Scaffolding Regulations: Rules for Builders, Contractors and Property Owners

Whenever you or a professional contractor erects scaffolding, there are certain regulations which must be followed in terms of the design, construction, erection and use of scaffold frames. Given the inherent risks of working at heights, with few barriers between workers and the ground below, it’s not surprising that the rules surrounding scaffolding are rigorous. And if you value the validity of your insurance (as well as your physical wellbeing) you’ll make it your business to ensure every scaffolding regulation is followed.

By law, scaffolds can only be designed, assembled, dismantled or altered in any way by a competent person – often a professional contractor. This ensures that the scaffolds are structurally sound and that they can be used safely by builders or other workers. Any framework from which someone can fall more than 2 metres must also be regularly inspected to ensure ongoing compatibility with the Working at Height Regulations (2005); generally this occurs on a weekly basis, as well as whenever alterations have been made or after bad weather, to guarantee the structure remains safe.

Preparation Prior to Erecting Scaffold Frames

In addition to those mentioned above, there are also plenty of regulations you need to follow long before the actual scaffold frames arrive on site. For instance, if work needs to be carried out which requires scaffolding to be placed on any public highway, including pavements, then it is the builder or contractor who is responsible for obtaining a license to complete the project. It is the owner of the property’s responsibility, though, to confirm the appropriate license has been granted, and that it is still valid for the duration of the contract. For work carried out entirely on private land, no license is necessary.

Similarly, whilst most standard jobs requiring scaffolding – such as repairs or construction at a residential property – use a regular frame and shape, there are many occasions where bespoke constructions is needed, such as for bridges, church steeples, towers and temporary buildings. For any such undertaking, designs will need to be created by professional scaffold engineers to maintain the strength, stability and precision of any structure.

Health & Safety Regulations

Scaffolding regulations dictate that any work which puts the public at risk (e.g. when obstructing a footpath or road) must be scheduled for a time when the area if quiet, or a road closure may be required.

In terms of responsibility for general health and safety on site, it usually falls to the contractor to ensure that Health & Safety procedures are followed, unless the work carried out is for business purposes or is at a commercial property (including landlords, developers and companies), in which case it is the responsibility of the business itself to safeguard all people on site during the project.

To provide additional security and safety when constructing and dismantling scaffolding, regulations recommended that an advanced guard rail system is used. If this is not suitable, harnesses must be provided for and worn by workers.

Paperwork requirements

Qualified scaffolders will hold a Construction Industry Record Scheme (CISRS) Card, which it is your responsibility to check before any work commences.

In addition, the contractor or builder should have gained appropriate insurance which covers the risks involved in working above ground level, as well as public liability and employers’ liability to ensure they are covered for injury to the public as well as to their own employees. This is also something you need to see proof of before work begins, as it is an essential aspect of the guidelines set out to regulate the construction and use of scaffolding.

Hopefully you’ll have gained an insight into your responsibilities regarding scaffolding, whether as a professional or as a homeowner hiring workers, and can now move confidently onto the next stage of your project. If you’d like further information regarding scaffolding regulations, see the Health and Safety Executive website at for further guidance.