New Scaffolding Code of Practice 2021

Working from a scaffold can be risky business.

Recently in NSW a 48-year-old male worker fell approximately 5.7 metres from the top deck of a mobile scaffold he was dismantling on a residential site in Sydney. He sustained serious head injuries and later died as a result of these injuries. In another incident, a worker was awarded $120,000 in damages for a knee injury when carrying buckets of rubble down non-complying scaffold stairs. Back in November 2018, a large segment of scaffold, on a housing construction site, collapsed onto a neighbouring residential house. The house was occupied at the time of the incident but fortunately, no one was injured.

Incidents like these highlight the importance of safety and code of practice when using scaffolding. The newly released Scaffolding Code of Practice 2021

commences this week on  1 July 2021 and replaces the Scaffolding Code of Practice 2009. This new Code is easier to follow and includes elements from the Australian Standards that were previously just references in 2009 version of Code.

Key changes include:

Changes in New Scaffolding Code of practice

  • The requirement for engineers, rather than scaffolders to design, verify and undertake the initial inspection of scaffolds greater than 4 metres and public access structures.
  • Requirements for checking ground conditions.
  • Clearer control measures for the tying of scaffolding to supporting structures.
  • A requirement for two means of access and egress for external perimeter scaffolds more than 8 metres high and 60 lineal metres long. One access must be suitable for an emergency stretcher access.
  • A requirement for stair height to be no more than 300mm when there is a change in direction of stairs between landings.
  • Housekeeping practices and safety for workers using and dismantling scaffolds.
  • The Code recommends that site-specific procedures should be developed to minimise the risks associated with other fixed plant, for example, tower cranes operating near a scaffold.
  • The Code sets out the regulatory requirements under the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 for persons with management or control of scaffolding to prevent alterations or interference with the scaffold because scaffold can be in place for a long time and used by workers from many different
  •  trades. Serious injuries and fatalities have resulted from unauthorised alteration of scaffolds.
  • The Code has been updated to include information on fire and explosion hazards and responsibilities. There have been serious scaffold fires in Australia as a result of the use of flammable perimeter containment screening products. Fires can have catastrophic consequences resulting in serious injuries or death to workers as well as significant property damage.
  • There is often a gap between the working face of a scaffold and the building or structure being constructed. The Code includes information from AS/NZS 1576.1 on the dimensions of allowable gaps. Due to the significant risk of serious injury and death from falling objects, the Code recommends that gaps be eliminated over common access and egress points.
  • The requirement for non-destructive testing (NDT) for cracks in high-stress areas of suspended scaffolds at least every 3 years.

So, if you or your workers are relying on scaffolding for safe work at height there are some questions you should ask before scaffold use:

  • Does the scaffold meet the requirements of the new Code of Practice?
  • Is the design of the scaffold suitable for the type of work I need to do?

Importantly, inspect the scaffold before use. Inspect the tag and know what the weight capacity of the scaffold is. Run through your safe work method statement (SWMS) with your workers before starting work on a scaffold and regroup with them at least daily to ensure the ongoing suitability of the scaffold.

Need help ensuring safety compliance?

We work with businesses of all sizes and industries, to customise work health and safety systems to ensure legal compliance and peace of mind.

For more information on complying with new codes of practice for your business, or to book a complimentary consultation, get in touch with the team from Masula Compliance on 07 3348 3666 or email