair flights are dismantled, and where damage and/or deterioration are identified, it should be reported to the company that owns the scaffolding.
  • Contractors who manage and use scaffolding systems must not work on an incomplete or damaged scaffolding system (including the stair flights). Prior to receiving written confirmation that the scaffold is complete or working on the scaffolding system, contractors must check that the system is complete. In particular, check for any visible signs of cracks, rust and/or damage.

Once the scaffolding system is complete and a written confirmation is accepted, the work health and safety obligations fall on the contractors managing and using scaffolding systems. For constructed scaffolding, written confirmation that the scaffold is complete is required:

  • before using the scaffold
  • at least every 30 days
  • following any alteration or addition
  • following an incident involving the scaffold.

Where an inspection indicates that the scaffold system creates a risk to the health and safety of persons, then necessary repairs must be carried out before work resumes.

Further information

The Work Health and Safety Act 2017 requires a PCBU to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that safe systems of work are provided and maintained and that all workers are provided with the necessary information, training, instruction or supervision.

Ensure that only competent persons who hold a national licence for high risk work (ie high risk work licence) undertake scaffolding work. 'Scaffolding work' means the erection, alteration or dismantling of a temporary structure erected to support platforms from which a person or object could fall more than four metres.

Section 12.3 Handover certificate in AS/NZS4576: Guidelines for scaffolding outlines the type of information that should be included when written confirmation, of the scaffold being complete, is provided.

Call SafeWork NSW on 13 10 50 or visit www.safework.nsw.gov.au

Australian standards

Australian Standards can be purchased from SAI Global. Call the customer service centre on 13 12 42 or visit saiglobal.com/shop

Check if any updates or additions to the following Australian Standards have been made.

  • AS/NZS1576: Part 1: Scaffolding – General requirements
  • AS/NZS4576: Guidelines for scaffolding

This alert contains safety information following inquiries made by SafeWork NSW about an incident or unsafe practice. The information contained in this alert does not necessarily include the outcome of SafeWork's response to an incident or unsafe practice. SafeWork NSW does not warrant that the information in this alert is complete or up-to-date and does not accept any liability to any person because of the alert's information or its use.

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