In the wake of the collapse of a road sign on Melbourne’s Tullamarine Freeway on 8 January, the Australian Steel Institute (ASI) is calling for stricter application and enforcement of independent structural steelwork compliance to help ensure public safety. High profile examples, such this recent road signage failure, tend to overshadow the reality that non-compliance is an endemic problem and, given the wrong circumstances, can lead to injury or death in seemingly innocuous situations. Strong leadership and direction from both industry and Government is needed to address these issues.
According to ASI Chief Executive Tony Dixon, “Despite extensive media commentary around the cause of the road sign collapse—much of which has cited connection failure and steel cracking—the VicRoads and Transurban investigation remains ongoing. As such, the ASI cannot provide specific comment on causality.”
“What we do know is that this collapse should never have occurred. Public safety should be the number one priority in the design, fabrication and erection of all structural steelwork. However, in reality, non-compliant fabricated product is endemic in the Australian construction industry, including within the pre-fabricated and off-site construction market.”
“Prefabrication and modularisation building techniques help minimise occupational safety hazards and improve constructability, which are significant positives. However, noncompliance is a separate aspect, and one that is potentially a very big negative, in particular because the majority of work does occur offsite and away from the usual site implemented controls.”
“Checking compliance of complex prefabricated or modular units after the fact is extremely difficult if not impossible. Therefore, controls need to be put in place at the point of manufacture, much like the ASI National Structural Steelwork Certification Scheme applies to the fabricator creating the steel structure.”
“Checking compliance of complex prefabricated or modular units after the fact is extremely difficult if not impossible. Therefore, controls need to be put in place at the point of manufacture, much like the ASI National Structural Steelwork Certification Scheme applies to the fabricator creating the steel structure.” Tony Dixon, Chief Executive, ASI.
“The ASI believes that, in the current international procurement environment, for safety critical infrastructure whose failure may cause death or injury, independent third party certification is essential,” said Dixon.
“For years, we have witnessed the importation of low-quality non-compliant construction products into Australia. According to Australia’s regulations, responsibility for the verification of these construction products is placed on persons who are often paid by the same party procuring the product. This is clearly a conflict of interest.”
“In many cases of structural failures, including the recent Opal Tower structural cracking and the Grenfell and Lacrosse building fires, responsibility can certainly—in part— be attributed to regulatory failure.”
“Australian Standards, such as AS 4100 Steel Structures (which sets out the minimum requirements for the design of steelwork) and AS/NZS 5131 Structural Steelwork – Fabrication and Erection (which sets out the minimum requirements for the fabrication and erection of steel) are robust. Based on principles that have stood the test of time, these Australian Standards represent world’s good practice.”
“The Australian community needs to insist not only that our procurers and regulators mandate the use of these Standards, but that they implement robust policing regimes. This will help ensure that the structures we drive across, live and work in, and walk under every day are safe. As a community, we need to ensure that our regulations are fit-for-purpose and keep us safe.” said Dixon.
NATIONAL STRUCTURAL STEELWORK COMPLIANCE SCHEME
For its part, the ASI is working to improve the compliance outcomes for structural steelwork in Australia, for the benefit of the greater Australian community.
Compliance must be addressed and managed across the complete steel supply chain. As such, the ASI has put in place a multi-faceted initiative, the major components of this include:
- The new Australian Standard AS/NZS 5131 Structural steelwork – Fabrication and erection:
- Provides a unified, transparent and definitive view of ‘good practice’ for the fabrication and erection of structural steelwork
- Utilises a risk-based fit-for-purpose approach and a quality benchmark that is established via the requirement for engineers to specify a steel fabrication Construction Category (CC) in project specifications
- Establishes a quality benchmark that is responsive to the needs of both projects and clients
- Forms the technical foundation for many other components of steelwork compliance
- The National Structural Steelwork Specification (NSSS) provides engineers and specifiers with a straightforward way to implement AS/NZS 5131 requirements in the project process.
- The National Structural Steelwork Compliance Scheme (NSSCS) provides engineers, builders and the client with a packaged solution for cost-effective compliance outcomes.
- Steelwork Compliance Australia (SCA), a separate company established by ASI to administer third-party certification of fabricators under the NSSCS.
- Continuing engagement and awareness with the industry, community and Government to ensure outcomes meeting ‘duty of care’ under Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) regulations are supported across the complete project delivery chain.
THE CURRENT CONTEXT
Currently, the NSSCS has approximately 55 fabricators certified or finalising their certification, with another 20 or so in the system. Fabricators are predominantly certified to CC2, with an increasing number certified to the higher CC3.
The NSSCS, and foundational supporting tools such as AS/ NZS 5131 and the NSSS, have garnered significant traction in the market, evidenced by:
- Increasingly, sighting of project specifications which call up AS/NZS 5131
A number of specifications that are worded in a similar way to the ASI NSSS
- A number of specifications calling up third party certification, in some cases the ASI NSSCS specifically and/ or certified fabricators
- Increasing engagement with and support from state governments
STATE GOVERNMENT SUPPORT
At a state government level, the ASI has engaged in discussions at both the Ministerial and Departmental levels around the country.
In South Australia, AS/NZS 5131 is now mandated in all South Australian Government funded projects, to be ACRS certified steel and certification through SCA for fabricators.
In New South Wales (NSW), the NSW Procurement Board issued a Directive to all NSW Government Departments mandating AS/NZS 5131 into specifications. The NSW finance minister also committed to providing funding support to SCA to undertake JAS-ANZ accreditation. Finally, Roads & Maritime Services (RMS) have launched an investigation into the ‘Risk of Nonconforming Imported Construction Products’, engaging the ASI for expert input. It is expected that one of the outcomes of this investigation will be strong support for third party certification for safety critical components, such as structural steel.
All Western Australian Government departments and agencies have been advised to use AS/NZS 5131 where steelwork is specified, and all Main Roads Department specifications require CC compliance and third party certification. The Western Australian Department of Jobs, Tourism, Science and Innovation is funding an ongoing rebate for fabricators, which covers 75% of the cost of SCA certification.
In Queensland, there is increasing support for the inclusion of AS/NZS 5131 in government contracts when referenced in AS 4100. There is also an increasing number of engineers specifying CC and referencing AS/NZS 5131 in project documentation. As such, there has been strong support from fabricators in gaining certification (second only to South Australia). The Queensland Government has also instituted the ‘Chain of Responsibility’ legislation requiring all parties in the building products chain to accept responsibility for conformance of their product.
For information on the National Structural Steelwork Compliance Scheme, visit: www.steel.org.au
For information on Steelwork Compliance Australia, visit: www.scacompliance.com.au ■
Tony Dixon, Chief Executive – ASI.