Make-Safe Inspections of Stone Facades with Certification of Safe Status


In the mid-1990s, it was reported that a piece of masonry fell from the cornice of a prominent Sydney building, injuring a woman when it struck her on the shoulder. The incident raised a fundamental issue for building owners and conservation professionals charged with the care of stone buildings. When stonework decays, there is a very real possibility that pieces could fall if the building is allowed to reach a state of sufficient neglect. Incidents of falling masonry are, in fact, very common. Often it is failed previous repairs, not just pieces of stone, that fall. The risk of serious injury to members of the public is an issue that cannot be ignored. The incident described above triggered awareness in building owners that responsibility for such incidents lay squarely in their laps. Since that time, Jasper Swann has carried out many make-safe inspections of prominent sandstone buildings in Sydney and Melbourne, documenting and carrying out the necessary remedial works to certify them as safe.*

* ‘Safe’, in this context, is defined as being free from the reasonably foreseeable risk of falling masonry for a period of 12 months following the date of inspection.


The accepted method of ‘making-safe’ usually involves close inspection either from a ‘cherry picker’, or where access is more difficult, a man-box suspended from a crane. Pieces of sandstone that are deemed to present a safety risk can be identified and carefully removed. The trained eye, together with a controlled tapping of the sandstone, can identify areas that present a risk that might not otherwise be immediately apparent. Loose, cracked and friable material is most often found on projecting elements such as cornices and string courses as well as on more ornate elements, such as pinnacles and crockets. Occasionally, delaminating ashlar can present a risk.

Planning & Execution

Considerable careful planning is required to carry out effective make-safe inspections, particularly in urban areas. Jasper Swann provides the following services to ensure that make-safe inspections are carried out effectively and efficiently:

  • Provide the correct plant and equipment to ensure that all parts of a building can be adequately accessed to allow a full hand-tofabric inspection.
  • Obtain Traffic and Pedestrian Management Plans for submission to Council, Police, RTA and State Transit Authority
  • Engage full traffic and pedestrian control throughout the inspection. Engage ‘User-pays’ Police presence where required
  • Obtain all necessary Council permits, including Temporary Lane Closure, Crane Applications, Footpath Barricading
  • Obtain Police Permits for Temporary Road Closures. Obtain State Transit Permits
  • Obtain RTA Road Occupancy Licence where necessary
  • Provide adequate high intensity lighting where operations are to be conducted at night
  • Provide industrial rope access to facilitate inspection where it is not possible to access a given part of a building with any suitable mechanical plant or equipment
  • Carry out telescopic and photographic inspection of facades that are physically inaccessible by any safe or effective means.

Typically, where no conservation or repair works are subsequently carried out, make-safe inspections are carried out at 12-monthly intervals, in order that safe status can be maintained.

Certification of Safe Status

On completion of a make-safe inspection, Jasper Swann can issue a Certificate of Safe Status, stating that the building or structure is free from the reasonably foreseeable risk of falling masonry within the 12-month period immediately following the inspection. Jasper Swann carries full Public Liability and Professional Indemnity Insurance.