General Health & Safety Advice
Scaffolding operations bear an inherent risk to all those involved, whether it is the operatives carrying out the work, or those who are, or will be, in the vicinity of where the work is taking place (such as the general public). TRAD Hire & Sales advises that when carrying out such operations all current applicable regulations are adhered to and all up-to-date, pertinent advice from the HSE and the NASC is followed.
General Rules for Scaffolding Safety
- Always ensure all who erect, adapt and dismantle the scaffold are trained and competent to do so.
- Always ensure all risk assessments and method statements have been carried out, then communicated to those concerned, and understood.
- Always ensure that there is adequate storage for the materials.
- Always ensure that there is clear access to the work area and that the ground is level and suitable for the scaffold.
- Always work to the current edition of the NASC guidance note SG4 – “Preventing Falls in Scaffolding Operations”.
- Always ensure that there are adequate tying points.
- Always ensure loads are evenly distributed.
- Always ensure scaffold inspections are carried out and recorded as per current legal requirements.
- Always ensure that all defects are notified to the site management.
- Never let untrained persons erect, modify or dismantle the scaffold.
- Never remove guardrails, toe boards or brick guards.
- Never remove ties without prior approval.
- Never create gaps in platforms by removing decks or boards.
- Never remove restrictions or warning signs from the scaffold structure.
- Never undermine the scaffold by digging trenches underneath or near the base.
- Never add sheeting or netting without prior approval.
- Never use damaged materials.
- Never allow unqualified / unapproved personnel to repair damaged equipment.
- Never load directly on to the access scaffold’s working platform (always use a loading tower).
Work at Height / Fall Prevention / Rescue of Suspended Casualties
The current edition of the Work at Height Regulations places a duty on employers to protect individuals from harm. Scaffolding inevitably carries a risk of falling from height and consequently, it is of paramount importance that all activities are assessed for risk, planned and a safe system of work is adopted during any scaffold activity. It is therefore strongly recommended that the procedures outlined in the NASC’s guidance note SG4 – “Preventing Falls in Scaffolding Operations” are followed. SG4 describes several safe methods of work, including the use of collective fall protection systems such as an advanced guardrail or scaffolder’s steps.
To ensure the safety of scaffold erectors, it is important that fall protection equipment is only attached to those components which are capable of withstanding any likely imposed loads. Where system scaffolds are involved, please refer to the particular user guide for the system which is being used for the relevant connection points.
While the current Work at Height Regulations requires that work at height be carried out safely, they also require that contingency plans be made for any eventuality. This extends to making plans to rescue personnel suspended by fall arrest equipment. Personnel should be fully trained to use all relevant rescue equipment for the event of a suspended casualty.
Details relating to rescue and what should be considered can be found in the latest editions of the NASC guidance notes SG4 & SG19 (SG19 – “A Guide to Formulating a Rescue Plan”).
Only trained and authorised scaffold operatives should carry out the erection, dismantling or modification of any scaffold structure. Consideration must also always be given to those that may be affected by the works being carried out. To ensure that the highest standards of safety performance are maintained, attention should be given to the following:
- If the scaffold is on rough or uneven ground, ensure that it is erected on adequate timber sole boards which are properly levelled and bedded, and that the ground is capable of withstanding the proposed loadings.
- All working platforms must be complete with double guardrails and a toe board, and free from trip hazards or projections. Where there is a risk of items falling, the use of the brick guards should be considered.
- Do not overload the working platforms with brick or any other materials. If you require to stack large quantities of material at platform level, then a loading tower should be utilised.
- All scaffolds require adequate bracing and ties. Neither should be removed without giving consideration to firstly installing alternative bracing or ties, to ensure the continued safety of the scaffold (further design may be required).
- Stair access towers or ladders must be provided for all working platforms. Staircase towers provide safe and convenient access for operatives and materials. Staircases should be the preferred choice for access. For shorter duration projects where the use of ladders is acceptable for access, ensure they are founded on a solid base and are securely fixed at the top.
- All scaffolds must be erected in strict accordance with the current editions of the relevant user guide, or the NASC’s Technical Guidance Note TG20, where applicable. Any configurations outside of the guides including sheeting, netting or other similar wind sails should be referred to a person competent in the design of scaffolding structures.
- Any unauthorised interference should be immediately reported to site management with any incomplete or unsafe parts of the scaffold being clearly marked and access restricted.
- All scaffold components require visual inspection before use. No damaged equipment should be used within the scaffold structure. Any equipment found damaged should be immediately set aside in a quarantined area, clearly marked and senior management informed. Maintenance and repair procedures should only be carried out by qualified / approved personnel.
- Always wear appropriate PPE with Hi-Vis clothing where required.
The following basic rules should be adhered to when manually handling scaffolding equipment:
- Plan lay down/storage areas in advance, to reduce the distance materials have to be manually handled.
- Always check the transit route before manual handling, to ensure that it is suitable and free from obstructions and any tripping hazards.
- When handling long materials, beware of damaging property, overhead electric lines, other people and moving vehicles.
- Only tackle loads that can be reasonably handled by the individuals involved – i.e. consider personal physical capabilities.
- Manual handling operations should be eliminated where possible, by using mechanical handling equipment and manual handling aids whenever possible. These include light-lines, gin wheel, forklifts and cranes etc.
- Use the correct knots and hitches if using rope to lift equipment.
Always use the correct kinetic handling technique:
- Make sure your feet are on a firm level base, a comfortable distance apart (Approx. 300mm).
- Use your legs and not your back to bend.
- Raise your head slightly and tuck in your chin to keep your spine straight.
- Avoid turning / twisting the trunk of the body.
Details relating to manual handling and what should be considered can also be found in the latest edition of the NASC guidance note SG6 – “Manual Handling in the Scaffolding Industry”.
Remember – safety is no accident. Don’t risk it – if in doubt ask!