Scaffolds are used broadly in the construction industry to provide a safe means of access for work at height, as a temporary working platform and as a control in managing risks such as falling objects. However, it is important to be aware of the hazards that using a scaffold can create and to control for these using the hierarchy of control.
Scaffolding and work at heights has historically been a leading cause of safety incidents and non-compliance with Scheme Audit Criteria (see Scheme data from 2015 to 2019). This prompted the OFSC to run the Hazard 2020 Safety Campaign in 2020 and 2021 which included a focus on scaffolding. Unfortunately, the Hazard 2020 Safety Campaign found no improvement in scaffolding safety.
The Hazard 2020 Safety Campaign
The OFSC launched the Hazard 2020 Campaign (Hazard 2020) in the second half of 2020 to target scaffolding and mobile plant (heavy machinery) safety risks. Over 50% of incidents reported to the OFSC that are associated with a high-risk hazard are either mobile plant or falls from height related, and nearly 60% of hazard-related correction action reports (CARs) issued during Scheme audits are for mobile plant or scaffolding.
The Hazard 2020 Campaign Final Report highlights the need for more attention to be paid to the safety of scaffolding. The Campaign found that the rate of compliance with Scheme scaffolding requirements has not improved since 2016 and in many areas, has declined.
The areas of lowest compliance detected during Hazard 2020 saw almost one in two companies audited fail to meet Scheme scaffolding requirements. These areas of lowest compliance have also not changed since 2016 – they remain the failure of audited companies to ensure:
- scaffold plans are developed by a qualified person where required;
- scaffolding is installed by a competent person and verified as correctly installed before use; and
- changes to scaffolding design are approved and signed off by a qualified person.
Response to the Hazard 2020 Safety Campaign
The OFSC has continued the emphasis on scaffolding at on-site audits following the conclusion of the 12-month Hazard 2020 campaign. To support accredited companies to improve their scaffolding practices, the OFSC will also continue to:
- publish more educational resources around scaffolding management focused on workers, site management and scaffolders;
- increase its outreach on scaffolding, including the trialling of roundtable forums in key jurisdictions to further investigate issues and solutions as well as a new ‘case management’ approach for companies that return poor audit results on scaffolding; and
- re-run the scaffolding component of the Hazard 2020 campaign in 2023 to determine whether industry has heeded the message that change is needed.
The OFSC continues to provide guidance and assistance to companies to meet their Scheme requirements, but meeting the requirements is ultimately each organisation’s responsibility.
Post Hazard 2020 Campaign – What Does the Data Say?
The most recent CAR data shown in the below table is from 17/10/21 to 21/10/22. The high issue rates continue to show that more work is needed. There has been notable improvement in some of the scaffolding sub-criteria, but the overall issue rates are still unacceptably high.
WHS Accreditation Scheme Audit Criteria
Builders accredited under the Scheme need to have, and implement on-site, a systems-based approach to ensure compliance with scaffolding requirements. Even when engaging the services of specialist scaffold contractors, compliance with the Scheme audit criteria requires accredited companies to ensure their system effectively manages all scaffold risks and hazards.
The Scheme criteria primarily used to assess scaffolding compliance are contained within the following sections of the FSC Audit Criteria:
- WH12 – HIRAC
- FP4 – Management of Subcontractor WHS
- FP6 – Training arrangements
- H1 – Working at heights
- H5 – Structural alterations/temporary structures
The OFSC’s Scaffolding in Construction fact sheet provides an overview of the hazards associated with scaffolding, and provides guidance on how accredited companies can implement a system-based approach to ensuring these hazards are effectively managed in accordance with the FSC audit criteria.
The OFSC has produced a range of guidance and educational resources to help manage scaffolding risks on-site. For a list of all our scaffolding resources, including fact sheets, case studies and webinars, please see our resources page.