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Majority of scaffolding fails inspection

6 May 2008

Majority of scaffolding fails inspection

Inspections of construction site scaffolding in Auckland and Northland over the past two and a half months have found many sites failed to meet safety standards, the Department of Labour said today.

Of the 72 assessments conducted so far as part of the Safe Scaffolding project, 19 prohibition (stop work) notices have been issued on ‘proprietory’ (kitset type) scaffolding and 12 on ‘tube and clip’ (T&C) scaffolding; seven improvement notices have been issued on proprietory and four on T&C; and one infringement fine has been issued on proprietory.

A lack of guard railing was by far the greatest issue found, with a 59% failure rate on all scaffolding assessed. The second biggest issue was platforms, with 51% failing assessment. There was also a 45% rate of failing to maintain a register for notifiable scaffolds (over five meters) or having a scaftag (weekly safety check tag) on the scaffolding.

Northland demonstrated the best practice, with 13 out of 21 scaffolds (61%) errected by a certified scaffolder.

Department of Labour Manukau Service Manager Craig White says the Department began a special series of construction site visits as part of the Safe Scaffolding project.

“It has been disturbing to find so many sites where scaffolding is not being put up properly,” Mr White said.

“There is a real need in this country to improve the structural assembly of scaffolds. An incorrectly constructed scaffold is a dangerous and potentially fatal scaffold, it’s that simple.”

“We are looking at scaffolds that are already up on residential and commercial construction sites. This means we can work with the industry in a practical way. We’ll also involve scaffold importers if their systems do not meet New Zealand standards. We aim to raise the awareness of acceptable standards so users have the confidence and ability to reject any sub standard systems.”

Mr White will be speaking about safe scaffolding techniques this afternoon at the KeriKeri, Northland, PlaceMakers branch (6 May, approx 4pm – 6.30pm), along with representatives from ACC, Sitesafe, Tai Poutini Polytechnic and Scaffolding and Rigging New Zealand (SARNZ). All are involved with the Department’s Safe Scaffolding Practice Project, which is targeting residential and commercial construction sites in Northland and Auckland.

Also attending the Kerikeri event will be former builder’s labourer Rhett Brown, who became a tetraplegic after falling from a building site.

Mr Brown was a “hammer-hand” on a home construction site in Omaha in 2004 when he broke his neck after falling just 2.2 metres from a makeshift platform. He spent six months in Otara spinal unit and is now confined to a wheel-chair, unable to sit up unsupported. His employers were prosecuted by the Department of Labour in 2006 and were found guilty of not taking reasonable steps to protect a worker.

Since his injury, Mr Brown has become a vocal supporter of improving safety in the construction industry, particularly when it comes to the use of scaffolds.
Mr Brown says he agreed to put a human face to the cost of construction industry falls because he doesn’t want others to share his fate. “I’d like to think that after seeing me at the education day people will go back to their own building sites and think about the safety of their site, and if necessary they will get some proper scaffolding.”

Builders and developers need to resist pressure to cut costs by cutting corners on safe scaffolding, he says. “They need to stamp out the ‘she’ll be right attitude’ towards safety that you see particularly among smaller operators. Take it from me, things won’t be right.”

Another education day will take place in Auckland on 20 May. More information about the project, including how to attend the education days, is available from the Department of Labour’s website (www.dol.govt.nz).

Please note that presentations at the Kerikeri PlaceMakers are expected to begin between 4pm and 4.30pm, and run for approximately one hour. Speakers will then be available for general questions from the audience. The first presentation is expected to be made by Department of Labour Manukau Service Manager Craig White, with the last presentation (approx 20 mins in length) to be made by tetraplegic Rhett Brown. Reporters and photographers are welcome to attend all or some of the event.


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