Formwork is the surface, supports and framing used to define the shape of concrete until the concrete is self-supporting (see AS 3610-1995 Formwork for Concrete).

Hazards associated with the erection, alteration or dismantling of formwork include:

  • falls from height
  • falling objects
  • formwork collapse (before, during and after pouring of concrete)
  • slips and trips
  • noise
  • dust
  • manual tasks
  • sharp edges on metal decks
  • sun glare.

To properly manage risks, a person must:

  • identify hazards
  • assess risks that may result because of the hazards
  • decide on control measures to prevent, or minimise, the level of risk
  • implement the control measures
  • monitor and review the effectiveness of those measures.

Control measures

Control measures must be implemented in an order of priority and before work commences. The figure below illustrates the hierarchy of controls which represents the order of priority for controls where there is a risk that a person could fall.

Design & planning Eliminate the risk during the design and planning stage.

Level 1 When design & planning controls are not practicable, use level 1 controls Work on a solid construction with safe access/egress, edge protection, openings covered etc.

Level 2 When Level 1 controls are not practicable, use level 2 controls Use fall protection systems. e.g. temporary work platforms, scaffolds, perimeter guardrails, elevating work platforms.

Level 3, Level 4 & Level 5 When Level 2 controls are not practicable, use level 3, then level 4 and finally level 5 controls Level 3: use work positioning systems, travel restraint systems Level 4: use fall arrest or catch platforms Level 5: use ladders or administration controls e.g. no go areas, permit systems, safe work systems

Falls from height - Limitations of harness systems

When erecting, altering or dismantling formwork, do not use:

  • travel restraint harness systems to prevent a fall
  • fall arrest harness systems to arrest a fall.

Travel restraint harness systems are impractical for formwork as:

  • the contour of the leading edge is constantly changing, requiring the length of the travel restraint line to be continually adjusted
  • multiple lanyard anchorage points may be required
  • the greater the number of workers building the formwork deck, the greater the likelihood of lines becoming tangled.

You must not use fall arrest systems in situations where there is insufficient distance available to prevent a person hitting an object, the ground or another surface, other than a vertical surface. For example, there may be insufficient free fall distance underneath the working area, resulting in a falling person striking the ground, a frame or other obstruction prior to the fall being arrested.

Consider the following before using a harness system:

  • complete a risk assessment
    • address the hierarchy of controls to identify satisfactory alternatives to using a harness
  • implementing the use of solid work zone barriers
  • provide training on the correct use of harnesses.

Further information

Industry guide for formwork

Formwork and falsework guidance material - Safework Australia

Page last updated: 27 March 2020