Western Australians are being warned about the risks of attaching or hanging items around their homes, in the wake of a young man’s tragic death in Subiaco this month after a brick pier collapsed on an attached hammock.
It is WA’s second fatality in the past decade involving a hammock attached to a brick pier, prompting Building & Energy and Consumer Protection to urge caution about how and where equipment such as hammocks, swings, hanging chairs, shade-sails and basketball hoops are installed.
Building Commissioner Saj Khan said items like this should only be used if the supporting structure – including brick piers, walls, roofs, ceilings and beams – could handle the weight and loads.
“Structures around your home are not necessarily designed to carry additional attachments,” Mr Khan said.
“Isolated brick piers, in particular, are primarily designed to carry vertical loads and should not be retrofitted with items that may pull or push the pier sideways or off-centre.
“For example, a brick pier may be able to support loads coming from the roof or pergola, but may not necessarily handle a sideways force generated by the weight of a person using a hammock.”
The structural capacity of any part of a building depends on a number of factors such as the design, workmanship, quality of materials, maintenance and other existing loads.
The Building Code of Australia – which outlines the minimum technical requirements for the design and construction of buildings and related structures – does not necessarily anticipate the installation of additional items that may be attached to a building after its construction.
“Sometimes it’s hard to tell if a building element is strong enough to support the item you are thinking of attaching,” Mr Khan said.
“Before installing or using any item that will be attached around your home, you should consider seeking expert advice from a registered builder, structural engineer, a building surveyor or another qualified professional. If in doubt, don’t risk it.”
Consumers should also follow the manufacturer’s instructions when installing the items, according to Commissioner for Consumer Protection David Hillyard.
He said some goods, such as basketball rings and backboards, had mandatory standards requiring that instructions are provided about safe installation and use.
“Always make sure you know the requirements for safe installation and whether your property is suitable for these items before you purchase or use them,” he said.
“This is especially important when you’re buying gifts for others. If you or the gift recipient can’t safely install the item, look for alternatives such as a free-standing portable basketball ring instead.
“Consumers should also be aware of risks inside the home from toppling furniture or blinds and curtain cords, and the relatively simple steps required to secure them.
“It’s also important to report any products that are unsafe to us so we can take action.”
For more information, see the Building & Energy or Consumer Protection websites (via dmirs.wa.gov.au) or the Product Safety Australia website (productsafety.wa.gov.au) for details on standards and recalls, as well as tips and advice on Christmas gifts and holiday activities as part of the Safe Summer campaign.
Note: Building and Energy (a division within the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety) was formed in January 2018 by the amalgamation of the Building Commission and EnergySafety.
Media contact: Alan Hynd – 08 6552 9248 / 0429 078 791 / firstname.lastname@example.org