Top Health and Safety Tips for Scaffolders

In this article, we’ll outline a checklist of activities which are essential to erect, dismantle and alter scaffolding systems. We will also cover the training and expertise which are necessary to perform these tasks safely. This guide will also cover how to know whether a scaffolding design is required, the correct inspection protocols to follow and supervision musts.

The HSE’s Scaffolding Checklist is an extremely useful resource to clear up any doubts you have when working on a project involving scaffolding.

What to consider when planning to erect scaffolding

Scaffolding, unless assembled to a recognised standard configuration – for instance NASC Technical Guidance TG21:20 for tube and fitting scaffolds -or manufacturer guidance, should be designed by a competent person, typically a scaffolding contractor.

A scaffolding contractor will make a bespoke calculation based on your project and site taking into account a number of factors, to ensure it retains strength and stability for the duration of activity.

Factors to consider:

  • Site location – land features
  • Project length – period scaffolding will be in operation
  • Intended tasks, frequency and duration
  • Height, length and required dimensions
  • Number of boarded lifts
  • Maximum load weight and number of people working on scaffold at one time
  • Access used for the scaffold – staircase, ladder bay, external ladders
  • Weather conditions expected for project duration

For an exhaustive list of the factors to consider when planning to build and erect scaffolding on your site, consult the HSE’s Scaffolding Checklist­.

After the scaffolding has been designed, prior to erection the scaffold designer should pass on all relevant information about the scaffold design.

This should include:

  • Type of scaffolding
  • Bay lengths
  • Lift heights
  • Platform boarding arrangements, how many lifts can be used at one time
  • Safe working loads, maximum leg loads

Again, refer to the HSE’s guidance to understand the full scope of information that a scaffolding contractor should provide you with prior to erection on site.

Ensuring your staff are competent to erect scaffolding

As a legal obligation, all employees involved in erecting, dismantling and altering scaffolding systems must be competent for the type of scaffolding work they are asked to perform, allied to this they should have received the relevant appropriate training for the type of scaffolding they are assigned.

As a construction business, it’s your responsibility as an employer to oversee scaffolding work with appropriate supervision, with an understanding and observance of the level of training, competence and experience your employees possess.

Your minimum obligation is to include at least one competent scaffolder with the necessary training for the type and complexity of the task they are performing – whether that is erection, alteration, or dismantling scaffolding.

When trainee scaffolders are working on site, they must always be under the direct supervision of a trained and competent scaffolder. Until workers have achieved the necessary training and qualifications to be classified competent, they should be considered trainees.

When it comes to the erection, dismantling or alteration of scaffolding structures, these tasks should be supervised by a competent scaffolder, with the experience and training to ensure work is always undertaken with close observance of best practices. “Complex” structures should be overlooked by an “Advanced Scaffolder”, this can refer to their experience of the person, or the specific training programmes they have undertaken which relate to the complex scaffolding system they are working on.

Scaffold inspection best practices

The user of scaffolding is responsible for the final safety checks.

Inspections should include:

  • Post installation inspection, prior to use
  • Further inspections at intervals no more than seven days
  • Inspections when conditions impact safety, e.g., forecasted high winds

Scaffolding inspections should be carried out by a competent person, whose experience,

training and knowledge is appropriate for the type and complexity of the scaffolding in question. Competence can be ascertained under the Construction Industry Scaffolders Record Scheme (CISRS), alternatively the operative may have received training from the scaffold manufacturer.

A site manager can be considered competent to inspect basic scaffolding structures, with the experience of a basic scaffolding safety course.

A scaffolding inspection report must note any defects, or safety considerations which could cause health and safety risks, and suggest risk controls and mitigations, noting the actions taken can help prevent the same risks leading to accidents or injuries in the future.

Bespoke training courses and risk assessments

Get in touch with us to secure training courses for your staff. We can ensure your staff become competent in the scaffolding tasks you require them to perform, reducing the possibility of injury and potential enforcement action from industry bodies, such as the HSE, or in the result of fatalities, court action. We recently wrote how a scaffolder was prosecuted following a fatal fall suffered by his colleague.

We can also provide templated working at height risk assessments which you can easily tailor to your specific project.

Give us a call on 01634 353677 or drop us a message on our enquiry form and we’ll give you a call back.


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