Industry News

10 questions a PCBU should ask around Swing Stage Safety

  • Do you have sites that use swing stages?IMG_0907aa resized
  • Do you know your WH&S obligations?
  • Could you spot a problem when visiting your site?
  • What should be in your risk assessments?

The inaugural CTC Safety Series Industry breakfast kicked off yesterday with the focus on Swing Stage Safety. The event, endorsed by the Queensland Major Contractors Association had guest speakers Rob Thiess (Managing Director of Construc Pty Ltd and The President of the Scaffolding Association) as well as David Elder (from Elders Scaffolding and the Vice President of the Scaffolding Association).

The focus on Swing Stage Safety came after the deaths of two swing stage workers on the Gold Coast in 2008 that placed new obligations on principal contractors, building owners and managers to ensure the safe use of swing-stage scaffold.

Rob Thiess said the amendments to the Scaffolding Code of Practice 2009 introduced a lot more checks and balances and more engineering involvement. As a result, industry is slowly getting documentation in place to reduce the risk of swing stage incidents.  Rob and Dave spoke about these changes and gave some valuable advice for principal contractors, building owners and managers to ensure the safe use of swing stage scaffold.

Below are 10 questions a PCBU should ask at the time of initial installation of the swing stage and also during the on-going operation of the equipment.

1.  Is the stage suitable for work being done?

The correct equipment needs to be selected, sometimes abseilers or mast climbers are being used instead of swing stages, however these are not practical for all jobs.

2.  Has supporting structure been approved for installation of stage?

Check that the structure on which the stage is sitting is capable of holding the stages. Whether it be a roof, or balcony etc. the Project Engineer must sign off.

3.  Has stage and rostrum equipment got the relevant documentation? Drawings, maintenance records etc.

Scaffolders must have all the documentation available. There are more components for the PCBU around the documents that you must be able to obtain from suppliers. Engineering drawings for the swing stage suspension may be generic or specific. In terms of the design certification of swing stage, they are not necessarily the same documents as mentioned above, they often are built in Europe but still must be registered in Australia. An important component is the verification that it has been installed on site. You must check that the installation has been signed off by an engineer.

 4.  Do erectors have the required training and tickets?

A specific course on erecting swing stages was introduced in 2009. There must be evidence that the personal who erected the swing stage is an advanced scaffolder or an advanced rigger.

 5.  Have the operators been through required induction and training?

Operators also need to have completed a 2 day course. They will have to complete a specific site induction as well.

 6.  Has stage been signed off and handed over with relevant paperwork completed?

Documentation must be made available at all times on site. All the documentation that is required is contained at the rear of the Scaffolding Code of Practice. Documentation must be completed not only at the initial installation of the stage but also when changes are made. Everything must be tagged and up to date especially electrical equipment. All equipment must be made identifiable and you must check for defects. The equipment is also subject to fatigue which may cause cracking. However, don’t be put off by old equipment, as long it has been checked thoroughly. The equipment specifications should be kept with the equipment on site.

 7.  What about for training organisations delivering Swing Stage training?

When referring to Hot Leasing, all stages from design, installation and services have documentation in place; just like a construction site. When an RTO is conducting an installer’s course on the Hot Leasing swing stage a competent person with an advanced scaffolding licence must sing off to verify that it has been put back correctly. All this documentation is contained in a plastic pouch that stays on the back of the swing stage.

 8.  Has access to the stage, power and rooftop support been restricted to approved personnel only?’

Workplace Health and Safety require a procedure that once the swing stage is in place the stage cannot be tampered with. There must be an exclusion zone, if the exclusion zone is a temporary fence, it must be lockable. If the swing stage is on an existing structure such as a roof, make sure that there is a system in place that no one else can access this area. In the past rostrums have been tampered with and contractors have moved the swing stage without authority and nobody knows. The updated process with the new code of practice is much safer.

In terms of workers getting safely in and out of the swing stage, it is not possible to install gates as it would impact on the structural integrity. WH&S only require a procedure detailing how to safely access and exit the swing stage. Climbing the guard rail to get into the stage has been accepted industry practise for many years and there have been no incidents of workers getting injured getting in and out of the stage.

 9.  Has rescue/retrieval procedure been documented and put in place?’

There is a requirement to have a procedure for rescue and retrieval so that if anyone is stuck on a stage because of injury or equipment failure, they must be able to get the let the stage down. For example in a power outage the equipment can be lowered without power. The stage is designed to be operated by two workers. This way, if one of them is injured, the other can get the stage down. If necessary, a crane can be utilised however this is not common in most cases as it normally is possible for the stage to be lowered. Another option is installing secondary lines or ‘gotya kits’ which can get someone up to assist if the workers in the swing stage cannot get themselves down.

 10.  Who is responsible for organising training for operators?

Painters in particular have done a lot of training on swing stage operation, but it is up to the principal contractor and not the scaffolder to organise this training.

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