Significant structural steel collapse during construction

WorkSafe is issuing a reminder about the duty to manage the risk of structural steel collapse during construction.



Last year, a long span steel structure under construction collapsed unexpectedly. A large section of the roof collapsed and fell to the floor slab below. Fortunately, there were no persons present on site at the time. There had however been workers both on top of and beneath the structure earlier that day.

Safety issues

Structural failures of this scale have the potential to result in multiple serious injuries or fatalities. They could impact construction workers, nearby members of the public or the building’s occupiers.

Recommended ways to control risks

Preventing structural collapse

This Safety Alert provides guidance to the following duty holders on how to control risks associated with structural steel design, manufacture and erection:

  • designers
  • builders
  • principal contractors
  • procurers of construction materials (including importers of pre-welded structural elements)
  • fabricators
  • erectors of structures.

There are opportunities to eliminate or reduce the risk of structural collapse throughout the project’s lifecycle.

The following WorkSafe publications provide guidance on how to control these risks.

WorkSafe guidance

Safe erection of structural steel for buildings outlines the industry standards and legal duties under the OHS Act. It also provides practical guidance for:

  • design
  • fabrication
  • transportation
  • erection

Risk controls for on-site structural welding assists employers and managers to understand and control the risks associated with on-site structural welding. It is also relevant to shop welding of structural steel.

Designing safer buildings and structures assists designers of buildings or structures to understand their duty under Section 28 of the OHS Act.

Preventing structural collapse Safety alert highlights the importance of ensuring the stability of building and structures including during construction, demolition and refurbishment works.

The Victorian Building Authority (VBA) also publish guidance and technical bulletins that provide advice on how to control the risks associated with structural steel design, fabrication and erection. The VBA can be contacted for further advice on ways to eliminate or reduce the risk of structural collapse.

Relevant Australian Standards

Legal Duties

Under the OHS Act employers must, so far as is reasonably practicable, provide and maintain for employees a working environment that is safe and without risks to health (section 21). This includes a duty to provide systems of work that are, so far as is reasonably practicable, safe and without risks to health. This duty to employees includes contractors engaged by the employer, where the employer has control over their work.

Employers and self-employed persons also have a duty to ensure other persons (such as members of the public) are not exposed to health or safety risks from the conduct of their undertaking (section 23). Designers of buildings or structures to be used at a workplace must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that the building or structure is designed to be safe and without risks to health if used for the purpose for which it was designed (section 28).

Duty holders under the OHS Act must use the hierarchy of controls to control workplace risks. Guidance on the use of the hierarchy of controls is on the WorkSafe website.