Scaffolding is a non-permanent structure that is commonly used in construction work in order to give workers a stable working platform during elevated tasks. The structures are considered hazardous due to the risk of falling from a height, and as such it is important that anyone working on the structures have adequate safety training and a high-risk work licence of the right class.
Health & safety responsibilities
While everyone on the work site has certain health and safety responsibilities, some people have specific duties related to the use of scaffoldings, such as:
- Structure designers
- Structure contractors
- Structure users
People involved should ensure that all risks are managed using the following process:
- Hazard identification: assessing potential hazards
- Risk assessment: determining the type, severity and likelihood of harm each hazard poses
- Implementing control measures: the most effective risk control measures should be put in place
- Reviewing control measures: these control measures should be reviewed regularly in order to ensure they are operating as planned.
How to identify hazards
Being able to correctly identify scaffolding related hazards is important. You should first walk around the site and take note of any areas where the structures are being used, and take note of areas where this interacts with other buildings, pedestrians or cars. You should also check the ground condition and overall condition of the environment to decide if the structures should not be used in this area or if there is adverse weather that may hinder their safety.
Next, the main functional needs of the structure (such as access requirements and maximum dead loads) should be identified. The scaffolding should be inspected before and after assembly to ensure that it is safe to use. You should ask the workers if they have faced any issues or expect to face any issues related to the structures (including operation, maintenance, transport and repairs). Finally, review incident and injury records.
How to minimize risks
It is essential that you take action to reduce the likelihood of a scaffolding related incident occurring. You should eliminate risks wherever possible (e.g. by not assembling the structure on uneven ground). In the event that you cannot eliminate a risk, here are your other options:
- Use an alternative, such as a mechanical aid (e.g. trolley, hoist or crane) to move materials and gear instead of doing it manually
- Isolate the hazard, e.g. by putting in place concrete barriers to keep pedestrians at a safe distance away from the structures
- Use toe boards, overhead structures and perimeter containment sheets to reduce the chance of objects falling and hitting people beneath the work area.
If you have done these things and there is still a risk, you can use the following to minimise this risk as much as is practical:
- Utilise admin controls such as storing scaffolding near the work area in order to reduce the distance that loads must be moved by hand
- Use protective hats, hand and footwear as well as high-vis vests.
You may want to use a mix of these control measures in order to minimise risks if one control is inadequate.
Common types of scaffolding
The birdcage style operates independently and uses at least two rows of standards connected using ledgers and transoms. It’s often used for single level work like rooftops.
The trestle style uses trestles and braces and may come in an A-frame or H-frame. They are often used by painters and bricklayers to perform finishing and maintenance work.
The hung style works independently and hangs down from another structure – however it cannot be lowered or raised during use.