Scaffolds, when designed, installed and maintained correctly, are safe forms of access where work at height cannot be avoided. However, over 60% of deaths from work at height involve falls from scaffolds, ladders, working platforms and roofs.
This statistic shows that while scaffolding is designed to provide a safe working platform for work at height, it isn't always the case.
In this blog post, we will look at a checklist of over 40 scaffolding faults you should look out for, as well as discussing why and when you need to check scaffolds and their components.
There are so many different elements to a scaffold, and it will often need to be altered during its use so work can take place at different levels as a building is constructed, or refurbishment and maintenance works are carried out.
Scaffolding safety checks should be made on:
All scaffold design, erection and installations must be carried out by a competent person. Once the scaffold is signed off and handed over for use, you need to make sure it stays safe, and suitable for the work.
A competent person must carry out a scaffold inspection at least every 7 days noting any defects and corrective actions taken.
You can keep a record of scaffold inspections to ensure you comply with legal requirements with the scaffold register form.
There are many ways a scaffold can become unsafe during its use. It could get damaged, from contact with a vehicle or site plant, or from bad weather like strong winds. It could be altered by someone who is not authorised to do so. It could be overloaded.
The importance of ensuring scaffold remain safe is seen all too often when the worse happens and scaffold collapse occurs.
A scaffold collapse usually results in serious injuries or fatalities, not only to those working on the scaffold but also to those beneath or close by the scaffold when a collapse takes place.
For the safety of those using the scaffold as a means of access and working platform, it is important to be able to recognise common scaffolding faults and stop use should any unauthorised alterations be made, e.g. removing guardrails or moving boards. Such unauthorised alterations increase the risk of falls and make the scaffold an unsafe place of work.
A checklist of common scaffolding faults that need urgent attention if identified includes:
The footings of the scaffold are usually the metal base plates at the bottom of the scaffold standards, on top of timber sole plates/boards to distribute the load over the ground.
Standards are upright tubes or poles that are used as vertical support.
A ledger is a horizontal tube tying standards horizontally.
Bracing tubes span diagonally to strengthen and prevent movement.
A putlog is a tube flattened at the end spanning from a ledger to the wall of a building. A transom is a tube spanning across ledgers to tie a scaffold transversely and may support a working platform.
Scaffold couplings are metal components or fittings that are used to connect the scaffold components together.
A bridle is a tube fixed across an opening or parallel to the face of a building to support the inner end of a transom or tie tube.
Ties are used to connect the scaffold into stable parts of a building or structure to keep the scaffold stable.
Scaffold boards are usually timber and butted together to provide a safe horizontal working platform.
Guardrails are horizontal tubes fitted to standards along working platforms to prevent falls, and toeboards are usually timber and fitted at the base of working platforms to prevent persons, materials and tools falling.
Ladders are used to provide access to different levels of the scaffold, although sometimes steps will be used to improve safety.
The checks above are common scaffolding faults to look out for that show you the scaffold structure is not safe.
If you find any faults during a visual check, you should get a competent person to inspect and rectify the issues, before using the scaffolding.
Any scaffolds installed on your sites should have the following arrangements in place:
7-day inspections are the maximum periods between inspections, but remember that if anything changes that may affect the structure of the scaffolding, for example, bad weather or damage, you will need to inspect the scaffold sooner.
Use the scaffold inspection checklist to keep a record of your scaffold checks on site.
Scaffolds are designed to provide a safe working platform and access for working at height. As with any temporary structure, it must be checked on a regular basis to make sure it remains safe throughout its use.
Remember to get your scaffold inspected by a competent person at 7-day intervals, and after installation or changes to the scaffold structure.