If you and your team of builders are contracted to work at height, whether you’re dealing with roof repairs or house extensions, you’ll be expected to provide and put up the necessary scaffolding. Of course, you must undergo the relevant training before working with scaffolding, but it doesn’t stop there. Keeping yourself up-to-date with safety tips and regulations is key, and should be your biggest priority when working above ground.
Focusing on the safety of yourself, your employees and anyone in close proximity to your building site is fundamental when working at height. Failing to erect and use construction scaffolding properly can cause serious harm to everyone involved, not to mention the building you’re working on. Damaged bricks and scratched paintwork are just two of the problems that can occur as a result of incorrectly constructed scaffolding.
With this in mind, it isn’t just your employees’ safety on the line when your scaffolding isn’t quite up to scratch. Causing damage and breakages to commercial and residential properties is likely to upset your clients, which in turn will hurt your reputation as a trusted building company. Maintaining professionalism at all times is all about delivering first-rate results, which can only be done when you pay attention to every detail of your construction project – including safety measures.
At DH Scaffold Services, we understand just how important it is to prioritise safety when working at height, which is why we offer a range of scaffolding services including surveys and feasibility visits. Here we share our five top tips to make sure you and your employees work safely and efficiently from start to finish, impressing your clients along the way.
Safety tips for scaffolders
Inspect the work area
Inspecting the work area should be the first step you take before putting your scaffolding together. Without a safe working environment, you won’t be able to erect the structure to the safety standards required by law, thus endangering yourself and your employees before work has even begun. Making sure your construction site is safe for work – no matter how small or large it is – needs to be the first thing you do before giving your team the go ahead.
When you’ve been contracted to complete a construction project, it’s your responsibility to evaluate your foundations. Without the right base, your scaffolding won’t be able to retain its sturdiness – if you’re able to put it up at all. The first thing to check is the level of the ground, and whether there are any inconsistencies which are too great to work with. Bumpy foundations will make it difficult to create level scaffolding, which in turn will make it challenging for your employees to retain their balance. It also leaves your scaffolding vulnerable to changes in the weather; high winds will cause the structure to shake, and in the worst case scenario, to collapse. Check for ditches, potholes and loose soil beforehand, too.
Check the weather
It’s safe to say that the weather is unpredictable, especially for those of us who live and work in the UK. Wind, rain and even storms are all commonplace during the winter months, and although many industries aren’t affected by these changes in weather, the construction industry certainly is. No matter what your deadlines may be, asking your employees to continue working in terrible weather is unfair and foolish.
This is especially true when it comes to putting up scaffolding, as dealing with heavy loads and increased height can be extremely dangerous when other factors become an issue. The rain can make it much easier to slip over, and high winds can cause equipment to blow away, causing potential risks to employees and pedestrians alike. If the weather is bad, don’t try to save time by giving your scaffolders the green light. Wait until the skies are clearer for the safety of everyone involved.
Inspect the scaffolding
When you’re working to tight deadlines, it can be tempting to cut corners to speed up the process. Whether this is failing to repair broken equipment or neglecting to meet official building standards, it’s never a good idea and is likely to cause you and your clients a long list of problems in the future. When you’re dealing with scaffolding, cutting corners simply isn’t an option. Taking the time to inspect your equipment before you begin a job is a minimum requirement, and is something you must do to avoid lengthy (and costly) repairs and replacements in the long run – not to mention protecting the safety of your employees.
Before you begin, make sure to look at each individual pole, bracket and base to check they’re up to the right standards. If you unpack the scaffolding supplies and notice split toe boards, for instance, you’ll know the equipment isn’t suitable for use. Ideally, you should also be able to obtain a log book from the scaffolding companies you hire from. This will contain any noticeable problems they had when using the scaffolding, or anything to be aware of when erecting or disabling the frame.
Once the scaffolding has been put up you should continue to inspect the structure every morning before the shift begins, and should keep your own record of:
Deterioration of toe boards and planks
Erosion of scaffolding poles
Damaged or broken handrails
Impaired braces and clamps.
Keeping your own inspection record will not only be extremely helpful for the next company who hires the scaffolding, but will also encourage you and your team to pay better attention to the condition of the equipment.
Check the safety of your employees
When you’re responsible for a team of scaffolders, protecting their safety should always be within your best interests. Of course, your staff will have undergone thorough training, and will therefore already know the relevant safety rules and regulations of working on a building site. However, it’s always a good idea to carry out your own checks to ensure they’re doing all they can do to prevent accidents.
Every member of staff should also be fully dressed in the right personal protective equipment (PPE). This includes:
A hard hat – Falling debris can be an issue on every building site, but this is even more of a hazard when you’re working high up. Cracked tiles, dropped equipment and even falling gravel can all make an impact, and without a hard hat you’re especially vulnerable to bumped heads and even worse.
Non-slip boots – From bricks to hammers, construction sites are full of heavy items that can cause a huge amount of damage to unprotected feet. Thick, sturdy boots can keep your toes safe, not to mention preventing them from getting wet in the British weather. They should also have non-slip qualities to keep workers from skidding on wet surfaces and minimise the chances of them falling from raised platforms.
Safety harness – If there’s a chance of your employees falling from height, they should be equipped with a safety harness to reduce the risk of serious harm. However, make sure not to attach the harness to the construction scaffolding itself, as this could cause the structure to become unstable and unsafe for other employees.
Follow guidelines set out by scaffolding companies
As with anything on a construction site, following the guidelines set out by the manufacturer is the safest way to build and use your scaffolding. The guidelines will be different depending on what type of structure you’re using, whether it’s a trestle scaffold or a suspended scaffold, and are there to help you work safely and efficiently. Ignoring the advice of the experts will increase your risk of accidents, so make sure to consider these general safety guidelines:
Include ladder access – you don’t want your employees having to scale the frame without a ladder.
Don’t overload the scaffold – the frame should be strong enough to support 4 times the intended load.
Cover the frame width with planks – this gives you more space to move around and less chance of falling.
Install toe boards – Failing to install toe boards makes it easier for you to accidentally kick tools and debris off the scaffolding, threatening the safety of the people below.
DH Scaffold Services: Scaffolding services for professionals in the construction industry.
When you’re working with scaffolding, the safety of yourself and your employees should never be a second thought. At DH Scaffold Services, we understand the factors involved in the safe use of scaffolding supplies, no matter how small or large your project is. We’re a specialist scaffold design company committed to supplying the whole of the UK with first-rate construction solutions from our Sheffield-based HQ.
Whether you’re in need of quotations and surveys, design packages or “as built” scaffolding near you, we have the professionalism and the expertise to deliver great results every time. For more information, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our friendly team today.