Australia’s first third party certification scheme specifically for structural steelwork is gaining momentum as the issue of non-compliant building products in the construction industry intensifies with steel product and materials increasingly not meeting relevant Australian standards since the move to global sourcing in recent years.
The problem has been highlighted at the recent Building Ministers Forum (BMF) and through the current Senate Inquiry to which the Australian Steel Institute (ASI) has made submissions as the peak body representing the complete local steel supply chain.
A recent Federal Government sponsored Australian Industry Group (AiG) survey on the wide spread issue for the building community alarmingly reported that 95 percent of respondents in the steel product sector had their businesses affected by non-conforming product (NCP).
Observable defects such as substandard welding that needed to be ground out and replaced, laminations in plate that could cause catastrophic failure, substandard corrosion protection affecting the life of an asset and generally poor workmanship have unfortunately become commonplace with imported structural steelwork.
It’s not just NCP, but fraudulent behaviour with examples such as deliberate attempts todisguise poor quality through such measures as:
- Falsified test certificates
- Welds made with silicone rubber and then painted
- Attachment of bolt heads with silicon rather than a through bolt
- Water filled tube to compensate for underweight steelwork
The National Construction Code and Australian Standards provide a sound basis for compliance, but are undermined by a lack of conformity assessment which does not effectively identify or penalise the use of NCP.
Similarly to other industry sectors supplying building and construction, the Australian steel industry has increasingly adopted compliance programs such as ACRS and ShedSafe with the new National Structural Steelwork Compliance Scheme (NSSCS) applicable to steelwork fabrication being the latest.
The NSSCS encompasses a holistic approach supported by four pillars, which are:
Fabrication Standard: The first step has been the creation of the fabrication and erection Code of Practice (CoP) which provides the definition of ‘good practice’ against which a compliance body can check. The CoP has been submitted to Standards Australia and is in the process of becoming AS/NZS 5131, the first Australian Standard for fabrication and erection of structural steelwork. In the interim, the CoP is being used as the technical basis for the NSSCS.
Conformity Assessment: Conformity assessment provides at a project level definition of what documentation is required to demonstrate conformance.
Construction Categories: The CoP (and upcoming Standard) require projects (or parts thereof) to be classified into a ‘Construction Category’ of which there are four levels. This is a risk assessment matrix approach based on safety and complexity of construction. It provides for an assessment of compliance based on risk and will be determined by the engineer broadly based on the building importance levels in the Building Code of Australia (BCA).
Steelwork Compliance Australia (SCA): The auditing authority recently established providing certification services to ensure that a fabricator has the capability for the required construction category. Experienced Australian steel fabrication expert, Alan Nightingale has been appointed to manage the new body. A dedicted SCA website is fully resourced as a portal for booking workshop audits, acting as custodian of the CoP, assessing compliance and will provide industry with access to lists of certified fabricators [www.scacompliance.com.au].
The NSSCS, underwritten by the ASI as the peak body for the Australian steelwork supply and design chain, is based on the principles of the European Standard EN 1090 to ensure riskbased safe compliant steel construction. It covers buildings, structures and components designed to Australian Standards AS 4100 (structural steelwork), AS/NZS 5100 (bridges) and supporting Australian Standards including those for welding, bolting and corrosion protection.
For further details about the ASI’s product compliance work, visit http://steel.org.au/keyissues/ compliance