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Agents

Billabong Shade :: Melbourne
320 - 324 Wellington Street
Collingwood 3066
Phone 1300 300 260
Fax 03 9416 0514
Mobile 0413 137 113




Safety

Our company is offering a free check of your shade sail or shade structure. Unfortunately some shade owners cannot recognise common potential problems. That is where our expertise is valuable. Safe shade is in everyone’s interest.

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The "shade industry" as we know it today is a relatively recent development having only come into its own in the last ten years. The rapid growth of this light construction sector has outpaced most regulatory bodies including the Building Code of Australia, Victorian Building Commission and virtually all Local Government Councils.

Without doubt there are significant knowledge gaps and questionable levels of competence within the industry too.

There is an urgent need for discussion between the authoritative bodies and the "shade industry" which is composed of individuals, companies and representative bodies such as ACASPA and Lightweight Structures Association of Australiasia. As a member of these organisations as well as IFAI and HIA I can assure you of their willing participation.

There are two areas of immediate interest.

1) Existing shade sails and shade structures.

2) Proposed shade sails and shade structures.

In Victoria today there are at least 10,000 shade sails or shade structures in various workplaces, schools and kindergartens. The majority of these would not have any of the appropriate permits or certifications. Many were put in place by well meaning amateur groups such as parent and community workbees.

Many more were supplied by inexperienced and/or unqualified individuals on a commercial basis. A significant number of shade sails and structures have been installed by experienced people/companies but due to unclear building guidelines at the time do not have certification of all aspects.

In my estimation fewer than 2000 would be 100% compliant with today’s regulation requirements.

Proposed new shade sails and shade structures present less of a problem as they can be certified from design through to installation as per the "Recommendations of WorkSafe Alert of 3rd April 2007". However, within the category of Proposed Shade Sail and Shade Structures there are real issues for discussion also.

Shade sail and shade structure safety is subject to design competence, installation competence and maintenance competence as well as severe weather conditions and vandalism. Who and by what criteria is regarded as "competent" in these fields?

Other matters for consideration might include:-

  • Should existing shaded playgrounds for example be fenced off until the shade is inspected and declared sound or otherwise?
  • How many structural engineers versed in tensioned membrane structures are there in Victoria?
  • How many would be willing or able to travel to the myriad of locations?
  • Can a structural engineer actually "certify" an existing structure?
  • What is the cost involved with an inspection and certification?

The average overall cost of new shade structures or shade sails will rise quite dramatically in order to comply with all certification and permit requirements. With schools and other buyers of shade having often very limited funds, the price rise could have a political effect given previous price experience and expectations.

It is possible that school principals will be caught with unexpected issues such as:

  • Trying to find a competent structural engineer who is willing to certify an existing structure.
  • The actual cost of the engineer inspection and certification.
  • Safety concerns until the inspection is arranged and completed.
  • The cost of any recommended remedial work or possible loss altogether of a shade structure deemed unsafe.
  • Dealing with parents who are unhappy with a loss of suitable shade.

In discussions with several structural engineers it seems likely that it will be many years before all existing shade structures can be inspected, if at all. None expressed interest in doing the inspection work. All expressed interest in certifying new structures. It seems that "retro-certification" by a competent engineer is most unlikely. The general view is that shade sails and structures more than two or three years old will be recommended for removal and replacement rather than risk professional reputation.

While the new structure scenario looks favourable for those in the shade industry we are greatly concerned for the safety and wider consequences for the owners of existing shade sails and shade structures.

 
 
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