Scaffolding Safety in Construction – WorkCover NSW issues Safety Alert

A safety alert has been issued to remind construction businesses about the need to inspect and maintain scaffolding and its components which include stair flights.  The fall of a worker from scaffolding raised the alarm about scaffolding safety which is sometimes not up to standard because of the many components it entails. The worker suffered serious back injuries and the incident resulted in WorkCover NSW to issue the alert. The worker injured his back from a fall when a scaffold stair flight dislodged from its supporting transoms as he stepped on the stair flight.Investigations into the incident found that the stair flight’s lower horizontal section had deteriorated over time. This was not noticed during the inspection of the scaffolding.

WorkCover NSW in their alert stress that the responsibility for scaffolding safety does not rest with one entity alone, the suppliers, scaffolders and scaffolding installers as well as contractors all carry responsibility in scaffolding safety and inspection of scaffolding structures and its components. Contractors who manage and use scaffolding systems must not work on an incomplete or damaged scaffolding system and that includes incomplete or damaged stair flights.

The safety website, details the alert in an article, read an excerpt from the article below:

WorkCover-logo-250x313-2-150x150Scaffolding suppliers must inspect all stair flights for damage before they leave their premises and also upon their return. They also must 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.

Read more at:

According to WorkCover NSW, 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, which is what most contractors are unaware of.  For constructed scaffolding, written confirmation that the scaffold is complete is required prior to using the scaffold and at least every 30 days thereafter, after any alterations or additions to the scaffolding structure are made or following an incident involving the scaffolding.  Where an inspection indicates that the scaffold system creates a risk to the health and safety of workers then necessary repairs should be carried out before work resumes.


White Card Online News Update: Scaffolding Incident Results in Death

A tragic incident involving scaffolding has occurred on a site in the UK, which although sad can teach workers and employers an important lesson in scaffolding safety.

The incident occurred when a young worker was dragged over a scaffolding platform guardrail and fell 22m to his death. The workers father has blamed a breach in site safety as the cause of the death. Another worker who was working nearby was also injured in the incident but thankfully escaped with his life. The principal contractor was blamed for the safety breach and received a hefty fine. reported on the incident:


Two construction companies have been fined more than £300,000 after an employee fell to his death when he became entangled in a chain.

Christopher Heaton, 25, from St Helens, was working on flats in Manchester when he was dragged over a scaffolding platform guardrail and fell 22m (72ft).

Shawton Engineering and Amec Group were sentenced at Liverpool Crown Court over breaches in safety rules.

Mr Heaton’s father, Len, said his son’s death in 2004 devastated his family.

Falling steel

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted steel-erection company, Shawton Engineering, and the site’s principal contractor, Amec Group, following an investigation into Mr Heaton’s death.

It found Mr Heaton had been using a chain from a scaffolding platform to adjust a steel beam three stories above him, while working on the city centre apartments, when one of the supporting brackets gave way.

He was struck by a falling steel block, became entangled in the operating chain and was dragged over the edge of the scaffolding.

Another worker, who does not want to be named, was also injured.

The investigation concluded the wrong studs had been used to secure the chain and the work had not been properly planned or monitored.

‘Happy go lucky’

Speaking after the hearing, Mr Heaton said: “The loss of our son has completely devastated our lives.

“Chris was a good lad, with a happy go lucky outlook. He loved his job and was looking forward to a career in engineering.

“I used to worry about him all the time, especially when he was out at night. Ironically, I didn’t worry too much when he was at work. I thought he was safe.

“Chris would still be alive today if simple health and safety rules were adhered to and hopefully lessons have been learned to stop this type of incident happening again.”

Neil Jamieson, HSE Principal Inspector for Construction, described the incident as “horrifying” and said: “If either Chris’s employer, Shawton Engineering, or the principal contractor on the site, Amec, had acted differently then his life could have been saved.”

Shawton Engineering Ltd, of Sankey Valley Industrial Estate, Newton le Willows, Merseyside, pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 by failing to provide and maintain a safe system of work.

The company received a nominal fine of £1 because it had gone into administration.

Amec Group Ltd, of Birchwood Boulevard, Birchwood, Warrington, was found guilty of breaching part of the same act, by failing to ensure the safety of workers, following a trial at Liverpool Crown Court.

It was handed a fine of £300,000 plus costs of £333,866.

The latest figures show that 50 construction workers were killed while at work in Great Britain in 2010-11 and there were nearly 3,000 major injuries.


If this incident has raised alarm bells in your head and you fear for your own safety on site there are a few questions you can ask yourself, from erection to dismantling to help you determine whether scaffolding work is being performed to standard or not.

  • Has a competent formwork designer/manufacturer/supplier designed the system?
  • Has the formwork been properly constructed? Are all the formwork components, support timbers and structural ply, in a serviceable condition?
  • Is the formwork deck safely laid?
  • Is the steel fixing being done safely?
  • Is the formwork structurally adequate?
  • Are the wall and column shutters safely lifted and secured?  During strong winds large shutters need to be secured and not lifted.
  • Are workers prevented from accessing the area beneath the concrete pour?
  • Are concrete pumps being used safely?
  • Are kibbles being used safely? Crane-lifted concrete kibbles normally require a person with a dogging or rigging certificate to operate them and direct their movement.
  • Are concrete vibrators being used safely? Vibrators should be well maintained and fully serviceable.
  • Are the concreters working safely?
  • Is formwork being dismantled safely?

If proper safety is not being followed, employees should report the matter immediately as it poses a risk to all workers on site.

Posted by Steven Asnicar



White Card Online News Update: Scaffolding Safety on Construction Sites in Question

Earlier this year tragedy struck when a 54 year old worker died after sustaining serious injuries during a fall from a scaffolding on a site in Sydney’s CBD. The scaffolding was just 3 meters high and the damage done was too serious so the worker died at the scene. This is just one of many tragedies that have been reported in Oz involving falls from scaffolding on construction sites. The fact that scaffolding is often indispensable on construction sites cannot be denied but the number of lives being lost is too high and it is clear that more attention needs to be given to scaffolding safety if we are to reduce this number.

Dangers Presented by Scaffolding in Construction

While working from any height above the ground more than 2 meters is dangerous and can present a risk from falling, there is also the chance that scaffolders can fall from incomplete scaffolds during their erection and dismantling. Scaffolders can be exposed to fall hazards especially during the erection and removal of scaffold planks from the open sides or ends of the scaffold and in climbing from one lift of the scaffold to the next lift.

There is also the risk of scaffolding collapsing while workers are on or under it which can cause terrible injury. The collar locking mechanism on scaffolds can be a hazard if operators do not engage the lock correctly. They are progressively being phased out in favour of an adjustable leg that has a compression-locking device, which engages when a weight is applied to the assembled scaffold this method is favoured as it will save collapsing of the scaffold under the weight of workers.

It is vital that the people that erect the scaffold are trained and certified to do so. Scaffolding risks are presented by internal falls,that is during the placement or removal of scaffold plants, from the open sides or ends of the scaffold known as an external fall or when climbing from one lift of the scaffold to the next lift known as a climbing fall.

The risk that seems to be most applicable to construction sites is the risk of external falls as this has been reported more than most other falls from scaffolding so this is what we will discuss.

The risk of external falls from the open sides and ends of a scaffold can be controlled by adopting the “sequential erection” method. According to this method only one-bay-at-a-time is erected, sequential installation of standards and guardrails or guardrails alone. This ensures that scaffolders are not required to walk further than one bay length along an exposed edge of a scaffold platform thereby reducing the risk of falling. Dismantling involves reversing the sequence.

Another risk is presented when workers have to climb the scaffolding. Ensuring that an appropriate access system is in place can control the risk of climbing falls for scaffolders gaining access from one lift to the next. This can be in the form of a stairway or ladder access that is progressively installed as the scaffold is erected.  Employers should ensure that the practice of scaffolders  climbing the scaffold framework is strictly forbidden as this is extremely dangerous and can result in serious injury.

Basically the risks involved with scaffolding can be controlled or managed using a combination of techniques which involve:

  • fully decking each lift
  • using the sequential erection method and
  • progressively providing access as the scaffold is erected

 Points to remember:

  •  Safety harness systems provide an invaluable assistance to workers working on scaffolding, but should not be the only control measure. If a harness is being used  in all instances a scaffolder must not be exposed to a fall prior to being securely connected to the anchor point of the harness. A properly designed harness will permit prolonged worker suspension after a fall without restricting blood flow.
  • Guardrails must be installed on all scaffold platforms in accordance with required standards
  • Hard hats should be worn to protect against falling objects. Mesh, screens, intermediate vertical members or solid panels should be used to safeguard employees and the public at lower levels
  • Workers on suspended scaffolds must use a fall arrest system as protection against the failure of the scaffold or its components.
  • Fall protection is only as good as its anchorage.

Posted by Steven Asnicar