Photo courtesy of MCAA
Some important points for young apprentices and reminders for experienced bricklayers:
During construction work, masonry walls (brick and block) can fail due to side loads on the walls, the rate of construction, inadequate foundations or adjacent excavations. Side loads can include wind, inadvertent impact with the walls or leaning materials against them. Such failures can result in serious injuries or fatalities.
You can improve the safety of masonry walls during construction work with good planning and preparation, risk management and (where required) temporary supports.
Temporary supports, e.g. braces, are often required until the wall is incorporated into the completed structure.
Plan and prepare
Principal contractors and masonry contractors are jointly responsible for the masonry work on site. As part of your preparation, provide:
- Advise about who is responsible for installing, inspecting and removing any temporary supports
- Designs and materials for temporary supports considering the particular walls’ characteristics (seek engineering advice if necessary)
- Warnings and barriers to identify no-go zones, e.g. fencing, tape or signage
- Instruction for workers, including site induction and supervision.
If you’re a masonry contractor, you must also prepare a Safe Work Method Statement in consultation with workers and get it reviewed by the principal contractor before you start work. Ensure that you use any relevant information from the manufacturer, supplier and site management.
Identify and assess the risks
Principal contractors and masonry contractors are jointly responsible for risk assessment, which should identify any walls that may need temporary supports during construction work. Include in your assessment:
- Walls previously identified on the design drawings as needing temporary supports
- Any features of the wall that may affect its strength, e.g. control joints, lintels, damp proof course, bond type or openings
- Worker walkways or access paths
- Plant, equipment and material movement, including delivery and storage areas
- The proposed sequence for the wall construction, (including whether you will build cross walls or returns at the same time as the wall so that they support each other, the rate of construction the proposed stop heights)
- The structural adequacy of the foundations
- Existing or proposed excavations
- Walls adjacent to another property or a public area
- Likely weather conditions for the location and season, eg. wind, extreme temperatures and rain, and
- The proposed height, width and layout of walls.
In addition to a risk assessment, establish an ongoing inspection program – at the start of each day and after adverse weather conditions, inspect the walls and any temporary supports for damage. If repairs are required, maintain no-go zones until it is safe to approach.