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Requirements for scaffolding on work sites

Throughout 2019 and 2020 SafeWork NSW inspectors have been and will continue in 2021 to focus on scaffolding under a compliance program called ‘Operation Scaff Safe’. This is part of a SafeWork NSW campaign to reduce fatalities and serious injuries resulting from falls from heights. What are the requirements for scaffolding and where can you go for further assistance?

Do I need a licence to build scaffold? 

Yes. A person undertaking scaffolding work must hold an appropriate licence to do that work or be supervised by a licensed person while carrying out that work. 

Scaffolding work means:

‘erecting, altering or dismantling a temporary structure that is or has been erected to support a platform and from which a person or object could fall more than four metres from the platform or the structure’.

This means that where the deck height of the scaffold is more than four metres from ground or the surface below, a licensed scaffolder must be used. 

In some situations the exact height may not be clear – for example, if a scaffold is built near deep excavations or near other objects that appear as though they would break a person’s fall. The regulation and codes of practice do not specifically explain how to deal with such situations. These instances should be considered and dealt with on a case-by-case basis. If you are unsure, it may be safest to take the conservative approach and use a licensed scaffolder. 

Where a scaffold is required to be built by a licensed scaffolder the scaffold and its supporting structure must be inspected by a licensed scaffolder: 

  • at least every 30 days 
  • before the scaffold is used after an incident has occurred that may reasonably be expected to affect the stability of the scaffold, and 
  • before the scaffold is used after repairs. 

Any alterations to the scaffold must only be carried out by a licensed scaffolder. 

Scaffold under four metres 

Building scaffolding from which a person or object could fall four metres or less does not require a licence. However, it is the responsibility of the person in charge to make sure that workers carrying out scaffolding work at any height are adequately trained and competent to do so safely. 

Any work carried out where a person can fall two metres or more also requires a Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS) to be completed before work commences. 

Where can I find further information? 

You can check a scaffold worker’s licence validity at the NSW government’s Licence Check website.

Specific guidance on scaffolds including the safe use of trestle and plank scaffolds and scaffold checklists can be found in the Preventing Falls In Housing Construction Code of Practice.

The Pocket Guide To Construction Safety also contains scaffold checklists for use. 

To find out more, contact HIA’s Building Services team.

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