Safety should be a key consideration to a buyer. There are obligations under the relevant OH&S regulations that impact on buying decisions.
Many wood panel products perform a structural duty and the impact on safety can be catastrophic if non-compliant products are used.
In the SafeWork Australia model work place health and safety bill and regulation there is a requirement for importers, designers, buyers, manufacturers and installers to ensure that structures and plant are safe.
If for example a failure of formwork was to occur and it was found that non-conforming plywood was used in the installation then all those mentioned above would have liability under the Regulation so there is a legal obligation as well. It does not require a catastrophe to fail the duty under the Act, just because no one gets hurt doesn’t mean your obligation has been met.
The Model WHS Act Section 19-25 details the general duty of care of designers, manufacturers, importers, suppliers, installers and managers not to expose others to occupational health and safety risks.
The model WHS Regulation Part 5 and 6 details more specific duties for these persons relating to Plant, Structures and Construction.
SafeWork Australia provides general guidance in these responsibilities and also provides specific guidance on Formwork, False Work and this guidance makes it clear that these items are structure and the components that make them up are plant.
Specific consideration should be given to these materials as designs will often specify product conformance to various Australian Standards. Lack of conformance to the Standards may cause failure of the structure and pose significant safety risks under the WHS Act. There are specific requirement in the WHS regulations relating to construction under Section 6.
In particular Formwork and Falsework component designers are responsible for designing components that are safe to manufacture, assemble and use for the purpose they were designed for. The Formwork and Falsework components are plant.
By purchasing products certified to the relevant standards by third party certifiers such as EWPAA you can be assured that the product meets the requirements of the performance standards and also perform in suitable designs.
Anything constructed to support a load, including Formwork and Falsework, can be referred to as a structure. Design of structures and plant are inter-related and designers may have multiple responsibilities.
An importer of plant must:
ensure that the plant is inspected having regard to the information provided by the manufacturer; and
if the information provided by the manufacturer requires the plant to be tested—ensure that the plant is tested in accordance with that information; (Ch5 Model WHS reg)
A person with management or control of Formwork and Falsework at a workplace has a responsibility to have Formwork and Falsework inspected and maintained so that it is safe. This includes inspections before the Formwork and Falsework is loaded, after loading and after any repairs, alterations or additions to Formwork and Falsework or made.
In this regard, the regulation is clear that these persons have a specific duty to ensure that plant and structures are suitable for the purpose that they are intended and therefore must ensure that the product they specify is fit for purpose. It does not seem unreasonable for an importer to ensure that products conform to applicable Australian Standards that relate to a particular design.