Scaffold collapses prompt warning

13 March 2024

Three incidents where workers have sustained serious injuries after falling from scaffolds at residential building sites have prompted a SafeWork SA warning.

In February 2024, a qualified scaffolder fell 2 metres, fracturing both wrists, when he was in the process of erecting a scaffold which had a plank missing from the working deck.

In the previous month, two workers fell more than 3 metres from the top deck of a modular scaffold onto a concrete floor after a plank was removed from the working deck to create a gap for gyprock sheets passed up from the ground.

The couplers holding the tie-in tube were loose, resulting in the scaffold separating and the remaining planks falling to the concrete floor along with the workers. The company failed to notify SafeWork SA of the incident. The SA Ambulance Service notified SafeWork SA, prompting an investigation.

In a separate incident, two workers fell from an internal stair void platform resulting in one worker fracturing a heel bone and sustaining spinal injuries.

The void scaffold was not installed to the manufacturer’s specifications.

In two of the cases, the incident scene was not preserved, resulting in enforcement notices being issued.

Each year, SafeWork SA responds to multiple incidents where workers are injured after falling from height. Most of these incidents involve falls from scaffolds, roofs, ladders, through open penetrations and from unprotected edges.

SafeWork SA reminds all employers and contractors that they are responsible for identifying potential hazards, assessing and controlling risks and reviewing control measures regularly.

Safety Measures

To reduce the risk of falls from scaffolding, employers and contractors should ensure:

  • scaffolds are designed, set up, and dismantled by competent personnel
  • assembled scaffolds are regularly inspected to determine whether all components are present, correctly installed and in good condition
  • site specific risks are identified, communicated to workers and controlled
  • adequate instruction, training and supervision is provided before and during alterations and use of scaffolding
  • workers altering the scaffold are competent and hold a high-risk work scaffolding licence (if a person or object could fall more than four metres from the scaffold deck).
  • workers are encouraged to communicate any safety concerns they have regarding the scaffold
  • a Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS)is prepared for all high-risk construction work where there is a risk of falling 3 metres or more.
  • all workers complete a site-specific induction and are trained in the appropriate SWMS for working at heights, including working on a scaffold.

SafeWork SA Executive Director Glenn Farrell said that serious injuries associated with falls from height in the residential construction sector are far too common, yet preventable.

‘fall prevention is everyone’s responsibility. It is not just a slogan; it’s a mindset that can save lives and prevent injuries,’ he said.

‘By implementing the above control measures, the risk of falls from scaffolding can be significantly reduced.’

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