Current at: 26 August 2009
Vic – Guidelines for the safe use of scaffolding
Scaffolds are a common means of providing a safe work platform for working at height provided a few basic safety rules are followed. This includes making sure that workers are given the necessary information, instruction, training and supervision to enable them to safely erect, alter, dismantle or use scaffolds and keeping scaffolds and their means of access in a safe condition.
Scaffolds should comply with the Australian/New Zealand Standard AS/NZS 4576 –
Guidelines for scaffolding.
Working platforms on scaffolds are generally rated as:
Light duty – up to 225 kg per bay. This is suitable for plastering, painting, electrical work, many carpentry tasks and other light tasks.
Medium duty – up to 450 kg per bay. This is suitable for general trades work
Heavy duty – up to 675 kg per bay. This is what is needed for bricklaying, concreting, demolition work and most other work tasks involving heavy loads or heavy impact forces.
Special duty – has a designated allowable load as designed.
These safe load limits include the weight of people (which is taken to be a nominal 80 kg per person) plus the weight of any materials, tools and debris on the working platform. Therefore, a properly constructed scaffold with a light duty platform can safely support one worker and 145 kg of tools and material, or two workers and 65 kg of tools and materials.
Work platforms should be fully decked across their full width and free of gaps. All platforms higher than 2 metres should have guardrails, midrails and toeboards (or brickguards) fixed to each open side and end. Where the nature of the work makes it difficult for a person to be fully aware of the proximity of the platform edge (e.g. overhead work or welding) edge protection should be provided, regardless of height.
Properly constructed temporary stairways or ladder access is needed to all working platforms. Climbing up and down the scaffold framework is very dangerous. Ladders should be securely fixed to prevent movement, pitched at a gradient not less than 1 in 4 nor more than 1 in 6, and they should extend at least 900 mm above the platform so they can be safely climbed.
Erecting altering and dismantling scaffolds
All scaffolding must be erected, altered and dismantled by appropriately trained and competent persons in accordance with the supplier’s erection information and design specifications for the type of scaffold. It is important to note that this includes scaffolds less than 4 metres.
Any scaffold from which a person or object could fall more than 4 metres must be erected, altered and dismantled by a licensed scaffolder. HIA recommends that you ask to see the certificate/licence and to keep a record of the details.
Information, instruction and training for workers using scaffolds
Builders have an obligation to make sure that scaffolds used in building sites under their control are used correctly and are maintained in a safe condition. This includes ensuring that all persons working from a scaffold understand:
- what loads the scaffold can safely take (such as how many bricks per bay) and not to load the working platform in excess of its rated load;
- not to make any unauthorised alterations to any part of the scaffold (such as removing guardrails, planks, ties, toeboards or braces);
- not to work from incomplete platforms, climb the framework of the scaffold or guard rails, or use stepladders on decks to gain extra height;
- that platforms need to be kept clear of debris and obstructions for a minimum of 450 mm along their length;
- that incomplete or defective scaffolds must never be accessed.
Incomplete or damaged scaffolds should be signposted as incomplete and their use prohibited. It is advisable to carry out regular inspections of the scaffold on a monthly basis at least.
Where work is performed using mobile scaffolds, workers should also understand that the scaffold should:
- remain level and plumb at all times;
- be kept well clear of powerlines, open floor edges and penetrations;
- never be accessed until the castors are locked to prevent movement;
- never be moved while anyone is on it;
- never be accessed up the outside – use internal ladders only.
Trestle scaffolds without guardrailing are only suitable for tasks requiring a working platform where the potential fall height does not exceed 2 metres. When adjusting the height of a trestle scaffold, make sure that only the purpose-designed pins are used. Do not use nails or pieces of reinforcing bar.
The working platform of a trestle scaffold should be a minimum of 2 planks or 450 mm wide.
The maximum spacing of trestles should not exceed the maximum recommended span marked on scaffold planks.
The working platform of a bracket scaffold should be:
- provided with edge protection to all open sides and ends of any platform from which a person could fall more than 2 metres;
- at least 450 mm wide (2 planks), and wider (3 or more planks) where it needs to accommodate stacked materials along its length;
- provided with a safe and suitable means of access and egress;
- not loaded in such a way as to obstruct clear access along it;
- not subjected to loads greater than light duty (225 kg of persons and materials per bay), unless the supplier’s information or engineer’s certificate states a greater allowable duty loading.
AS/NZS 1576 and AS/NZS 4576 – provides practical guidance on training, safe work practices, inspection and use of scaffolding and scaffolding equipment.
DISCLAIMER – The above is intended to provide general information in summary form. The contents do not constitute specific advice and should not be relied upon as such. Formal specific advice should be sought by members with respect to particular matters before taking action. © Housing Industry Association