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.

Jasper Swann works with experienced contractors to ensure the provision of the most efficient access systems to facilitate close inspection of the masonry facades, and to ensure compliance with the requirements of relevant authorities. Access systems may include a cherry-picker, spider-lift, knuckleboom, crane and man-box, or industrial rope access.

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.