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Written by
on 13 October 2015


You’d think that being a pretty long way from the solid ground would be reason enough to make sure you’re as safe as possible, right?

Because unless your job description includes daredevil stunts, taking a trip or a fall from above is probably something you’d want to avoid.

But it seems this piece of obvious common-sense isn’t quite as obvious to everyone.

And when a very concerned member of the public saw workers moving about on a fifteen-metre high scaffold, clearly without proper safety measures – the HSE had to step in, and served the firm in question a Prohibition Notice.

You’ll find all the full details here. And there’s an important lesson to be learnt for all scaffolders out there – scaffolding really isn’t something to play games or cut corners with!

So what did the firm in question do wrong – and what should you be paying attention to?

Protect your workers – and prevent falls

One of the most important things to consider when you’re putting up any kind of scaffolding?

Protect your workers from falling! This firm blatantly had nothing in place to keep workers safe, despite being at a considerable height. With the serious breach of safety caught on camera and video, there was no room for making excuses.

While this firm had been lucky and no accidents had happened – you really don’t want to rely on luck to keep you safe.

Instead, an advanced guard rail system should be put up, while the scaffolding is being erected.

Because these guard units are put in and locked in place before the platform is raised to its level, it means that there is a safety measure already in place, right from the start. Once these are fitted, permanent guard rails can be installed – while staying safe all the while.

But even if it’s not possible to have a guard rail system in place, that doesn’t mean you’re off the hook. At the bare minimum, workers should still have safety harnesses to stop a fall from happening.

Making sure all constructed towers are stable

Don’t underestimate stability – even if you do have guard rails in place!

If the tower isn’t on firm ground, or if the base plates aren’t properly supported, then guard rails alone won’t keep you safe, when it’s potentially at risk of collapsing.

You should also make sure that all parts of the tower scaffold are secure – if any part is left out, it could compromise the safety of the whole thing!

Make sure there’s a competent supervisor present

Any part of working with a scaffold – from designing it to erecting, altering and dismantling it – should be done under the expert direction of a competent supervisor.

You should also make sure that a thorough workplace risk assessment is done – taking into consideration not just the workers that are going to be using the scaffold, but member of the public too!

Remember that unstable scaffolds, falling debris and collapsing towers can post a serious risk to the people around them too – so precautions need to be taken to prevent them from getting hurt.

Your takeaway points

  • make sure you have proper measures in place to protect workers from falling
  • this can include fitting in an advanced guard rail system before the platform is put up, or wearing safety harnesses
  • make sure the tower scaffold is properly secure and stable at all times
  • always carry out a complete risk assessment to make sure all hazards have been considered

Are you a scaffolder or working in construction? Got any questions about staying safe with scaffolding? Give us a shout!

A chartered (fellow) safety and risk management practitioner with 20+ years of experience. David provides a healthy dose of how-to articles, advice and guidance to make compliance easier for construction professionals, Architects and the built environment. Get social with David on Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin.

  • The old fashioned AoFAQ way of working restricted trainers by only offering Fixed syllabus courses which are no longer fit for purpose due to the HSE de-regulation of the first aid training sector. Accredited certificates provide only a basic entry level standard of training which created a poor quality of training output which restricted trainers from delivering common sense as part of their courses.

  • Chris Seaman says:

    Great article. Scaffolding injuries are way to common. There are smarter options available. The X-Deck combines the simplicity of a ladder with the safety and stability of scaffolding. It is a safety award winning work platform.

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