The National Structural Steelwork Compliance Scheme (NSSCS) calls up the new standard, AS/NZS 5131 published in December covering structural steelwork fabrication and erection.
With more steel fabricators across Australia being certified to the Scheme by the independent body Steelwork Compliance Australia (SCA), the Australian Steel Institute (ASI) has concurrently developed implementation guidance for structural engineers, specifiers and builders to engage with the NSSCS.
Prior to the publication of AS/NZS 5131, Australia was the only country in the developed world without a dedicated stand-alone standard for fabrication and erection of structural steelwork.
In today’s increasingly ‘open borders’ procurement environment, tragedies like the Grenfell towers disaster in London are highlighting serious concerns with construction product compliance. A rigorous and transparent definition of what good quality looks like is more necessary than ever.
“In today’s increasingly ‘open borders’ procurement environment, tragedies like the Grenfell towers disaster in London are highlighting serious concerns with construction product compliance. A rigorous and transparent definition of what good quality looks like is more necessary than ever.” (ASI) National Technical Development Manager, Dr Peter Key.
Key documents are the National Structural Steelwork Specification (NSSS) along with Standard Drawing Notes (SDN) for engineers and specifiers, released after peer reviews by several prominent engineering practices. These documents facilitate uniform and consistent reference to AS/NZS 5131 and reduce misalignment of expectations and contractual issues.
Building surveyors and certifiers should consult the NSSS to ensure compliance to the newly published standard, to implement inspection schedules responsive to structure type (Building Classes 1 to 10 in the National Construction Code) and meet project-specific requirements.
Under the NSSCS, steel fabricators are audited and certified by the independent body, Steelwork Compliance Australia (SCA) to ‘Construction Categories’ that link right back to the structure importance levels from the National Construction Code (NCC).
Like the NCC, these categories are ordered to address progressively higher levels of risk and as such, help manage exposure and facilitate proper duty of care considerations under the Workplace Health and Safety Act (Safe Design of Structures).
Certification of fabricators to the construction categories is in effect a national technical prequalification scheme, which in time should result in enormous efficiency gains in tendering and subcontracting.
The new Standard going live is the key element that enables the NSSCS to operate as intended as the quality benchmark for project specifying by engineers and quantity surveyors, to help builders project manage quality outcomes.
The ASI has also worked with NATSPEC, which provides information to the Australian design and construction industry, to revise its specifications consistent with AS/NZS 5131 and the NSSS. These initiatives should go a long way to effectively embed the new standard into practice.
As the NSSCS is pegged to well established requirements of the NCC and aligned with NATSPEC, the process of engaging with the NSSCS is relatively straightforward amounting to a few simple steps.
For structural engineers, the steps involve:
- Nominating the ‘Construction Category’ for the structure or component.
- Ensuring that, for the scope of work under contract, the construction specification has suitable wording to reference the Standard with the necessary project-specific detail selections. The new NSSS is an ideal resource for this purpose.
- Checking submittals for materials and fabrication to confirm conformity. When using certified fabricators, much of this is already configured.
- In doing so, engineers can make a quantitative risk-based categorisation of projects that helps them manage risk and duty of care requirements under the Workplace Health and Safety Act (Safe design of Structures) whilst having confidence that the process in time becomes ‘accepted industry practice’.
- Developers and Government simply need to:
- Configure procurement specifications to reference AS/NZS 5131.
- Nominate or strongly endorse third party certification of steelwork under the NSSCS.
- Make sure the contracted builder has actioned the intent of procurement specifications.
The benefits to clients and Government of the NSSCS include confidence that the steelwork contractor is competent as assessed by an expert process, assurance that the tender offer is based on a like for like quality comparison and engaging with a steelwork fabricator who has invested in training, apprenticeships, systems and capability over those who quote on price alone.
Various state Governments either use or are about to use third party steel and steelwork certification as a mechanism to meet the expected quality benchmark, following a plethora of quality failures on recent Government projects where materials and products have often been supplied from overseas.
The simple process for builders entails:
- Ensuring that processes and documentation are consistent with the Construction Category for the project or component being undertaken.
- Providing necessary project-specific documentation as and when needed.
- Providing Declaration of Compliance for the products covered.
There is an array of cost-saving benefits for the builder gained from engaging with the compliance scheme such as not having to set up an in-house fabricator quality capability assessment team and less rectification and rework with contracted fabricators meeting the minimum requirements of Australian Standards. It also frees up valuable personnel to focus on the project issues that they are really trained for and as a fit-for-purpose scheme based on risk assessment, doesn’t load projects with unnecessary cost.
It also allows builders to nominate their preferred fabricator for which they can request third-party NSSCS assessment.
For further details about the NSSCS, visit: http://steel.org.au/key-issues/compliance/
For free download of the National Structural Steelwork Specification and Standard Drawing Notes, visit: http://steel.org.au/key-issues/compliance/national-structural-steelwork-specification/
For a list of steel fabricators independently certified to the NSSCS, visit: http://www.scacompliance.com.au/certified-companies/ ■
Dr Peter Key: ASI National Technical Development Manager.