Formwork and falsework are both temporary structures that are designed to support a permanent concrete structure until the concrete hardens and it becomes self-supporting. There is often some confusion when describing these two terms as falsework often makes up the formwork assembly. Formwork involves the forms on or within which the concrete is poured, including the bracing and frames which provides stability to the structure.
While commonly associated as part of formwork, the joists, bracing, foundations, bearers, and footings are technically ‘falsework’. Falsework can be referred to as any temporary structure which is designed to support a permanent structure, material, plant, equipment, and people, until the permanent structure is self-supporting. Falsework also includes the structural members which support the permanent structural elements.
It’s paramount that contractors effectively manage the risks when constructing formwork and falsework to enhance the safety of workers performing these tasks. To adhere to Australia’s strict safety regulations, today we’re going to discuss the best method of managing the risks associated with formwork and falsework construction.
- Identify risks
The first step is to identify potential hazards which may cause harm to workers:
- Look around the construction site to identify whether the formwork and falsework will interact with any other tasks, vehicles, pedestrians, or any fixed structures like electrical lines
- Check the ground conditions where the formwork and falsework will be constructed
- Calculate the functional requirements of the formwork and falsework, such as access requirements, fall protection requirements, live and dead loads, and maximum height
- Discuss with other workers any potential problems they perceive or anticipate being a hazard when constructing or interacting with the formwork and falsework, including inspection, maintenance, operation, repair, transport, and storage requirements
- Review all maintenance, inspection, incident, and injury records for any past incidents which could have been prevented
- Assess the risks
In certain situations, the risks and associated control measures are known from past experiences and therefore easily implemented. Other situations demand a risk assessment to identify the possibility of a hazard injuring a worker and how serious this incident could be. The risk assessment is aimed at discovering what control measures need to be taken and how urgently they need to be implemented.
- Implementing control measures
According to Workplace Health & Safety laws, contractors must eliminate or minimise risks as much as reasonably practicable. Control measures should be implemented using the hierarchy of risk control which ranks control measures from the highest level of protection to the lowest.
If risks or hazards can be eliminated (such as moving scaffolding away from electrical lines), then this measure must be implemented. However, if it is not reasonably practicable to do so, one of the following control measures should be implemented (in the following order):
- Substitute the hazard for a safer alternative (using precast beams instead of pouring concrete onsite)
- Isolate the hazard from workers (exclusion zones)
- Implement engineering controls (handrails and toe boards on scaffolding)
If, however, a risk still remains after implementing one of the above control measures, attempt to minimise this risk as much as reasonably practicable by implementing one of the following control measures (in the following order):
- Use administrative controls (allocating additional workers to a task)
- Use personal protective equipment (PPE)
A combination of any of the above control measures should be implemented to minimise a risk as much as reasonably practicable, however preference should be placed on substitution, isolation, and engineering controls before implementing administrative and PPE controls. Only after these control measures have been evaluated should costs be factored into the viability of these control measures.
- Check control measures
The implemented control measures must be regularly checked and reviewed to ensure they remain effective during the course of the project. Any changes to the construction site, or changes to the nature of the work mandate a review of these control measures so the system remains working as planned.
There will always be innate risks when constructing formwork and falsework, however using this method of managing risks to either eliminate or minimise them as much as reasonably practical is clearly the best approach. If you have any further questions or concerns regarding managing the risks associated with constructing formwork and falsework, get in touch with the professionals at Uni-Span by phoning 1300 882 825.