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The latest Australian Standard sets a quality benchmark for ensuring safe and compliant steel structures.

The new Australian Standard AS/NZS 5131 ‘Structural Steelwork – Fabrication and Erection’ is helping promote confidence in products used by the construction sector.

The Standard defines good practice for fabrication and erection of structural steelwork for projects in Australia and applies to complete structures, individual members and prefabricated steel components.

It also forms the basis for the new National Structural Steelwork Compliance Scheme (NSSCS), developed by the Australian Steel Institute (ASI). The NSSCS provides an assurance that the structural steel used in a project comes from a qualified fabricator, which can help save on project resources and streamline the process whereby products used are checked for compliance. Both the new Standard and the NSSCS offer practical steps towards providing the construction industry and the Australian community with improved safety outcomes for structural steelwork.

 

The creation of the Standard

The construction industry has done much in the last decade to revise the Australian Standards for structural steel products. The introduction of mandatory product marking, minimum testing requirements and the provision of test certificates have provided the transparency and traceability engineers and building surveyors need to ensure the structural steel they specified was the structural steel supplied to fabricators.

Companies can procure steel from both local and overseas-based fabricators, but Australia has hitherto lacked a dedicated standard to address fabrication and erection of structural steelwork. Without such a standard, construction professionals have lacked the information they need to verify product conformance and performance. This has been particularly concerning in the case of fabricated steel sourced from overseas, where regulatory standards don’t align with local standards and where accepted levels of workmanship differ.

There was clearly a need for a transparent definition of good quality and an assurance that fabricated steel sourced from overseas complied with local standards. The Australian Standard AS/NZS 5131 fills that gap by setting a benchmark designed to ensure the building of safe structures.

 

Ensuring compliance

A survey conducted by the Ai Group in November 2013 raised serious questions about the quality and safety of Australia’s built environment. Of the 220 individuals and companies surveyed, 92 per cent reported non-conforming building products (NCPBs) in their supply chains.

According to Lindsay Le Compte, Chair of the steering committee of the Construction Product Alliance (CPA), “Non-conforming building products continue to be a major worry for Australia’s building and construction industry and the community as a whole.

“We know the risk to health and safety from products that do not comply with Australian Standards,” he said. “We also know that these products have the potential to cause construction businesses massive costs in retrofitting and repairing buildings and other structures.”

Australian Standard AS/NZS 5131 now assists the construction industry to manage those risks. By incorporating the Standard into their contract documents, there is a benchmark that procurers and specifiers can require suppliers to meet.

Companies looking to procure steel products for construction projects should look to source steel materials that can help fabricators comply with AS/NZS 5131.

Steel manufacturer Liberty OneSteel carries a range of steel products with conforming test certificates that provide evidence that they comply with the relevant Australian Standards. Its products are also third-party certified by the Australian Certification Authority for Reinforcing Steel (ACRS), which has assessed Liberty OneSteel as a supplier that consistently manufactures conforming steel products. 

By using steel products from Liberty OneSteel, fabricators can streamline the process to demonstrate that the products they source comply with the requirements of AS/NZS 5131. This in turn assists certifiers to determine that the structural steel is compliant.