Extreme weather events impacting scaffolding
4 March 2019
On the evening of Tuesday 12 February 2019, WorkSafe ACT was called to a construction site in Braddon after being alerted by a member of the public that a scaffold plank had been dislodged in high winds and had blown into an adjoining public street.
Fortunately no persons or property were struck when the plank was blown from a height of 8 storeys from the construction site.
Preliminary investigation of the circumstances leading to the incident has identified that a number of planks appear to have been moved for re-configuration of the scaffold and been placed between bays with a number of incomplete decks.
In extreme weather events where there is potential for scaffold being impacted by the elements, particularly high winds. There’s a strongly likelihood that any unsecured scaffold planks or other items such as shade cloth could be blown off. This could potentially pose a severe risk of striking workers, members of the public or other property, resulting in a catastrophic incident.
Further, there are potential structural risks to a scaffold where containment mesh or other screening material may generate a high wind loading which may place substantial extra stresses on the scaffold setup. Keep in mind wind-tunnel affects especially where a building’s profile is changing (construction or demolition).
On both small and large construction projects, scaffold is an integral component erected to aid safety on a worksite, incorrect installation and use or alteration of a ticketed scaffold can make a worksite more hazardous.
There are no circumstances in which the installation of scaffold should present a risk to workers, members of the public or property. The installation must meet the required manufacturer recommendations.
Mitigating the risks
Scaffolding is a high risk work activity. Scaffolding of more than four metres in height can only be erected, altered and dismantled by a competent and appropriately licensed person as defined under the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 (the Regulation).
Workers should be appropriately inducted into the safe work method statement and possess intimate knowledge on the method in which the scaffold is to be erected, altered or dismantled and are to adhere to engineered plans as per the scaffold layout.
Under the provisions of section 54 of the Regulation a person conducting a business or undertaking at a workplace must manage risks to health and safety associated with an object falling on a person if the falling object is reasonably likely to injure the person.
If you are a person conducting a business or undertaking involved in installation of scaffold you must ensure:
- an appropriate safe system of work is in place;
- the work is planned, including the development of a scaffold plan that is appropriate to the task;
- the work is undertaken and supervised by a holder of a high risk work licence who is experienced in scaffolding;
- a site specific safe work method statements is developed and followed;
- incomplete or partial decks should not be left unattended in open and exposed locations on site;
- scaffold materials should not be left leaning against incomplete scaffold; and
- use of containment mesh be considered for use in areas on higher exposed projects but keep in mind wind-tunnel affects or additional side pressures caused by strong winds.
Watch our safety video on the safety rules around scaffolding.
This Alert contains information emerging during an investigation by WorkSafe ACT into the mentioned incident at the date of this report. The information contained in this report does not necessarily reflect the final outcome of WorkSafe’s views or proposed actions with respect to this incident. WorkSafe ACT does not warrant the information in this report is complete or up-to date and does not accept any liability to any person for the information in this report, or its use.
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