Scaffolding and working at heights will form a focal point of a blitz on construction safety compliance in New South Wales.

In his latest announcement, NSW Minister for Better Regulation Kevin Andrews said SafeWork will visit sites across north-western Sydney this week in a move that will target unsafe work across building trades.

The blitz follows the passing in June of amendments to the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 which increase the value of penalties under the Act to the tune of increases in the Consumer Price Index from 2011 until 2019 and introduce a new offence of reckless conduct for employers or others who have WHS duties.

Anderson says the blitz will help to protect the safety of those on site.

“Inspectors will be undertaking a compliance blitz on construction sites to make sure those most at risk from workplace injury are protected by safe systems of work,” he said.

“Far too often our inspectors identify concerns with the way scaffolding is set up and other dangers involving working from heights so we will be targeting this area in particular.

“Falls from heights are the number one killer on NSW construction sites with most people who are seriously injured or killed falling from a height of four metres or less.”

Anderson says SafeWork will act on incidences of unsafe workplaces, with heavy on-the-spot fines for those who put others’ lives at risk.

In its guidance in respect of scaffolding, SafeWork says incidents commonly occur as a result of falls through scaffolds which are poorly erected, falls which occur through misuse such as standing on guardrails, scaffold collapse or failure, objects falling off scaffolds and scaffolds being struck by mobile plant or vehicles or being snagged by a crane.

Strategies to avoid incidents include ensuring that: the scaffold is erected only by those with appropriate licenses; scaffolds are inspected before first use, after alteration and during regular intervals; handover certificates are kept on site until the scaffold is dismantled; site inductions and toolbox talks state that unlicensed workers are prohibited from altering a scaffold, and who to contact if the scaffold needs altering or repair; workers be prevented from accessing incomplete sections of the scaffold; a Safe Work Method Statement is provided and followed at all times; and that controls are in place for planning and sequencing of trades to ensure the scaffold remains safe throughout the build.