ABA MEDIA RELEASE: 'Industry steps-up pressure for Product Safety Laws' (17 July 2019)
A national association representing the stair and balcony industry has added its voice to calls for the introduction of product safety laws in Australia.
The Australian Balustrade Association (ABA) is supporting ACCC recommendations for a law banning the sale of unsafe goods.
There are around 780 deaths and around 52,000 injuries per year from consumer products that many Australians have in their homes. Recent ACCC data estimates the annual cost of such a toll is at least $5 billion.
In March this year, the ACCC called on the Government to adopt a General Safety Provision obliging companies to take reasonable steps to avoid supplying unsafe goods.
Last week, Australia’s peak furnishing body, the Australasian Furnishing Association, also called for the sale of unsafe products to be made illegal.
ABA spokesperson and founder, Sam Bevis, says the importation and online sales of products that escape regulatory or safety checks, is a growing problem.
‘Most people think that selling unsafe goods is already illegal in this country – and they’re surprised to find out it’s not. Our membership is concerned with preventing injury and death in Australian buildings. A ban on the sale of unsafe products seems like a logical step.’
The ABA’s recent national survey of stair and balcony professionals, confirmed industry concerns over glass balustrade breakage and other product and installation failures that could lead to injury or loss of life in Australian buildings.
Regulators are being inundated with calls for greater control over the distribution and sale of non-compliant products. Identified risks include non-compliance of mandatory standards, counterfeit test reports and certificates, absence of mandatory manufacturer identification and sub-standard manufacturing and materials.
The reported use of readily available DIY pool fencing materials, in place of compliant safety balustrades is also a major safety concern.
‘Pool fencing products are being fitted as life-saving balustrades by uncertified trades people, the DIY market and builders.’
The ABA actively supports members’ safety programs and promotes action across the industry to improve stair and balcony safety.
Sydney Morning Herald (June 2019) - The barrier between you and disaster is staggeringly unregulated
Years ago, I was interviewing Austrian architect Hugh Buhrich on the roof of his first house in Castlecrag. Buhrich House II (1972) is the famous one, with its much-published undulating ceiling and terrifying cliff-edge stair hanging over the scarp at Sugarloaf Point. Buhrich House I (1949) is less glamorous but more heart-stopping, even to the point of peril. Buhrich, 93, gambolled like a spring lamb up the unprotected circular stair, each tread cantilevered rakishly from a central hand-adzed trunk, to where the house’s flat roof hovered some 40 or 50 metres above a steep bush valley. There were no balustrades. Just air. Read More.
Brisbane Times (June 2019) - The barrier between you and disaster is staggeringly unregulated
Media has caught on to the results of the ABA’s balustrade industry survey. Among the articles published recently, the Brisbane Times ran the following article which touches on some of the key themes that came out of the survey.
Balustrades? Really? What could be interesting about a balustrade? Quite a lot, actually, and not only because babies can get their heads stuck between the uprights. Read More.
ABA radio interview - ABC Gold Coast (May 2019)
ABA Executive Manager Patrizia Torelli was recently interviewed by Matt Webber for ABC radio Gold Coast. Topics for discussion included safety issues in the balustrade sector and results of the recent ABA balustrade industry survey. Click link below to play audio.
Industry Speaks - Balustrade Industry Safety Survey Results
The recent national balustrade industry safety survey has revealed an alarming lack of confidence in current engineering, testing and certification standards across the country.
A summary of results from the survey has been outlined below. The findings reinforce industry calls for urgent action on safety, and provide valuable insights into the views of industry – installers, suppliers, designers and certifiers. The data will help guide the ABA in our actions.
Top Five Survey Results Summary
1. Engineering & Testing Standards need clarifying / reviewing (potential code of practice to be published)
2. Certification process needs clarifying / reviewing (potential single national template to cover all balustrades, to be published to assist designers and certifiers to know they are approving a valid product)
3. Licensing Classifications & training need clarifying / reviewing (to prevent unlicensed / untrained persons installing life-saving products)
4. Education and training to builders and end users about the structural requirements and a nationally agreed engineering / certification process.
5. Clarification from State Regulators about the use of Monolithic Glass in balustrades. Is monolithic glass ‘fit for purpose’ (i.e. would the industry be considered culpable, should a person fall through monolithic glass and lose their life)?
ABA comment: These five issues were identified as requiring urgent action at a recent balustrade industry ‘Education Session’. It was important for the ABA to better understand which issue(s) should take priority so we can utilise our resources to target the areas most in need of action. We have already made progress in discussions regarding upgrading training packages and licensing classifications, and we continue to work with state and national regulators to clarify and unify standards and certification.
Q – Are there other issues that you consider of great importance to safety?
There was a very comprehensive response to this question from industry. ABA has summarised the responses below into relevant categories and topics. Some responses have been consolidated. Not all people agreed on certain issues, so you will see some conflicting opinions expressed which reinforces the need for further research and analysis.
- Regulations should not be used to favour one type of construction over another.
- AS1288 balustrade code needs to be made clearer and more up to date.
- Australia-wide design and compliance discussions to include timber, iron and glass products – including stair cases.
- Review and clarify AS1288 balustrade section – interlinking handrail interpretation and clarify the types of balustrades/fixing methods not covered in AS1288 section 7.
- AS1288 to provide references to relevant fixing standards and requirements for different materials.
- Development of a testing standard should be done for all materiel types.
- Increasing the minimum height of Balustrades to 1200mm High from FFL.
- All balustrades and stairs are required to be designed by an engineer, including fixing of balustrades and stairs and they must be installed by an appropriately licensed installer.
- Installation is a major issue within our industry.
- Licencing glaziers/ fabricators.
- Current safety levels for upholding safety and intended use of balustrade is a critical issue.
- Pool fencing being used as balustrade and products being sold through specialist retailers, suppliers and large retail chains.
- Chemical anchors are a big concern. We’re now told to design assuming concrete is cracked – reducing strength by 30%, where for years we didn’t.
- The use of EVA interlayer and the lack of information surrounding EVA.
- Clarify serviceability deflection limits for different balustrade types.
- All balustrade testing must be designed by a professional engineer and tested by a NATA Registered Structural Laboratory.
- Job-specific balustrade engineering to be done upfront before works commence.
- Balustrade designed as part of the building not an after-thought.
- Re-certify work every 2 years for commercial works, and each time a house is sold.
- As long as quality design and installation practices are ensured, re-certification every 2 year is not necessary.
- A more streamlined and easy to understand certifying process would allow them to better support these large sectors of the market.
- There is a lack of knowledge and experience of installers.
- Education about the types of glass sold for balustrade to general public and what can be used.
ABA comment: The ABA’s main purpose is to prevent injury or loss of life through balustrade failure. Since our launch in March this year, we have not only gathered valuable safety information from the industry, but also raised awareness with the wider construction sector. We are targeting balustrade suppliers and installers, but also architects, engineers and builders with our communications.
Q – Do you know of any instances of balustrade failure that have resulted in injury or death?
- Failure of glass balustrade panels on apartments in Richmond, Victoria. No injuries.
- Someone accidentally broke through a balustrade because the installer did not fix the posts off properly.
- Monolithic toughened glass failure – Riverside Centre, Brisbane Queensland. No known injuries.
- Since the new regulations requiring a handrail were released in 2010, I haven’t seen or heard of any injury or deaths. I have seen plenty of poor installations though. For example, one which didn’t comply to glazing codes and standards.
ABA comment: Survey responses revealed a real and present danger of injury or death resulting from balustrade failure. There have been many other cases, involving injury and failure, reported in the national media. Survey findings support the need for urgent action on safety, called for at the industry Forum in 2018.
ABA Media Release - Survey reveals need for urgent action on safety (May 2019)
A national industry survey of stair and balcony professionals has confirmed concerns over current engineering, testing and certification standards – failures that could lead to injury or loss of life in Australian buildings.
Conducted by the newly formed Australian Balustrade Association (ABA), the safety survey collated data on issues including balustrade failures, near-misses or accidents, as well as information on the most prevalent balustrade safety issues in members’ states or regions.
There were detailed responses from 38 major industry installers, suppliers, designers and certifiers from around the country. Findings included reports of glass balustrade breakage, poor balustrade fixings, inappropriate materials and an alarming number of unlicensed and untrained installers fitting life-saving products.
The survey findings support the ABA’s proactive discussions with the Industry Skills Commission, regarding the establishment of new training and licensing classifications, to prevent unqualified and unsafe balustrade installation.
The survey findings have sounded alarm bells throughout a construction industry that is already facing multiple safety issues, like the non-compliant use of flammable cladding, the cracking of the Opal Tower apartment block and multiple instances of balustrade failure in high-rise buildings.
In order of priority, survey respondents called for the clarification of engineering and testing standards, with the potential adoption of a national code of practice, and the introduction of a single national certification process, to assist designers and certifiers.
These are areas where the ABA is working with state and national regulators, to bring about Australia-wide design and compliance standards for timber, iron and glass staircases and balconies.
Respondent recommendations included a call for site-specific balustrade engineering, fixings and materials to be assessed and certified before any building works commence – a recommendation put forward at an ABA launch forum earlier this year. Site-specific certification would accommodate variances in glass types, sizes, wind loading, positions of fixings, odd shapes, cut-outs, fixing types, positions of handrails, loading applications and safety margins.
Other recommendations included balustrade re-certification every two years for commercial properties and each time a property is sold, similar to current pool fencing regulations.
The inappropriate use of pool fencing was also cited as a serious safety problem, with pool fencing products being fitted as life-saving balustrades by uncertified trades people, the DIY market and builders.
One respondent wrote, ‘Installation is a major issue within our industry. Licensing our glaziers/fabricators is a must. Educating them and offering a level of services for them to become licensed, is extremely important.’
Australian Balustrade Association Executive Manager, Patrizia Torelli says the survey findings have helped confirm the ABA’s priorities over the coming months.
‘We will be proactive in making the changes that are essential to the safety of all Australians, at home, at work and in public buildings. There can be no compromises when it comes to stair and balcony safety, and I thank the industry leaders who participated in our national safety survey.’
New industry body takes steps to make buildings safer (Architecture & Design magazine - April 2019)
The Australian Balustrade Association (ABA) has been launched at a time when the construction industry is grappling over issues like the non-compliant use of flammable cladding and the cracking of the Opal Tower apartment block. Read More.
New national body to promote stair and balcony safety (AU Manufacturing - March 2019)
The construction industry is in the spotlight over multiple issues to do with compliance and safety, especially of cheap imported substitute products. Industry leaders have responded by launching a new professional body to promote safety and certification standards for balustrades – the supported railings that are found everywhere in our cities and homes. Read More.
Safety survey announced at ABA launch (AU Manufacturing - March 2019)
The newly launched Australian Balustrade Association has announced a national survey as part of its plan to ‘get serious’ about safety. The association’s launch, at Elite Glass in Melbourne on Thursday, was well-attended by industry leaders, founding members and Victorian Skills Commissioner, Neil Coulson. Speakers called for the industry to work together to eradicate the duplication and contradiction caused by non-uniform regulatory standards around the country.
ABA Newsletter - Engineering & Testing standards must be reviewed according to ABA survey
Results from the Australian Balustrade Association’s (ABA) recent industry survey have highlighted ‘improvements in engineering & testing standards’ and ‘clarification of certification processes’ as the priority issues for the sector. Read More.
ABA Video Partnership for members
The Australian Balustrade Association (ABA) has added video production to the business services offered to its members. ‘The sector can only benefit from promoting and sharing information on great Australian design and innovation as powerfully as possible. Video is undoubtedly a popular and effective medium for marketers, customers and suppliers alike,’ said ABA Executive Director, Patrizia Torelli. Read More.
ABA Newsletter - WHS Laws, Safety statistics in manufacturing
Safe Work Australia has released guidance material to help small business owners or operators understand their responsibilities under WHS laws. The manufacturing industry has a high number of work-related fatalities, injuries and illnesses. From 2003 to 2015, manufacturing had the fourth highest proportion of fatalities according to industry type, representing 9% (275) of all worker fatalities. Read More.