The publication of Australian standard AS/NZS 5131 on 8 December underpins the nation’s first compliance scheme dedicated to structural steelwork fabrication and erection, developed progressively in parallel with the new standard over recent years.

Through independently assessing the capability of steel fabricators to the requirements of specific ‘construction categories’, the new National Structural Steelwork Compliance Scheme (NSSCS) aims to ensure that what is designed is ultimately what is erected onsite to the quality benchmark and safety the community expects.

The Scheme was instigated by the ASI as the peak body representing the complete Australian steel supply chain which looked to best practice models of similar certification programs already operating in advanced economies such as the US, Canada, the EU and UK where the use of structural steelwork in major building projects is more prevalent.

“The new Standard going live is the key element that enables the NSSCS to operate as intended as the quality benchmark for project specifying by engineers and quantity surveyors, to help builders project manage quality outcomes and for members of our steel fabrication community to be recognised as capable of supplying specific quality outcomes,” said ASI National Technical Development Manager, Dr Peter Key.

Under the NSSCS, steel fabricators are audited and certified by the independent body, Steelwork Compliance Australia (SCA) to ‘Construction Categories’ that link right back to the structure importance levels from the National Construction Code (NCC).

“Like the NCC, these categories are ordered to address progressively higher levels of risk and as such, help manage exposure and facilitate proper duty of care considerations under the Workplace Health and Safety Act (Safe Design of Structures),” Key said.

“Certification to the construction categories is in effect a national technical prequalification scheme which in time should result in enormous efficiency gains in the tendering process for both procurers and fabricators.”

There are already NSSCS-certified fabricators operating in most Australian states as the SCA has been able to assess them to the ASI Structural Steelwork Fabrication and Erection Code of Practice (CoP) which was the precursor to the AS/NZS 5131. In the lead-up to the new Standard being published, the ASI has developed a range of implementation guidance tools for the new Scheme.

A key document is the National Structural Steelwork Specification (NSSS) which, along with ‘standard drawing notes’ for engineers and specifiers, facilitates uniform and consistent reference to the Standard and reduces misalignment of expectations and ensuing contractual issues. The NSSS is available free-of-charge from the ASI website

The ASI will also be making available to key stakeholders a series of ‘implementation guides’ during 2017 to explain choices specifiers have within each of the sections of the NSSS. The ASI has also liaised successfully with NATSPEC to support revision of its specifications consistent with AS/NZS 5131 and the NSSS.