Engineers should design and inspect scaffolding in certain circumstances. whilst two means of access and egress will be needed for scaffolding of a certain size, step heights on stair modules should be minimised and non-destructive testing of certain scaffold components will be needed every three years under the first major overhaul of scaffolding safety rules for Queensland for twelve years.

On July 1, the Scaffolding Code of Practice 2021 came into force.

This has now replaced the previous code which was issued in 2009.

A key change involves the addition of a new table which specifies the circumstances whereby scaffolding design and inspection of installed scaffolding should be performed by an engineer rather than simply by a scaffolder or another competent person.

According to that table, it is recommended that engineers should design all scaffolding other than minor scaffolding or modular scaffolding which is constructed in accordance with the manufacturers parameters.

Engineers should also inspect the following scaffolds:

  • loading bays greater than 9 metres or 2 tonnes
  • perimeter demolition scaffold more than 9 metres
  • public access structures.

Next, the code contains a new requirement to provide two means of access for external perimeter scaffolds above a certain height – one of which should be suitable for emergency stretcher access.

This will apply to scaffolds with a top working platform of more than eight metres in height and a length of more than sixty lineal meters.

A third change involves a recommendation that the step height from the scaffold stair module on to the working platform should be minimised so it is no more than 300 millimetres when there is a change in direction between landings.

A cost-effective way for industry to meet this new requirement involves replacing existing 1.5 metre stair modules with 2 metre modules.

This section will have a delayed commencement and will only apply to stand-alone scaffolding where erection commences 12 months after 1 July 2021.

A fourth change involves an amendment which applies where it has been identified that non-destructive testing should be carried out every three years for cracks in high stress areas of suspended scaffold components to identify cracks which are not readily visible.

The amendment advises that such tests be carried out every three years.

The code is being introduced amid ongoing concern about scaffold safety throughout Queensland.

Across the state, more than 60 workers every year suffer seriously injuries which require five days or more off work when using scaffolding each year.

Meanwhile, almost six thousand notices have been issued for non-compliant scaffolding since the current WHS Act as introduced in 2011.

As an approved code of practice under section 274 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, the new code is recognised as being a practical guide to achieving the standards of health, safety and welfare which are required under the Act and its associated Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011.

Under section 26A of the Act, those who hold a duty of care under the Act are required to either comply with the code or otherwise follow other methods (such as technical or industry standards) if these deliver an equivalent or higher standard of safety than the standard required in the code.

According to the WorkSafe Queensland web site, the changes will deliver several benefits.

The new table will provide greater clarity on the types of scaffold which should be designed and verified by an engineer and will reduce the likelihood of high-risk scaffolds being inadequately designed or of installed scaffolding collapsing.

Having two means of access and egress, meanwhile, means that workers will still be able to be safety evacuated from the scaffold in case of emergency even if one entry/exit point becomes temporarily unavailable.

Finally reducing step heights, meanwhile, will minimise the likelihood of falls from heights.

Queensland Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace said the revised code would make working on scaffolds safer.

“Construction activity has increased substantially in recent years and so has the potentially high-risk activity of using scaffolds,” she said.

“The code brings a raft of features to substantially boost safety for workers