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GUEST ARTICLE: COMPLIANT SCAFFOLD DESIGN

Scaffold planning and selection issues under spotlight

Guest contributor is Gary Gallagher of Turner Access Ltd, a leading manufacturer and supplier of access equipment, with a product range including aluminium access towers, system scaffolding. Gary examines the “planning and selection required by all parties involved in the use, erection/dismantling, maintenance and audit applicable to scaffolds, towers and falsework.”

SCAFFOLD DESIGN AND THE WORKING AT HEIGHT HIERARCHY

Compliance must be established at the planning stage through selection or approval of the design and guidance to be used to meet what the hierarchy requires.

There are two types of design:

1. Manufacturer/Suppliers published designs which normally cover only basic scaffold configurations. These are generally known as Erection Guides.

2. Specific scheme designs for all scaffold configurations out with those included in the relevant Erection Guides (typical examples of scaffolds requiring specific design are listed on the HSE Scaffold Check List).

Whilst there are many Scaffolding Systems, Towers and Shoring products to choose from, few offer the option of a System of Work (SOW) that fully complies with WAH Regulation 6.3. Indeed, most product guidance does not even provide fall prevention throughout the entire SOW process even for the simplest of configurations. Instead, it features practice dependent upon the use of harnesses in a way that, at best, can only arrest falls.

Unfortunately, SOW processes are often portrayed as collective when they are not, moreover there is a great deal of equivocation surrounding most scaffold product guidance currently available in relation to fall prevention.

To compound the problem, many planners and others responsible for the SOW process selected, do not understand that justification of choice, should be made against what can happen, BEFORE it happens. Selection towards preparation of the scaffold plan and risk assessment should start by identifying what can go wrong and how it can go wrong.

Responsible suppliers will have prepared this for the user for basic scaffold configurations. This would be reflected in their published guidance or proposed in the specific design to be used. Unfortunately many suppliers leave it to the users to address this important statutory requirement and how their particular equipment can be used to meet WAH Regulation 6.3.

However, the joint user and client understanding of the hierarchy is essential, as correctly selecting the most appropriate equipment for work at height makes compliance possible or registers reasoning to possibly justify why safer alternatives required by the WAH hierarchy have been ruled out.

In most instances, users and clients are offered designs detailing practice that involves mitigation at best against falls, i.e., practice relying upon arrest harnesses, with no other choice provided to duty holders. It is worth noting that under CDM, an employee’s (sub-contractor’s) system of work is ultimately also partly owned by the Main Contactor or even the Client.

It is clear that if duty holders (those who plan and control the work of others) understand what is required, they will put themselves in a much better position to make the correct choice at the project planning stage.

Whilst the starting point to it all is product selection “together with” product guidance and design which makes compliance possible, other factors are also important to consider e.g., training, product standards and approvals.

TRAINING

Awareness: Training for planners, supervisors, managers and safety auditors is required to plan, select, organise, supervise and then enforce/audit (that the SOW is being carried out correctly).

Practical: Erection Training is also essential for the erectors. This type of training is additional to most training that has been provided through national schemes until recently, as the concepts are new and different and generally specific to the products or designs provided.

This could include any equipment that can prevent the risk of fall during the complete SOW process, most likely advanced guardrails which may be independent types (additional equipment) or an advanced guardrail type which may be intended as part of the scaffold configuration involved (Integral) when the scaffold is complete.

Evidence of Awareness training for planners, supervisors, managers etc, which includes the collective options which may be selected to achieve compliance and practical assessment for erectors to ensure understanding and check capability may be necessary to prove competence.

ALUMINIUM TOWERS

Aluminium towers are one of the most common forms of scaffold access system used in the UK. Two processes were approved by the HSE and PASMA as options for users in 2004 before the WAHR regulations were introduced.

The fully collective advanced Guardrail option utilizing telescopic Advanced Guardrails features has now been superseded by a new Integral type providing substantial improvement in terms of ease of use, simplicity and efficiency, making the said Industry guidance documents now subject to review.

This is what Judith Hackett Chairperson of the HSE had to say about it when she reviewed this new practice – “The considerable health and safety advances were clearly evident”

PRODUCT STANDARDS AND APPROVALS

The equipment chosen to provide the collective SOW process should also either meet the appropriate product standard directly or if no product standard applies, product testing should have been conducted to the nearest relevant standard and if necessary additional testing in relation to foreseeable use and abuse.

As mentioned, Integral Advanced Guardrails become a permanent part of the structure and should therefore be tested to verify compliance with the appropriate scaffold product standard during erection, use and dismantling. The relevant standards for system scaffolds, Tube & Fitting scaffolds and aluminium towers are as follows:

BS EN 12810: Scaffolds made of prefabricated components.

BS EN 12811: Scaffolds in general.

BS EN 1004: Mobile aluminium towers.

External Advanced Guardrails are “additional” items not covered directly by scaffolding product standards. However, their main Guardrail loading capability should be tested to meet loading requirements of relevant product standards and be fit for purpose.

BS EN 13374 is the edge protection standard.

IMPORTANT REFERENCES
  1. HSE INDG401: Work at Height Regulations 2005 (as amended) guide and Q’s and A’s.
  2. BS 8437: 2005, Code of Practice for selection, use and maintenance of personal fall protection systems and equipment for use in the workplace.
  3. Construction Information Sheet No 10 (Revision 4) and the HSE produced video (Don’t Fall for It) cover Aluminium Towers (under review).
  4. SA-FE CPG 1A: Detailed Erection Guide utilizing “telescopic advanced guardrails” on all of the main Tube & Fittings configurations.
  5. NASC TG20:08 Provides structural design guidance for using Tube & Fittings
  6. NASC SG4:05 and Appendix A, the Interim Guidance published at the end of 2008, provides erection advice in general for Tube & Fittings.
  7. (Section 2 (1) – (4) are most relevant to the aforementioned article.Individual Manufacturer or Supplier Product Erection Guides are required for ALL products out with the generic form of Tube & Fittings, used to make scaffolds.
  8. HSE Scaffold Checklist.

 

Gary Gallagher April 2010

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