In the past, many construction workers have got hurt – and some have lost their life – falling from a badly constructed scaffold. It is quite unfortunate that these accidents happen every year, claiming the lives of workers and depriving the victims’ family of their loved ones. But then again, most of the scaffold accidents that we have seen in the past and in recent times can be easily prevented through adequate training. The truth of the matter is that many workers fail to equip themselves with the most up-to-date scaffold safety information, before going up on the scaffolds. Hence the frequent scaffold accidents.
If we are going to eliminate scaffold accidents in the construction industry or reduce the frequency at which these accidents happen, we have to educate ourselves with the most recent Scaffold safety regulations. In this way, construction workers will not climb onto ill-fitted scaffolds when they’re not wearing the appropriate gear. Also, they’ll walk within the safe space while working on the scaffold. In this text, you’ll learn the do’s and don’ts of scaffold construction, and how important it is for you to follow the Australian government regulations when building a scaffold.
Definition of scaffolds
The safety requirements for scaffold construction and use in Australia can be seen from the way scaffolds, scaffolding, and scaffolding works are defined under the Australian Model WHS Act. This Act classifies each term into a unique category. Thus, anyone working on a scaffold must be certified to work in each category. Here’s how the Australian Model WHS Act defines Scaffolds;
- Scaffold: this is a provisional structure built for construction workers, working several meters above the ground. So the construction workers will have a safe platform to work from without having to come down every time to get their tools and gear. The Australian Model WHS Act classifies Scaffold as a structure. This means all applicable regulations to structures and plants are applicable to the scaffold.
- Scaffolding: these are the separable components used for erecting the scaffold. for instance, frame, couplers, tubes, and other materials used for erecting the scaffold. The Australian Model WHS Act classifies scaffolding under the plant category. This invariably means that the rules and regulations that are applicable to a plant will also apply to these separable components.
- Scaffolding works: assembling, modifying or disassembling a provisional structure built to support a platform, that’s is four meters or more above the ground. The Australian Model WHS Act classifies all scaffolding works as high-risk. Therefore, anyone working on the scaffolds must possess the needed skills and must be certified by the Australian government to do so.
When it comes to health and safety on a scaffold, everyone working in the construction site has a role to play. Scaffold injuries and deaths are bound to occur when workers, scaffold designers, and contractors fail to pay attention to the already established scaffolding regulations. Even if everyone working with/on the scaffolds have a health and safety duty, some people’s roles are more distinctive.
- Designers: When assembling the necessary materials for erecting a scaffold, a designer must ensure that the sourced materials are safe for the construction of the scaffold, and the overall design conforms to the Australian government scaffolding regulations. As a scaffold designer, one of your workplace health and safety responsibilities is to submit reports for scaffolding designs that are unusual or uncommon for risk assessment. On the other hand, if you are working on the everyday scaffolding designs or the usual scaffolds, you won’t be required to submit a report on your design. This is important because the risks associated with scaffolds and scaffolding works can be managed through proper design and quality materials.
- Scaffolding contractor or construction worker: before climbing on a scaffold to begin work on any construction project, you have some work health and safety responsibilities to fulfill. First of all, you must ensure that the Scaffold is designed in accordance with the Australian Model WHS Act, and has been double-checked for faults and material deficiency. Secondly, you must ensure that you have undergone the appropriate scaffolding training, to work on that particular scaffold design. Thirdly, you must put on the appropriate gear, when working on a scaffold. That way, you’ll reduce the risk of falling and potential injuries in the event of a scaffold accident.
- Principal Contractor ($250,000 or more construction Projects): As a principal contractor working on a high-cost construction project, you have a role to play in the scaffold safety of your workplace. You have to ensure that the scaffolding materials used for designing the scaffolds are of the best quality, and can support the load that would be placed on top of it. In addition to that, you have to ensure that construction workers using the scaffold platforms are well-trained and certified for that purpose. By doing this, you will reduce the possibility of scaffold hazards to the barest minimum at your workplace.
Why it is important to follow the Australian Government regulation when building a scaffold
Scaffolding work is considered a high-risk job under the Australian Model WHS Act. As a result, not conforming to scaffolding regulations would be classified as a breach of the work health and safety Act. You can expose yourself to serious criminal charges if you fail to follow the rules and regulations of the Australian government when building a scaffold. As a principal contractor or scaffold designer, you can incur significant fines for knowingly exposing construction workers to death or injuries, if the scaffold is not built to standard. In like manner, construction workers involved in a scaffold accident will lose their court case and may be penalized for the accident, if their negligence caused the scaffolding accident. you may incur substantial fines up to $3 million and/or 5 years’ prison sentence, for breaching the work health and Safety act of the Australian government. Not to mention the fact that a scaffolding accident can cause severe injuries and in some cases death for people working near the scaffold.
How to manage risks when building a scaffold?
- Identify possible hazards: When constructing a scaffold, look out for possible hazards or things that could cause harm for people working on the scaffold. Don’t forget to Check the couplers, frame, and the platform (from which the workers would work) for faults.
- Assess risks: if you have figured out the likely hazards associated with the scaffold construction, access the severity of each hazard and the chances of it occurring.
- Control the risk: by recognizing potential hazards is the scaffold construction, you can create the best defense or control measures that will reduce the possibility of a scaffold accident.
- Review your defenses: Double-check the control measures that you have put in place to combat possible hazards in the scaffold design to ensure that they are 100% functional.
Scaffold safety Do’s and don’ts
- Inspect the scaffold thoroughly
- Put on appropriate clothing (hard hat and boots)
- Use Common sense
- Use a personal-fall arrest system
- Don’t overreach for things when working on the scaffold
- Don’t put too much weight on the scaffold
- Don’t leave harmful materials or debris on the scaffold
- Don’t use the scaffold when the weather is snowy, rainy, windy, or stormy.