A national survey on balustrade safety was announced at the launch of the Australian Balustrade Association (ABA), held recently in Melbourne.

Well-attended by industry leaders, founding members and Victorian Skills Commissioner, Neil Coulson, the launch event saw a series of speakers call for the industry to work together to eradicate the duplication and contradiction caused by non-uniform regulatory standards around the country.

On the issue of engineering certification, there was consensus that the certification should occur before construction commenced so that it would take into account all factors that affected safety performance, including materials, design and engineering, as well as suitability of product. Currently, engineering certification frequently occurred near the end of construction, compromising safety.

ABA Executive Manager, Patrizia Torelli informed the audience that balustrade safety problems were significant enough to demand immediate attention, but that the full extent of potential and past safety failures was hard to assess given the lack of uniformity in safety codes.

“The Australian Balustrade Association has been formed to prevent injury and loss of life. We will do that by working tirelessly to promote national safety, accreditation, certification and monitoring guidelines for the industry.

“We’re working towards one version of 'safe' and one version of 'compliant' across every state. The construction industry cannot stand by as non-compliant and unsafe products, unqualified contractors and counterfeit certification of cheap imports, are allowed to flourish.”

The ABA is introducing an accreditation and training program and will be promoting international best practice in fit-for-purpose materials and monitoring and testing methodologies – an initiative that is already under discussion with Skills Commissioner, Neil Coulson and other regulatory bodies.

The Australian Balustrade Association was formed by a group of industry leaders who wanted to halt the proliferation of unsafe, not fit-for-purpose and non-compliant balustrading products.

Sam Bevis, CEO of Architectural Metalworks Australia, and one of those industry leaders, told the audience:

“Today we are wiser, and stronger, because we have come together, as an industry association, to bring our combined weight to bear on the industry and as a powerful lobby group, to actively engage with government, regulators and industry skills bodies. 

“We have made a stand, and we will make a difference. Whilst there are unsafe stairs and balconies in this country, we all sleep with the nightmare of a deadly failure in our industry.”

Some of the biggest balustrade companies in Australia have signed up to the ABA and will take part in the national safety survey. The survey aims to collate 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.

The association is calling for businesses to recognise the advantages of having national ABA certification to support their products and their brands.

The ABA will also reach out to the wider construction industry, where the association hopes that architects, surveyors, engineers and builders will welcome the uniformity, certainty and confidence of agreed national certification methodologies. 

Image: (L-R) ABA CEO - Sam Bevis, Victorian Skills Commissioner, Neil Coulson and ABA Executive Manager, Patrizia Torelli