Scaffolding Safety – Know the Rules

Scaffolding safety is one of the primary concerns of any building contractor. The risks inherent in working at height are manifold – which is why an entire set of regulations was put in place to ensure the health, safety and security of those performing jobs above the ground. For the most part, the rules are clear-cut – but does that always mean they’re easy to follow? To help you get the facts straight and understand what’s required, here’s a comprehensive guide to what’s expected and what equipment you’ll need in order to comply.

Scaffold Safety Basics

There are several aspects of safety to be considered when you are erecting, using or dismantling scaffolding.

Firstly, the structural integrity of the scaffold must be maintained at all times. Frameworks should be inspected immediately after they are first constructed, and then at regular intervals of no more than seven days for the duration of their use. They should also be inspected after adverse weather to check there has not been any damage, and that the scaffolding’s safety is not compromised. These checks should be done by a competent person with a relevant training qualification – there are plenty of training providers nationally who offer courses.

Whilst the scaffolding is being used, the safety of workers is paramount. Site supervisors and managers are required to ensure that any workers who ascend more than 2m above the level below (whether that is the ground or another floor) are prevented from falling to that level. This is usually done through the use of double guardrails at each platform level, though a harness or fall arrest system can also be implemented, keeping the worker attached to the scaffolding frame at all times. However, the use of these latter two options, along with netting, should only be considered as a last resort if no other methods are viable. Additional security for workers can also be achieved using a scaffold tower which provides secure, moveable access to higher structures.

Care should also be taken with the positioning of scaffolding, with regard to power cables, pedestrian walkways and other obstructions such as trees and signposts. If there is a risk posed to the public, road closures may be required for the duration of the work. For this, you would need to liaise with your local council.

Staying Safe on Scaffolding

Any scaffolding used should come with all the parts required for the correct construction of the framework. You should never use a framework that has parts missing or has required incompatible parts to complete the structure. Always ascertain that scaffolds and towers are erected on flat, level surfaces and have all the standard requirements for safety: guardrails, bracing, access ladder, toe boards.

The only people who should be working on scaffolding are those who have been trained. If work is being done via a suspended scaffold (one attached to a building part way up, rather than being constructed from the ground upwards) then anyone using the scaffold must be attached via harness or suspension ropes to the framework at all times.

Still up in the air?

As you can see, there are lots of aspects to consider when it comes to scaffolding safety rules and regulations. Most of these are common sense, and will be covered within the standard requirements for any construction site. However, if you’d like more information on how to stay safe when using scaffolds, we recommend checking out the Health and Safety Executive website for a full break down of all the requirements.