READ OUR ULTIMATE RESIDENTIAL HEALTH & SAFETY GUIDE FOR SCAFFOLDING
All UK scaffolding companies are obliged to follow certain health and safety standards, including scaffolds provided on residential projects. Homeowners who wish to embark on important renovations work need to be sure that the scaffolding provides a safe environment for their family and the workers during the project.
Safety compliant scaffolds are required for a wide variety of domestic repairs and refurbishments. Some of the more common examples are the replacement of roof tiles, installation of double glazed windows, construction of an extension and repair of guttering.
The standards that apply to the scaffolding industry are set by both government (UK and EU) legislation and long established professional bodies. The relevant regulations and organisations are:
- Health and Safety at Work Act 1974
- The Health and Safety Executive
- The Work at Height Regulations 2005 and the Work at Height (Amendment) Regulations 2007
- The National Access and Scaffolding Confederation
- The Construction Industry Scaffolders Record Scheme.
These laws and bodies apply as much rigorous scrutiny to scaffolding services that are delivered on residential premises as those on commercial or industrial sites. Indeed, there’s an argument to be made that there are particular issues that need to be addressed because people often continue to live in, enter and exit their properties while the work is carried out.
These specific risks need to be assessed and addressed by a professional scaffolder. It is essential that homeowners are able to leave and enter by their front and back doors without fear of being injured. This includes the risk of objects falling on them or tripping over materials left in their gardens.
The risk assessment process also needs to be applied to visitors, any member of the public who walks on to your property (for example, postal delivery workers and meter readers) and neighbours. This last category of people is especially important if you live in a terraced or semi-detached home.
Working at height
The risks of working at height lie in falling from the scaffolding and materials falling/dropping from the working platforms on to people below. The Work at Height Regulations impose obligations on both companies and the self-employed to manage this type of work in a safe and controlled manner.
This legislation has brought in the following important requirements:
- All potential risks of working at height must be identified and minimised
- The use of adequate rails, toe guards and edge protection is required to reduce the hazards associated with falling
- The installation of secure and strong working platforms must bear weight sufficiently
- The circumstances under which ladders may or may not be used should be identified before they are incorporated into any scaffold structure
- Specific content must be included in scaffold inspection reports
- The necessary equipment or systems of work must be adopted to prevent injury caused by items falling to the ground
- Scaffold structures and their use must be properly planned
- The erectors who build the scaffolds must be competent in working at height requirements
- The equipment used to build scaffold platforms must be checked and examined for faults on a regular basis.
These standards must be applied on all domestic scaffold projects. Although the scaffold structures may generally be simpler to construct than, for example, those required on a supermarket build, the health and safety principles essentially remain the same.
Indeed, scaffolders must give careful thought to the solutions needed for roof replacements and double glazing installation. The first scenario demands a safe working platform that allows workers to access both sides of the roof while the second requires load bearing and hoist capacities to manoeuvre heavy materials to the upper level.
Residential scaffolding also requires the use of equipment that meets safety standards. This includes tubes, fittings, platform boards and much more.
The National Access and Scaffolding Confederation issues practice standards, referred to as TG20, to the scaffolding industry to ensure that quality tube and fitting scaffolding is implemented at all times. These cover even the simplest frameworks to facilitate residential projects such as repainting the exterior walls or repairing a few roof tiles.
TG20 essentially provides a definition of safe systems of work when constructing, using and dismantling scaffolding. Some of the issues that the guidance covers are:
- Ease of access along the full length of the working area
- Load bearing capacities on different types of boards on the scaffolding
- More specific information on the differences between sheeted scaffolds and debris netting
- The maximum height allowed for netted and sheeted scaffolds
- Good practice on lift heights
- The appropriate use of light duty scaffolding, which is generally used more often on domestic projects
- Full definition of basic scaffolds, which are also generally more suitable for work on individual homes
- Recommendations on how scaffold inspections should be carried out
- Standards on the ties required on independent scaffolding, which is a structure that needs to be used where people live in listed buildings
- Practice and recommendations on scaffold bracing.
It’s important to note that the Health and Safety Executive recognises the standards set within the TG20 system and states that scaffolding should be configured in line that guidance. The system was actually introduced to improve clarification when compared with the previous BS standards. It did this by covering a wider range of scaffolds and including details of the tests and calculations upon which its standards were based.
When homeowners use a scaffolding company or know that the contractor that they have hired will use one, they should be satisfied that the work will be undertaken in line with the NASC TG20 guidance. Many scaffolding businesses have their own websites so it is fairly easy to check their health and safety standards and how they apply them to residential projects. Good companies will be happy to provide a copy of their health and safety policy and demonstrate its relevance to the work that will be undertaken.
Skills required of scaffolders
It’s equally important that the people who construct the scaffolding have the appropriate qualifications and knowledge of health and safety issues. While the Health and Safety Executive doesn’t prescribe the qualifications that scaffolders must have, it does state that they must demonstrate sufficient competency.
In practice, this means holding a Construction Industry Scaffolders Record Scheme card. The CISRS is recognised within the scaffolding industry as the body to set the standards for professional competence and the training required to achieve it. It provides a full professional development route for scaffolders, from trainee to advanced site supervisor, and provides training on the safe use of new scaffold products that become available. The levels are:
- Trainee – New scaffolders are required to complete the first part of their training (Part 1) within 18 months. They then have a further 18 months to gain the other half of their training (Part 2) and to achieve NVQ/SVQ Level II.
- Scaffolder – These workers must have achieved all of their training as mentioned above and must pass a health and safety test before they can receive their CISRS Scaffolder card.
- Advanced Scaffolder – Scaffolders can progress after having held their Scaffolder card for a year. To do this, they must achieve the relevant NVQ/SVQ Level III qualification and undertake a more stringent health and safety test.
- Supervisor – Supervisors must complete the CISRS 5 Day Supervisory course and the supervisory health and safety test.
The supervisor’s role is a key one in maintaining health and safety. Guidance from the UK Contractors Group states that supervisors must have a good knowledge of health and safety. Interestingly, it also states that proficiency in understanding people’s behaviour and leadership are just as important in ensuring safe working practices on scaffolds. If a homeowner needs a larger piece of work done on their some, such as a two story extension, a supervisor may be required to ensure that the scaffolding is fit for purpose.
The training that the NASC provides includes health and safety awareness, harness training, roof edge protection, risk assessments and method statements. Safe working runs through the entire training and development route for scaffolders, ensuring that it becomes their number one priority.
In terms of health and safety requirements, it’s not always necessary for an advanced scaffolder to work on a residential project. This category of scaffolder is used when more complex scaffold structures are needed – for example, support scaffolds and scaffold design work. However, no trainee scaffolder should be allowed to work unsupervised on any type of scaffolding assembly or disassembly.
Scaffold tower standards
Scaffold towers are a more lightweight construction that are often used on domestic work because they are quick to put together and can be built in a number of different ways. They are far safer than using a ladder to, for example, replace a line of guttering and make the work easier to complete.
The Health and Safety Executive published a factsheet on scaffold towers because accidents do happen on them if they are not built or used correctly. Scaffolding companies must build scaffold towers using a method approved by the Prefabricated Access Suppliers’ and Manufacturers’ Association.
The principles of constructing and using residential scaffold towers are:
- The tower should be placed on flat ground.
- The tower needs to be secured by supported base plates or locked casters.
- It should be built in accordance with the manufacturers’ instructions. If the job requires access to the top ridge of the roof, a scaffold tower probably isn’t the right solution.
- Lighter duty towers shouldn’t be exposed to strong winds, nor should they used to lift heavy materials.
- Access to the tower should be via a ladder built in to the structure.
- Like other scaffolds, towers must have the appropriate rails and edge protection.
- Towers can only be moved from one side of the house to the other if its height is less than 4 metres.
Your scaffolding checklist
In summary, you should ask any scaffolding company the following questions before you select them:
- What experience do you have of providing scaffolding on residential properties?
- Can I see a copy of your health and safety policy and sample risk assessments?
- How do you comply with the NASC TG20 guidance?
- How often do you check the tubes, fittings and boards that you use?
- What qualifications do the scaffolders you will supply hold?
- What safety equipment will you use on my home?
- Can you provide references on the safety of your services?
ICF Scaffolding can provide answers to these questions and any more that potential customers may have. Examples of our quality scaffolding Brighton work demonstrates our commitment to all of the health and safety standards mentioned above.