No doubt most of you will have seen the frightening image of the collapsed scaffold in North London on Thursday 7th March. Fortunately no-one was hurt, but it could have been much worse. This is not the place to speculate why or how this happened, but with more strong winds predicted it is worth pointing out a few things to consider if you have a scaffold on your site or building.
In 2004 an international standard was published for scaffolding. Unfortunately it was better suited to system scaffolds than to the more traditional tube and fitting scaffolds used in the UK. There was a great deal of debate at the time as to who would prepare guidance for implementation, and it took 9 years before the National Access and Scaffolding Confederation delivered TG:20.
The Work at Height Regulations require that unless a scaffold is assembled to a generally recognised standard configuration, such as TG20 or similar guidance from manufacturers of system scaffolds, it should be designed.
If your scaffold has been erected to TG:20, the contractor will be able to provide you with a compliance sheet, setting out the size of the scaffold, the location, the time of year the scaffold will be up, the number and suggested layout of ties and the purpose of the scaffold.
The location and time of year are important as they will indicate if there is a potential for high winds.
If your scaffolder hasn’t provided a compliance sheet it may be that the scaffold is a design scaffold and as such wind loading should have been considered.
If you have neither a compliance sheet or design, you will need to speak to your contractor to understand the reasons.
The Work at Height Regulations 2005 also require that scaffolds be inspected by competent persons before first use, every seven days and following any significant event, such as high winds.
Chris Ivey, THSP’s Consultant Director advises that you inspect scaffolds ahead of any predicted high winds.
It is important to remember that a correctly designed scaffold, erected by competent scaffolders remain an excellent option for work at height. Many previous scaffold collapses have occurred following the removal of ties; daily and weekly inspections should identify if this has happened.
Check that the scaffold matches the compliance sheet and that no ties have been removed or tampered with. Check that boards are tied down and can’t be lifted by any strong winds. Make sure that any materials or tools are removed from platforms.
If you are thinking about delivering a toolbox talk to your workforce this week, you would do well to remind them of the dangers from tampering with scaffolds.
Whilst debris netting and monarflex are important in ensuring that debris doesn’t fall from scaffolds during work, they do add to the “wind loading” of the scaffold, acting as a sail. It may be that the design relies upon the ability for the sheeting to detach and you should check that the correct type of toggle or bungee ties are used.
All formal scaffold inspections should be carried out by trained and competent persons and for tube and fitting scaffolds the HSE recommends that this might be assessed in line with the Construction Industry Scaffolders Record Scheme (CISRS).
If you need any help with this, call 03456 122144 to arrange for one of our competent inspectors to visit your site.