Scaffolding is the science of enabling work at height, upwards of more than one floor for workmen, especially in the construction industry. Over the course of industrial development, scaffolding has enabled the transition of global landscape, enabling major and minor ‘work at height’ tasks and helping us rise higher.
In one of our earlier blogs, we had already pointed to the fact that scaffold are temporary structures and within the industry they get employed most often – construction, accidents and fatalities while working at height are well known.
However, let us think in a more proactive sense, it is not just the nature of the work undertaken at height but also its facilitator, in this case scaffold, that also needs to be taken care of. What we are suggesting is that there can be issues that can damage or destroy scaffolds, leaving us vulnerable with faulty and damaged scaffold equipment. Here are five such issues:
- Environmental conditions can attribute towards scaffold damage over the course of time. Extreme weather such as heat, cold and precipitation can cause the scaffold equipment to develop rust, imperfections arising due to temperature changes that become pronounced, over a period of time.
- Improper work protocols and rules are the work practices and habits of the workmen which may reflect poorly on scaffolding activities. The often cited reason of damage to scaffolding equipment by several leading HSE authorities worldwide is incorrect scaffold erection and dismantling.
- Lack of established work at height protocols means the behavior expected from a work at height worker not being in accordance with the prescribed protocol. In some cases, there can be a complete lack of established procedure that would allow the worker to behave correctly while working via the means of scaffold supported structure. Temporary structures like scaffold are not meant for regular use instead only under special conditions and therefore the necessity to establish and enforce correct procedures.
- Overloading can lead to disastrous consequences. Structural integrity of a scaffold and its components are severely tested under overloading. The fact of the matter remains that the scaffold may survive in one off case but as suggested earlier, its load bearing capacity and integrity would be compromised due to such damage.
- Absence of qualified or experienced personnel is the human factor that determines the other mentioned issues in a transitive sense. A qualified or experienced personnel can help suggest proper storage of scaffolding equipment, post use. They can ensure existence of proper work rules and also helps in establishing correct work at height protocols. Due to their knowledge, guidance and influence the scaffold can become safer. Therefore, absence of experienced personnel becomes an issue that can lead to damage of scaffolds.
The key takeaway from all five of these issues is the essential need for having an established work procedure while undertaking work at height with the aid of scaffolding. And trained supervision, which can help the workers understand the man-material relationship – how safe practices can ensure longevity of scaffold material.
Note: This blog is a compilation of some of the issues that may cause damage to scaffolding. This should not be taken or understood as a list; prescribed, stipulated or endorsed relating to any country specific standards or issued guidance. Please refer to the country specific standards and guidance when referring to scaffolding or scaffold related activities.