Sydney Scaffolding Collapse

On April 3rd 2019, at a Sydney construction site in Macquarie Park, mountains of scaffold structure collapsed. Scaffolding estimated to be at 15 to 17 meters in height lay in a pile of twisted steel along with rubble. This fatal collapse resulted in the tragic death of young 18-year-old Christopher Cassini. The tower also collapsed on his co-worker who remains severely injured.

In response to this tragedy, unions across the country are calling for more to be done with work site safety. The Cassini family is also making a big emotional plea. The family does not want their son Christopher to only be remembered as just another statistic, emphasizing crucial construction safety checks and procedures at every work site.

In response to the events, builders are commenting on the issue saying that, if built to regulations, tragic scaffolding incidents should not be problematic. Especially when loaded properly and assembled with licenced builders.

In a statement, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said her heart goes out to all the members of the Cassini family. The family is still awaiting answers regarding Monday’s tragic disaster. This accident comes at a time when SafeWork NSW has already been heavily investigating job work sites. Talks about industrial man slaughter laws following this incident is ongoing.

SafeWork NSW issued more than 100 notices for breaches of scaffolding safety throughout the state in a crackdown last year. This investigation was originally triggered as early as November 2017, when a rise in the number of falls at work sites was reported.

Having heard about this accident, other tradesman are coming forward to comment on the accident. They say that safety issues are not getting reported properly, citing risks of losing their job as a primary reason. Additionally, many work sites try to remove scaffold structures as soon as possible to save money.


The basics

Scaffolds are essentially safe stepping platforms for workers to travel back and forth along. These are purpose built and designed to create temporary structures that support crew and other building materials. Scaffolding has the added benefit of being used to get to other areas of the worksite that would otherwise be impossible or very difficult to navigate to. Common gear includes base plates, ladders, and ropes.

Essential to all scaffolds is a good foundation. Base plates are laid on flat, solid surfaces to spread the load across the foundation structures creating rigidity. These base plates are linked and supported by tubes or bars typically produced from steel or aluminium.

When two of these tubes are required to be linked together, a coupler fitting is used to tie the two pieces together. These coupler connectors can come in variants depending on the connection type: right-angle couplers, putlog couplers and swivel couplers to name a few. When strong cross winds are present at construction sites, more ties should be used to safely secure the structure. Coupler connectors should be securely attached at all load bearing connections.

Usually scaffolding will be tied to existing structures to enhance stability, serving as access ways around the building site aiding in construction. Although in rare cases, scaffolding will be an independent structure.

With increasing technologies, composite materials are being increasingly used. Sometimes filament wound tubes with different composite materials like glass fibre is woven with a nylon or polyester matrix to create the sturdy, light weight beams.

In developing nations, or other countries where safety standards are not as prevalent such as Hong Kong, Taiwan, other South-East Asian countries, and even India, bamboo poles are lashed together with coconut fibres rather than traditional metal couplers. When used, these bamboo structures often omit the use of baseplates.