Falls from heights are one of the most common risks faced by workers in the construction industry. Scaffolding towers are a great way to reduce this risk, since they provide a mobile, vertical level with handrails to stop workers falling. However, these towers are only safe if they follow all the safety guidelines, including time of operation and inspections. In this article, we will be looking at the various factors of tower scaffolding safety.
The Hazards of Scaffolding towers
Although scaffolding towers severely reduce the risks of workers falling from heights, risks still present themselves when operating and using these towers on a regular basis. That’s why scaffolding safety is essential before operation. The most significant hazard occurs from workers falling off the tower, maybe due to instability or structural weakness. This is largely due to factors such as:
- The height of the tower being too great relative to the base
- Failure of stabilisers to operate when required
- Tower movement or operation on soft, unlevel surfaces
- Using towers which aren’t vertical
- Towers not being tied to adjacent structures when they should be
- Careless movement of the tower
- Moving the tower in the face of obstructions such as potholes
- Guardrails or tower boards not being fitted properly
- Working in adverse weather conditions
- Exceeding the safe working load
Pre-arrangements and Erecting the Tower
Before the scaffolding tower arrives, a risk assessment and inspection of the worksite needs to be undertaken by a ‘competent person’. Competent persons are typically those who have undergone training and have sufficient experience to oversee these activities. Once the parts arrive, all need to be inspected and checked over to ensure they are in a good condition. Before erection the ground needs checking for stability. The tower should be resting on firm, level ground. In the event that the only ground available is soft or uneven, you should support the tower with locked castors or base plates, never bricks or building blocks. In some cases, you may require stabilisers. Never erect the tower over its maximum height!
Scaffolding Safety Inspection
Every scaffolding tower needs a thorough inspection before use. This encompasses a series of checks to ensure scaffolding safety. Braces and platforms come first, ensuring they are levelled. Stabilisers need checking to make sure they are sufficiently secure. Have a good look at the base plates or locked castors to make sure they touch the ground firmly. Joints and sockets all need checking to make sure they are secure. Guardrails and toe boards should be checked to see if they are all in position. Stairways and ladder must be firmly in position. When you use the scaffolding tower for work 2 meters above the ground, make sure to re-do this inspection every 7 working days.
Using the Tower
Beyond the checks and procedures, there is also scaffolding safety instructions to be aware of around its use. You should never use a scaffolding tower in strong winds and as a support for other access equipment such as ladders. Same goes for any broken or missing parts, or if the tower has some incompatible components.
In the case of having to move the tower, the height of the tower should not be greater than 4m. Additionally, do pre-operational checks to ensure there are no power lines or obstructions overhead. Move the tower only on firm, level ground. Push or pull the tower manually from the base only.
SEE ALSO: Ladder Safety: Know Your Dos and Don’ts