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Scaffolding Safety: What You Need to Know

Scaffolding is a temporary structure used to carry out tasks across various industries. Most commonly seen on building sites, scaffolding is also used for household extensions, roofing, tree maintenance and window cleaning. Although it is an essential tool for workers who need to work at height, it can also be incredibly dangerous if not used properly. 

The responsibility for scaffolding safety generally lies with the scaffolding company and the business owner. It is crucial to follow safety guidelines to prevent accidents and injuries, and to ensure that workers are adequately trained and competent to carry out their work safely. 

This guide will explore the critical aspects of scaffolding safety, including planning and design, erecting and dismantling scaffolds, using scaffolds safely, training and competence, the importance of inspecting scaffolding regularly and additional steps to prevent scaffolding accidents.

The Responsibility for Scaffolding Safety

The scaffolding company is ultimately responsible for ensuring the scaffold is correctly installed, safe to use and regularly inspected. However, it is also the responsibility of the construction company, business owner and individual users to use the scaffolding safely and adhere to safety guidelines to prevent accidents and injuries.

The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 places a legal duty on employers to ensure the health, safety and welfare of their employees and anyone else who may be affected by their work. This includes providing adequate training and equipment for working at height, such as scaffolding, platforms and ladders.

Planning and Design for Scaffolding Safety

Planning and design are crucial aspects of scaffolding safety. Before erecting a scaffold, a thorough risk assessment should be carried out to identify potential hazards and how to remove or control them. The scaffold design should take into account factors such as the weight of materials and workers, the height and width of the structure, and any potential wind or weather conditions.

Erecting and Dismantling Scaffolds

Erecting and dismantling scaffolding should only be carried out by competent and trained individuals. This includes not only the actual installation of the scaffold, but also inspecting it regularly to ensure it remains safe to use. Scaffolding should also be dismantled safely, following the manufacturer’s instructions and any relevant safety guidelines. The National Access and Scaffolding Confederation (NASC) also provide helpful safety guidance to help in this regard. Failing to observe these safety requirements can not only result in injuries to those carrying out the work, but can also put other people in danger. 

Using Scaffolds Safely

No matter how well scaffolding is installed, it must still be used safely to prevent accidents and injuries. Some of the steps to use scaffolding safely include the following:

  • Only using a scaffold that a competent person has erected
  • Ensuring that the scaffold is stable and secure before using it
  • Using safe access points to get on and off the scaffold, such as stairs or ladders that are properly secured
  • Wearing appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) such as hard hats, gloves and safety harnesses
  • Keeping the working area tidy and free from clutter to prevent tripping hazards
  • Avoiding overloading the scaffold with too much weight
  • Reporting any defects or damage immediately to the site supervisor, manager or scaffolding contractor

Training and Competence

Training and competence are essential for safe scaffolding use. Employers have a legal duty of care to ensure their employees are fully trained and competent to carry out their work safely. This includes providing training for working at height and using scaffolding under The Work at Height Regulations 2005. Business owners should also ensure that workers are competent or adequately supervised when carrying out specific tasks such as erecting and dismantling scaffolds.

Inspecting scaffolding

Inspecting scaffolding is a crucial aspect of scaffolding safety, and it is the responsibility of everyone involved in the construction project to ensure that scaffolding is inspected regularly to ensure it remains safe to use. This includes the client, the principal contractor, the scaffolding company, and individual workers.

In addition to regular inspections, scaffolding should also be inspected after any significant changes have been made to the structure or after adverse weather conditions that may have affected the scaffold’s stability. The person carrying out the inspection should be competent and thoroughly understand the safety guidelines and regulations surrounding scaffolding.

In some cases, an independent third-party inspection may be necessary to ensure that the scaffold has been erected and maintained in a safe manner. This is particularly important for larger, more complex scaffolds or in cases where there are concerns about the safety of the structure.

Scaffolding Accident Claim

Unfortunately, scaffolding accidents can easily happen when the above safety guidelines are not observed, and the consequences can be significant. If you were injured in a scaffolding accident that was not your fault, you might be eligible to make a compensation claim.

To make a successful scaffolding accident claim, you will need to provide evidence that someone else’s negligence caused the accident. This could include evidence of inadequate training, poorly installed scaffolding, a lack of safety measures or other failures to follow the relevant safety guidelines. It is important to seek legal advice as soon as possible after the accident, as there is usually a three year time limit for making a personal injury claim.

Common Causes of Scaffolding Accidents

There are many potential causes of scaffolding accidents. Some of the most common causes include the following:

  • Falls from height – this is the most common cause of scaffolding accidents and can be caused by various factors, such as slippery surfaces, missing guardrails, damaged scaffold boards or improper use of safety harnesses.
  • Scaffold collapses – a collapse can occur due to overloading, inadequate bracing, incorrect installation or poor maintenance.
  • Being struck by falling objects – these accidents can happen when tools, building materials or debris fall from the scaffold onto workers or members of the public below.
  • Electrocution – suffering an electric shock is a potential danger whenever scaffolding is erected too close to overhead power lines, or when electrical equipment is used incorrectly.

Preventing Scaffolding Accidents

Preventing scaffolding accidents involves a combination of planning, design, training, and adherence to safety guidelines. Some key steps to avoid scaffolding accidents and keep workers safe include the following:

  • Carrying out a thorough risk assessment before erecting a scaffold
  • Designing scaffolding to be strong, stable, and able to withstand expected loads and weather conditions
  • Inspecting scaffolds regularly to ensure they remain safe to use
  • Using safe access points to get on and off the scaffold
  • Ensuring that workers are trained and competent to use scaffolding
  • Providing workers with appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • Keeping the working area tidy and free from clutter to prevent tripping hazards
  • Avoiding overloading the scaffold with too much weight
  • Reporting any defects or damage to the scaffold immediately
  • Ensuring that scaffolds are erected and dismantled safely, following the manufacturer’s instructions and any relevant safety guidelines
  • Ensuring that scaffolding is not erected too close to overhead power lines

In addition to these steps, it is important to foster a culture of safety on construction sites and other industries that use scaffolding. This includes encouraging workers to report any safety concerns, providing regular safety training, and ensuring that safety guidelines are followed at all times.

By following these guidelines, the majority of scaffolding accidents can be prevented. However, if an accident does occur and you suffer injuries due to somebody else’s negligence, it is important to remember that you may have a legal right to make a scaffolding accident claim.

If you find yourself in this unfortunate position and would like to discuss your options with a trained legal adviser, call 0800 032 3660 or use the contact form below to request a call back.

* Personal injury claims are offered on a no win, no fee basis. If your claim is successful, your solicitor will receive up to 25% of your compensation as their success fee. Any additional costs, such as legal protection insurance, will be clearly explained to you by your solicitor before you decide to proceed with your claim. Termination fees may apply if you fail to cooperate with your solicitor. This includes deliberately misleading your solicitor, failing to attend scheduled medical or expert examinations, or not appearing at a required court hearing.