The Australian Steel Storage Manufacturers Group (the Group) has warned Australian industry they could be exposing themselves to legal action or health and safety risks by purchasing imported steel storage products that fail to observe Australia’s established design and manufacturing standards.
An initiative of the Australian Steel Institute (the ASI), the Group was formed in 2010 by leading manufacturers Dexion , Dematic, Macrack, Commando and APC to address concerns that Australia’s move towards a global market in steel supply was leading to an unacceptable degree of noncompliant, uncertified and untested steel storage products.
The Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS) places significant shared responsibility on all stakeholders operating in construction steelwork, specifically naming managers, designers, manufacturers, importers, suppliers and installers. The Act and its linkage to compliance of steel storage products have been firmly established through a ‘Questions answered’ document prepared by the ASI in collaboration with Workplace Health and Safety Queensland. Freely downloadable from the ASI website, the document also provides further resources on the compliance initiatives undertaken by the ASI.
Dexion’s CEO and chairman of the Group, Peter Farmakis mentions the inherent difficulty when trying to trace the material used and the manufacturing methods adopted by internationally procured steel products, which are beyond the reach of Australia’s legal and regulatory framework.
According to Farmakis, the Australian manufacturing market is mature, and one that’s established a high-level of quality over many years, so that customers are insured against unsafe, non-compliant products by the very fact that they are purchasing locally manufactured products from within a strict WHS compliance regime.
However, accountability is lost when steel manufacturing is taken offshore, with the procurer and the supplier bearing the repercussions of non-compliance in Australia. It’s not uncommon for international suppliers to claim they’re meeting the standards when in fact they’re not.
Farmakis emphasises that the Group’s primary objective is to ensure the health and safety of Australian businesses. The Group aims to raise awareness within the steel community of the issues associated with imports to mitigate potential risks.
According to the ASI, a number of major Australian steel projects have recently reported quality concerns and even fraudulent importer behaviour (such as falsified test certificates).
The ASI’s national manager and manager of the Group, Ian Cairns comments that the ASI has seen an increase in the number of complaints in relation to non-compliant imported steel products over the last five years. This spike is caused by the lack of accountability when it comes to imported products, many of which have been found to be non-compliant with Australia’s strict standards.
Accordingly, the Group works towards ensuring that all steel storage products and installations comply with an increasingly tight compliance regime. Maintaining Australia’s capability in the efficient design, safety, supply and construction of steel storage structures is the key objective of the Group.
Collaborating closely with key industry stakeholders, the Group assists businesses meet the requirements of Australian laws and regulations. Some of the recent initiatives undertaken by the Group in collaboration with other key industry stakeholders include WorkSafe Victoria’s pallet racking operation and maintenance guidance notes developed on the advice of the Group; and the ASI’s code of practice for rack safety inspection.
Initiatives such as these are designed to increase safety awareness and assist companies better meet Australia’s rigid standards. However, it is incumbent on the procuring business to inform itself of these laws and regulations, and to understand their implications.
The ASI will continue to develop forums for awareness, code position, representation, government lobbying, industry education and technical representation, presentations and seminars – all of which are aimed to increase business standards and ethics within the Australian steel industry.