How to be safe with scaffolding: a HANDS HQ guide

by Alex on February 26, 2014

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Photo: Elliott Brown
Another week, another injury caused by faulty scaffolding. This time a 70-year-old bricklayer from Lincoln was left permanently paralysed from the waist down after a three metre fall from a poorly-constructed scaffolding structure. This kind of event is common, so how can tradesmen prevent future accidents related to scaffolding?

Let’s look at the specific incident for some hints at how to improve safety when working at height. In this case, the scaffolding was erected by the builder who had sub-contracted the now wheelchair-bound. The Work at Height Regulations 2005 state that scaffolding should be designed, erected and dismantled by qualified workers only under the direction of a competent supervisor. According to HSE investigators, the builder had had no experience of erecting scaffolding and failed to check that the structure was safe for use.

This kind of failure shows a severe lack of planning, since a safe plan of work would have involved checking the safety of the scaffolding and erecting it in a controlled manner. Using HANDS HQ, a tradesman can easily avoid this kind of oversight by creating a detailed method statement in minutes with our online tools. With a solid plan of work, workers can start the job knowing that their project has been set out in a safe and methodical way.

The builder also provided poor edge protection, poor ladder safety, and insufficient access to the scaffolding. Falling from scaffolds and ladders during use is a substantial risk when working at height. Responsible tradesmen should be filling out risk assessments identifying potential hazards, particularly since falls from height accounted for almost a third of construction fatalities in 2012/13. HANDS HQ provides pre-formatted templates so you can quickly create risk assessment documents, and our hazard library means you can find appropriate control measures to deal with on-site problems.

While writing RAMS documents and ensuring hazard mitigation can be time-consuming, it is important to remember that unsafe work endangers both workers and employers. As a result of his failings, the builder was fined almost £3,000 and sentenced to four months in prison, albeit with a suspension of 18 months.

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