Scaffolding safety

Scaffolding Safety


Every year nearly 100 fatalities and 10,000 injuries occur world over on scaffolds despite numerous safety regulations aimed to prevent such incidents. If you work on scaffolding, you must be able to recognize the hazards associated with the type of scaffold you are using, and know what to do when you recognize something that just isn’t safe. There are a number of different scaffold types, having different rules and regulations surrounding their assembly, fall protection requirements, & inspection procedures.

An estimated 2.3 million construction workers, or 65% of the construction industry, work on scaffolds frequently. Protecting these workers from scaffold-related accidents would prevent 4,500 injuries & 75 deaths every year, at a savings for employers of $90 million in workdays not lost. In a recent BLS study, seventy-two percent of workers injured in scaffold accidents attributed the accident either to the planking or support giving way, or to the employee slipping or being struck by a falling object. All of these can be controlled by compliance with Building and Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Condition of Service) Act, 1996 and Central Rules, 1998.


A scaffold is a temporary structure specifically erected to support access or working platforms. Scaffolds are commonly used in construction work so that workers have a safe, stable platform on which to work when work cannot be done at ground level or on a finished floor.

Scaffolds, once properly erected, are a control measure to prevent the risk of persons and objects falling when working at height.

Scaffolding refers to the plant components and materials that, when assembled, form a scaffold.

Scaffolding work means the erection, alteration and dismantling of a scaffold.

Scaffolding work that involves scaffold from which a person or object could fall more than four meters is classified as ‘high risk work’ under the WHS Regulations for which a license is required.

Risk with scaffolds :

Some examples of the hazards associated with work involving the erection, use, maintenance, alteration and dismantling of scaffolds include:

  • scaffolding collapse (before, during and after placement of the scaffold)
  • manual tasks.
  • work near overhead electric lines
  • mobile plant and other workplace traffic
  • mixing components from different scaffold systems (for example, do not mix aluminum tubing with steel tubing)
  • falls from heights
  • falling objects

Assessing the risks

When assessing risks relating to scaffolds you should consider things such as:

  • the type of scaffold to be used
  • the height of the scaffold to be erected
  • the scheduling of the scaffolding work
  • the layout of the workplace, including proximity to public areas
  • the surface on which the scaffold will be erected (ground conditions, the structural integrity of the surface to support the scaffold and its load)
  • the number of people involved
  • plant and equipment that will be used on or near the scaffold
  • the skill and competencies required to erect, use, maintain, alter and dismantle the scaffold
  • what exposures might occur, such as noise or ultraviolet (UV) radiation
  • local weather conditions, particularly wind forces.

Controlling the risks

The ways of controlling risks are ranked from the highest level of protection and reliability to the lowest. This ranking is known as the hierarchy of control measures. The duty holder must always aim to eliminate a hazard first. If this is not reasonably practicable, the risk must be minimized by using one or more of the following:

  • Substitution – for example:
    • use mechanical aids such as cranes, hoists, pallet jacks or trolleys to move equipment and materials wherever possible instead of manual lifting.
    • use scaffold systems which are made of lighter weight materials and use modern technologies, for example, modular systems which have shorter standard lengths or systems that are made of aluminum rather than steel or timber
  • Isolation – for example, use concrete barriers to separate pedestrians and powered mobile plant to reduce the risk of collision.
  • Engineering controls – for example, provide a catch platform to prevent falling objects hitting workers or other persons below the work area.

If risk remains it must be minimized by implementing administrative controls, so far as is reasonably practicable. For example store scaffolding components as close as practical to the work area in order to minimize the distance over which loads are manually moved. Clear access ways should also be ensured so that materials and equipment can be easily accessed.

 Any remaining risk must be minimized with suitable personal protective equipment (PPE), such as providing workers with hard hats, hearing protectors and high visibility vests.

Types of Scaffolds

There are many different types of scaffolds used . The three major categories are:

  • Self-supporting scaffolds
  • Suspension scaffolds
  • Special use scaffolds

Supported scaffolds consist of one or more platforms supported by outrigger beams, brackets, poles, legs, uprights, posts, frames, or similar rigid support. Because frame scaffolds are the most common type of supported scaffold. 

The types of self-supporting scaffolds include:

  • Frame scaffold
  • Manually propelled/ Mobile scaffold
  • Pump jack scaffold
  • Tube coupler scaffold
  • Ladder jack scaffold
  • Pole scaffold
  • Specialty scaffold

Suspended scaffolds are platforms suspended by ropes, or other non-rigid means, from an overhead structure. Because two-point scaffolds are the most common type of suspended scaffold.

  • Single-Point Adjustable scaffold(Boatswain’s Chairs)
  • Two-Point Adjustable scaffold(Swing Stage)
  • Multiple-Point Adjustable scaffold
  • Multi-Level scaffold
  • Catenary scaffold
  • Float (Ship) scaffold
  • Interior Hung scaffold
  • Needle Beam scaffold

Special use scaffolds and assemblies are capable of supporting their own weight and at least 4 times the maximum intended load. The types of special use scaffolds include:

  • Form and Carpenter Bracket
  • Roof Bracket
  • Outrigger
  • Pump Jack
  • Ladder Jack
  • Window Jack
  • Horse
  • Crawling Boards
  • Step, Platforms, and Trestle Ladder

Supported scaffolds:

Supported scaffolds consist of one or more platforms supported by outrigger beams, brackets, poles, legs, uprights, posts, frames, or similar rigid support. Because frame scaffolds are the most common type of supported scaffold.

Frame or Fabricated:

Frame or FabricatedFabricated frame scaffolds are the most common type of scaffold because they are versatile, economical, and easy to use. They are frequently used in one or two tiers by residential contractors, painters, etc., but their modular frames can also be stacked several stories high for use on large-scale construction jobs. NOTE: Except where indicated, the same basic scaffold requirements that appear in this module also apply to manually propelled, pump jack, ladder jack, tube and coupler, and pole scaffolds, as well as the specialty scaffolds described in Supported Scaffolds. Additional requirements for these scaffolds can be found in their respective modules. The number one scaffold hazard is worker falls. Fall protection consists of either personal fall-arrest systems or guardrail systems, and must be provided on any scaffold 10 feet or more above a lower level. Specific requirements are described below.


MobileMobile scaffolds are a type of supported scaffold set on wheels or casters. They are designed to be easily moved and are commonly used for things like painting and plastering, where workers must frequently change position.Scaffolds must be plumb, level, and squared.All brace connections must be secured.To prevent movement of the scaffold while it is being used in a stationary position, scaffold casters and wheels must be locked with positive wheel locks Platforms must not extend beyond the base supports of the scaffold, unless stability is ensured by outrigger frames Leveling of the scaffold, where necessary, must be achieved by the use of screw jacks.

Pump Jack

Pump JackPump jacks are a uniquely designed scaffold consisting of a platform supported by move able brackets on vertical poles. The brackets are designed to be raised and lowered in a manner similar to an automobile jack. Pump jacks are appealing for certain applications because they are easily adjusted to variable heights, and are relatively inexpensive.Pump jack brackets, braces, and accessories must be fabricated from metal plates and angles.Each pump jack bracket must have two positive gripping mechanisms to prevent any failure or slippage. When bracing already installed has to be removed so the pump jack can pass, an additional brace must be installed approximately 4 feet above the original brace before it is removed. The additional brace must be left in place until the pump jack has been moved and the original brace reinstalled.

Tube and Coupler

Tube and CouplerTube and coupler scaffolds are so-named because they are built from tubing connected by coupling devices. Due to their strength, they are frequently used where heavy loads need to be carried, or where multiple platforms must reach several stories high. Their versatility, which enables them to be assembled in multiple directions in a variety of settings, also makes them hard to build correctly. When platforms are being moved to the next level, the existing platform must be left undisturbed until the new bearers have been set in place. Braced before receiving the new platform.The use of couplers made from gray cast iron is prohibited. Tube and coupler scaffolds over 125 feet in height must be designed by a registered professional engineer.

Ladder Jack

Ladder JackA ladder jack scaffold is a simple device consisting of a platform resting on brackets attached to a ladder. Ladder jacks are primarily used in light applications because of their portability and cost effectiveness. All ladders used to support ladder jack scaffolds must comply with-Stairways and Ladders. Ladder jacks must be designed and constructed to bear on the side rails and ladder rungs. Ladders used to support ladder jack scaffolds must be placed to prevent slipping fastened to prevent slipping and or equipped with devices to prevent slipping.

Pole or Wood Pole

Pole or Wood PolePole scaffolds are a type of supported scaffold in which every structural component, from uprights to braces to platforms, is made of wood. OSHA has standards for two kinds: single-pole, which are supported on their interior side by a structure or wall, and double-pole, which are supported by double uprights independent of any structure.Because they have to be built from scratch and cannot easily be reused, pole scaffolds are considered old-fashioned and are rarely used today.When platforms are moved to the next level, the existing platform must be left undisturbed until the new bearers have been set in place and braced. Pole scaffolds over 60 feet in height must be designed by a registered professional engineer.

Specialty and Other Scaffolds

Specialty and Other ScaffoldsMany scaffold types regulated by OSHA standards are rarely used, and designed for a very narrow and specific range of applications. Requirement for these specialty scaffolds are addressed on this page. Scaffolds must not be more than 10 feet or two tiers in height, whichever is less.Scaffold platforms must be placed no higher than the second-highest rung or step of the ladder supporting the platform.

Suspended scaffolds:

Suspended scaffolds are platforms suspended by ropes, or other non-rigid means, from an overhead structure. Because two-point scaffolds are the most common type of suspended scaffold.

Catenary scaffold:

Catenary - image points out the struture above, vertical pickups hanging below the structure, and the platform hanging from the vertical pickups using by hook stops and anchored wire rope

A catenary scaffold is a scaffold consisting of a platform supported by two essentially horizontal and parallel ropes attached to structural members of a building or other structure.Platforms supported by wire rope must have hook-shaped stops on each of the platform to prevent them from slipping off the wire ropes. These hooks must be positioned so that they prevent the platform from falling if one of the horizontal wire ropes breaks. Wire ropes must not be over-tightened to the point that a scaffold load will overstress them. Wire ropes must be continuous and without splices between anchors.Each employee on a catenary scaffold must be protected by a personal fall-arrest system.

Interior Hung

Interior HungAn interior hung suspension scaffold consists of a platform suspended from the ceiling or roof structure by fixed-length supports.Interior hung scaffolds must be suspended from roof structures (e.g., ceiling beams).Roof structures must be inspected for strength before scaffolds are erected.Suspension ropes/cables must be connected to overhead supports by shackles, clips, thimbles, or equivalent means.

Multi-point Adjustable:

Multi-point AdjustableA multi-point adjustable scaffold consists of a platform (or platforms) suspended by more than two ropes from overhead supports and equipped with means to raise and lower the platform(s) to desired work levels. An example of this type of scaffold is a chimney hoist, used in chimney-cleaning operations.Multi-point adjustable scaffolds must be suspended from metal outriggers,brackets,wire rope slings,hooks or means that meet equivalent criteria for strength, durability, etc.When two or more scaffolds are used they must not be bridged together unless design allows them to be connected,bridge connections are articulated and hoists are properly sized.

Single-point Adjustable

Single-point AdjustableA single-point adjustable scaffold consists of a platform suspended by one rope from an overhead support and equipped with means to permit the movement of the platform to desired work levels. The most common among these is the scaffold used by window washers to clean the outside of a skyscraper (also known as a boatswain's chair).The supporting rope between the scaffold and the suspension device must be kept vertical unless designed by a qualified person, accessible to rescuers,protected from rubbing during direction changes.

Float (ship)

Float (ship)A float, or ship, scaffold is a suspension scaffold consisting of a braced platform resting on two parallel bearers and hung from overhead supports by ropes of fixed length.Platforms must be supported by and securely fastened to a minimum of two bearers extending at least 6 inches beyond the platform on both connections must not allow the platform to shift or slip.When only two ropes are used with each float Ropes must be arranged to provide four ends that are securely fastened to overhead supportsand Each employee on a float (ship) scaffold must be protected by a personal fall-arrest system.


Multi-levelA multi-level scaffold is a two-point or multi-point adjustable suspension scaffold with a series of platforms at various levels resting on common stirrups.Multi-level suspended scaffolds must be equipped with additional independent support lines that are equal in number to the number of points supported,equal in strength to the suspension ropes and rigged to support the scaffold if the suspension ropes fail. Independent support lines and suspension ropes must not be anchored to the same points. Supports for platforms must be attached directly to support stirrups (not to other platforms).

Needle Beam

Needle BeamThis simple type of scaffold consists of a platform suspended from needle beams, usually attached on one end to a permanent structural member. Scaffold support beams must be installed on edge.Ropes or hangers must be used for supports. Ropes must be securely attached to needle beams. Support connections must be arranged to prevent the needle beam from rolling or becoming displaced.Platform units must be attached by bolts or equivalent means. Cleats and overhang are not considered adequate means of attachment.

Two-point (swing stage) Electrical Hazards

Two-point adjustable suspension scaffolds, also known as swing-stage scaffolds, are perhaps the most common type of suspended scaffold. Hung by ropes or cables connected to stirrups at each end of the platform, they are typically used by window washers on skyscrapers, but play a prominent role in high-rise construction as well. The safe use of a suspended scaffold begins with secure anchorage. The weight of the scaffold and its occupants must be supported by both the structure to which it is attached and by each of the scaffold components that make up the anchorage system.Adjustable suspension scaffolds are designed to be raised and lowered while occupied by workers and materials, and must be capable of bearing their load whether stationary or in motion.Because the platform is the work area of a suspended scaffold, an inspection requires safety checks of both the platform structure and how the platform is used by the workers. Even if a suspended scaffold has been assembled in compliance with every applicable standard, employers and workers must continue to exercise caution and use sound work practices to assure their safety. Extreme weather, excessive loads, or damage to structural components can all affect a scaffold's stability.

Scaffold structure:

The scaffold designer will be responsible for selecting the appropriate scaffolding and preparing a scaffold design for the job. They design the scaffold installation.

The scaffold designer should consider:

  • the intended use of the scaffold.
  • hazards and risks for people who erect, dismantle, use or are near the scaffold.
  • the foundations including ground conditions.
  • the load bearing capacity of the surface where the scaffold is to be erected or the suspension systems for hung or suspended scaffolds.
  • dead loads e.g. resulting from the size and weight of the scaffold
  • live loads e.g. workers, plant and material on the scaffold.
  • environmental loads e.g. wind loads.
  • bracing, tying and anchors—where anchors will be placed on the supporting structure and types of anchors to be used.
  • supporting structures.
  • edge protection.
  • protection against falls and falling objects
  • containment sheeting, and
  • safe entry and exit.

Where necessary, improved scaffold stability may be achieved by:

  • tying the scaffold to a supporting structure.
  • guying to a supporting structure.
  • increasing the dead load by securely attaching counterweights near the base, and
  • adding bays to increase the base dimension.

Scaffolds should be designed by a competent person, for example a person holding a relevant scaffolding high risk work licence.

System of work:

Systems of work should be clear but flexible to meet changing circumstances as the work progresses. The system of work should provide for the assessment and control of any new risks arising from proposed changes to the work before they are implemented.

A documented safe system of work is an administrative control. For scaffolding work this could include consideration of:

  • worker competency and licensing requirements.
  • consultation and coordination of the work with others.
  • access and exit.
  • exclusion zones.
  • permit-to-work systems.
  • fall arrest systems.
  • inspection and maintenance.
  • emergency arrangements, and
  • changes to the work arrangements.

Competency and licensing:

A person who erects, alters or dismantles any scaffold must be competent to do the work safely.

A person undertaking scaffolding work must hold the relevant class of scaffolding high risk work license as required by the WHS Regulations. The scaffolding high risk work license classes are:

Basic scaffolding license—required for scaffolding work involving:

  • modular or prefabricated scaffolds
  • cantilevered materials hoists with a maximum working load of 500 kilograms
  • ropes
  • gin wheels
  • fall arrest systems including safety nets and static lines, and
  • bracket scaffolds (tank and formwork).

Intermediate scaffolding licence—required for scaffolding work involving:

  • cantilevered crane loading platforms
  • cantilevered scaffolds
  • spur scaffolds
  • barrow ramps and sloping platforms
  • scaffolding associated with perimeter safety screens and shutters
  • mast climbing work platforms, and
  • tube and coupler scaffolds including tube and coupler covered ways and gantries.

Advanced scaffolding license—required for scaffolding work involving:

  • cantilevered hoists
  • hung scaffolds including scaffolds hung from tubes, wire ropes or chains, and
  • suspended scaffolds.

Where a person undertakes construction work they must have successfully completed general construction induction training.

A person who erects, alters or dismantles a scaffold where there is a risk of a person or object falling four metres or less from the platform or structure does not require a high risk work licence. This sort of work may involve tasks like erecting a small frame scaffold to repair the eaves of  house or to paint a ceiling. These types of scaffolds are not generally used to provide a work platform at a height in excess of one storey or for use by many workers at once.

Scaffolding plan:

Where required, the work method to safely erect, use and dismantle a scaffold. It is not required a scaffolding plan will help identify ways to protect people who are:

  • erecting, using, maintaining, altering and dismantling the scaffold, and
  • near the scaffold or scaffolding work e.g. other workers and members of the public.

For more complex scaffolds a scaffolding plan should be prepared by a competent person. In preparing a scaffolding plan the person should consult with a range of other people relevant to the work and workplace, for example:

  • the scaffold designer e.g. to discuss the design loads and the capability of the structure to support extra loadings
  • the scaffolding contractor or builder—this may be the person conducting a business or undertaking or a principal contractor—e.g. to assess where underground drains or pits and underground services are located. The work should be planned to avoid excavating service trenches under, through or adjacent to scaffolds.
  • workers, work health and safety committees and health and safety representatives regarding erecting, maintaining, altering and dismantling the scaffold.
  • other competent people familiar with similar structures e.g. an engineer or a person holding an intermediate or advanced scaffolding high risk work licence, and
  • the electricity supply authority if the scaffold is being erected near overhead electric lines.

The scaffolding plan should include a site layout plan and detail the elevations and sections of the scaffold. It should be kept at the workplace if reasonably practicable, or be readily accessible near the scaffold should it be required. The scaffolding plan should address:

  • basis of design
  • type of scaffold
  • foundations including ground conditions
  • the weight bearing capacity of the surface where the scaffold is to be erected
  • dead loads e.g. resulting from the size and weight of the scaffold
  • live and environmental loads e.g. wind loads
  • containment sheeting
  • supporting structures
  • entry and exit
  • tying and anchors—where anchors will be placed on the supporting structure and types of anchors
    to be used
  • bracing, and
  • edge protection.

Scaffold erection:

The following safe work practices should be used when erecting a scaffold:

  • Develop and follow a methodical work sequence—e.g.  scaffolding plan.
  • Scaffold fittings and other connections should be securely tightened where required. Fittings should be in accordance with the manufacturer’s or designer’s specifications and the scaffolding plan.
  • Scaffolding including all bracing and ties, guy ropes or buttresses should be installed as the scaffold is erected.
  • Consider using specifically designed loading platforms or back propping to prevent overloading the building floor or the scaffold.
  • Get certification from a competent person before erecting scaffold on awnings.
  • Check live loads arising from the work of erecting or dismantling the scaffold are within the specification for the final design—the number of workers on the scaffold at any one time may need to be limited.
  • Work from a full deck of planks whenever possible.
  • Do not overload scaffold bays with scaffolding awaiting installation.
  • Do not climb on guardrails to gain extra height.
  • Do not climb on outside of scaffold.
  • Implement measures to control the risk of a fall if the internal gap—the gap between the inner edge of the length of the platform and the face of the building or structure immediately beside the platform—on scaffolds including hanging bracket scaffolds is greater than 225 mm. For example, install:
  1. edge protection, and
  2. extra scaffold planks to minimise the size of the internal gap.

An example of scaffold erection is shown in Figure 2. In this example the scaffold is being erected against an existing building so guardrails are only needed on external faces. Access ladders and toe boards have been omitted for clarity.

Tying and anchoring

Tie methods and spacing should be in accordance with the manufacturer, designer or supplier instructions. Consult the scaffold designer, manufacturer, supplier or an engineer if it is not practical
to position the ties in accordance with the instructions.

Control measures for tying scaffold include:

  • Using more ties if:
  1. the scaffold is sheeted or netted due to increased wind loadings
  2. it is used as a loading platform for materials or equipment, and
  3. lifting appliances or rubbish chutes are attached.
  • Regularly inspecting scaffold ties to check they are not modified or altered by unauthorised people  e.g. finishing trades who may loosen, relocate or remove ties to gain access to walls and openings.
  • Not attaching extra loads to the scaffold e.g. signs and perimeter containment screens, without first consulting a competent person like the scaffold design engineer or the supplier.
  • Using cast-in anchors or through bolts that pass through a wall in preference to expansion
    or chemical anchors for securing scaffold ties because of possible failure due to faulty tensioning or chemical adhesion.
  • Deformation-controlled anchors, thread cutting anchors and insert type anchors should not be used.
  • Drill-in expansion anchors should be limited to the load (torque) controlled type—the working load limit (WLL) should be limited to 65 percent of the ‘first slip load’ stated in the information provided by the supplier.
  • All drill-in expansion anchors should be installed using a torque wrench set to the required torque, unless the anchor has an in-built torque indicator. Documented verification should be kept on site stating:
  1. the anchor setting torque
  2. install date, and
  3. location and name of the competent person installing the anchors.
  • Where chemical anchors are used, all anchors should be tested and proof loaded to the working load multiplied by a factor of 1.25.
  • All insert anchors including expansion and chemical anchors should have a safety factor of 3 to 1 on their failure load. If any anchors fail the remaining anchors on the same level should be tested.
  • Ties should not obstruct access along the working and access platforms.
  • Ties should interconnect with both the inner and outer scaffold standards unless otherwise specified by an engineer to increase the rigidity of the scaffold.
  • Ties from scaffold to structure should be designed to be non-pivoting and fully secured to ensure they cannot be loosened.

Working platforms:

Working platforms, except suspended scaffolds, should have duty classifications and dimensions complying with the manufacturer’s information on loadings. Scaffold working platforms are generally rated as light, medium or heavy duty:

  • Light Duty – up to 225 kg per platform per bay including a concentrated load of 120 kg. Platforms should be at least two traditional scaffold planks wide—approximately 450 mm. Use examples include painting, electrical work, many carpentry tasks and other light tasks.
  • Medium Duty – up to 450 kg per platform per bay including a concentrated load of 150 kg. Platforms should be at least four traditional scaffold planks wide—approximately 900 mm. Use examples include general trades work like tiling and light steel framing.
  • Heavy Duty – up to 675 kg per platform per bay including a concentrated load of 200 kg. Platforms should be at least 1000 mm wide. This duty scaffold is needed for concrete block laying, bricklaying, concreting, demolition work and most other tasks involving heavy loads or heavy impact forces.
  • Special Duty – has a designated allowable load as designed.

Each scaffold should be designed to carry the required number of working platforms and to support the dead and live loads. Where tools or materials are to be used or stored on working platforms, an unobstructed access width of at least 450 mm should be maintained.

Scaffold planks on working platforms should:

  • have a slip-resistant surface
  • not be cracked or split
  • be of uniform thickness
  • be secure—so it cannot be kicked off or susceptible to uplift or displacement during normal use
  • be positioned so no single gap between planks exceeds 10 mm, and
  • not be lapped on straight runs of modular and tube and coupler scaffolding but may be lapped on hanging bracket scaffolds where butting of planks at a pair of brackets cannot be achieved.

Lapped scaffold planks may sometimes be used to cover gaps around corners of scaffold. These planks should be safely secured. In some circumstances they may not need to be secured provided the following are met:

  • timber is lapped over metal planks
  • planks are 1.2 metres long or greater
  • plank overlap—past the edge of the plank underneath—is 300 mm or greater, and
  • standards prevent planks from moving sideways on the scaffold.

In these cases wind forces should be considered and if wind is a potential hazard then the lapping planks should be secured.

If using plywood sheets to cover gaps between scaffold bays the plywood sheets should be:

  • a minimum of 17 mm thick
  • only used to cover gaps less than 500 mm wide unless approved by an engineer, and
  • secured.

Metal planks lapped on other metal planks should be secured using fixings, for eg  metal strapping. Tie wire or another system not structurally rated should not be used to secure planks on hop-up brackets.

More generally:

  • Planks should be secured.
  • Each hop-up bracket should be provided with tie bars unless constructed with scaffold planks locked into position to stop brackets from spreading apart or causing planks to dislodge unless otherwise specified by the scaffold designer.
  • The overhang of planks which are supported by putlogs should be greater than 150 mm but less than 250 mm—otherwise uplift might occur.
  • Avoid nailing or screwing laminated planks into position unless otherwise specified by the manufacturer. Moisture penetrating the planks can cause damage and may not be easily detected.

Dismantling a scaffold safely

The following safe work practices should be used when dismantling a scaffold:

  • Edge protection and a way to enter the scaffold can be removed as the scaffold is dismantled, provided it is removed at the last possible stage.
  • Where possible a platform of at least 450 mm wide at the level the dismantling has reached should be in place.
  • Ensure when dismantling the scaffold the platform immediately below the level the worker is standing on has a full set of planks across its width and is no lower than 2 metres.
  • A section of the scaffold may be left open to allow the lowering of planks or other scaffolding
    between levels.
  • Scaffolding should never be dropped in an uncontrolled way when dismantling the scaffold.

Altering a scaffold:

When altering a scaffold you should:

  • consult the scaffold designer before making alterations.
  • ensure scaffold alterations are in accordance with the scaffolding plan.
  • ensure alterations do not compromise the structural integrity of the scaffold, and
  • ensure systems are in place to identify unauthorised interference with the scaffold e.g. regular inspections.

Inspecting scaffolds:

Procedures should be developed for inspecting and maintaining the scaffold and scaffolding to ensure the scaffold is safe to use and remains in a safe condition.

For suspended, cantilevered, spur and hung scaffolds and any other scaffold from which a person or thing could fall more than 4 metres:

  • the scaffold must not be used unless there is written confirmation from a competent person that they have inspected the scaffold and construction of the scaffold is complete.
  • the scaffold and its supporting structure must be inspected by a competent person:
  1. before the scaffold is used after an incident has occurred that might affect the stability of the scaffold
  2. before the scaffold is used after repairs
  3. at least every 30 days
  • if an inspection indicates that a scaffold or its supporting structure creates a risk to health or safety:
  1. any necessary repairs, alterations and additions must be made, and
  1. the scaffold and its supporting structure are inspected by a competent person before the scaffold is used, and
  • unauthorised access to the scaffold is prevented while the scaffold is incomplete or unattended.

Scaffolds with a fall risk of less than 4 metres should also be inspected before use and after any incident, repair, alteration or addition.

Inspecting scaffolds and scaffolding at a workplace is particularly important when the scaffold is in place for a long period of time. An example of a scaffold inspection checklist is at Appendix A.

Handover inspections:

Once a scaffold has been erected a handover inspection should be completed to check that the scaffold is safe to use. Where written confirmation from a competent person is required this usually takes the form of a handover certificate. An example is at Appendix B.

If alterations, repairs or additions to the scaffold are required a further inspection should be completed and a new handover certificate provided.

The handover certificate should be kept at the workplace until the scaffold has been dismantled.

Post-handover inspections:

Regular post-handover inspections should be completed once a scaffold is in use. How often these inspections are done will vary depending on the type and size of the scaffold, scaffold use, workplace conditions, the weather and any risk of scaffold collapse.

Scaffold inspections must be completed every 30 days for scaffolds with a fall risk of more than
4 metres. The designer or supplier of the scaffold should be consulted on the intervals for inspection when the scaffold is first installed.

If an inspection identifies a problem with the scaffold, access to the scaffold must be controlled and any necessary repairs, alterations and additions completed. Once the work is complete the scaffold must be inspected again. Where written confirmation from a competent person is required a new handover certificate should be provided.

Regular scaffold maintenance should also include inspections of stored scaffold components as well as those in use. Scaffolding stored in areas exposed to the weather can become corroded. Each item of scaffolding should be inspected before being incorporated into a scaffold.

Inspection records should be kept at the workplace or be readily accessible near the scaffold should they be required. Inspection records should include the location, comments, date and time of inspections, relevant design or specification reference and the person who carried out the inspection


The following should be considered to control risks associated with scaffolds and scaffolding work.
More specific requirements apply to suspended, cantilevered, spur or hung scaffolds and a scaffold from which a person or thing could fall more than 4 metres.

Adjacent buildings or structures

No part of the scaffolding work should adversely affect the structural integrity of other buildings.
You should ensure risks are controlled to prevent injury to people or damage to adjacent buildings
or structures from the:

  • collapse of the scaffold onto an adjacent building or structure, and
  • collapse of an adjacent building or structure, or a part of a building or structure due to scaffolding work or related activities.

Electric lines

Electric lines whether overhead or underground can be a significant hazard. Construction work carried out on or near energised electrical installations or services is high risk construction work.

Entry and exit

Safe entry and exit is required for workers when erecting, using and dismantling a scaffold. Common means of entry and exit include:

  • temporary stairs or ladder access systems installed at the start of erection and progressed with the scaffold.
  • permanently installed platforms or ramps e.g. part of an adjacent building.
  • personnel hoists—non-mechanical forms of exit e.g. a ladder or stair tower should be provided in case of emergency, and
  • the existing floor level of a building if entry from there is safe.

Stairs should be secured to the scaffold bay. If stairs cannot be self-secured to the scaffold they should be lashed. If not secured the designer or supplier should provide documentation showing the maximum amount of clearance allowed between the transom and the top and bottom of the stair module. The gap between the end of a stair module and a transom should be as small as possible. Large gaps can lead to stairs dislodging and falling when a load is placed onto it.


A risk to health and safety associated with a fall by a person from one level to another that is reasonably likely to cause injury to the person or any other person must be managed. Hazards that may increase the risk of falls include:

  • poor environmental conditions like:
  1. strong winds that may cause workers to lose balance
  2. rain causing slippery work surfaces
  3. glare emitted from work surfaces or poor lighting affecting visibility
  • materials, equipment or protruding objects below or in adjoining work areas like:
  1. pallets of construction materials
  2. vertical reinforcing steel
  3. rubbish skips
  4. exposed starter bars
  5. large tools
  • void areas not identified or protected e.g. ladder access voids.
  • incomplete scaffolds or loose scaffolding in areas where work is being done or is likely to be done, and
  • inadequate training, instruction and supervision of scaffold workers.

Passive engineering controls like handrails and edge protection can minimise the risk of a fall during work at height. Catch platforms can be used to minimise the distance a person could fall during work at height and also to catch falling objects.

Fall arrest systems should only be used during the following scaffold activities:

  • Erecting or dismantling drop or hung scaffolds where the scaffold is constructed from top to bottom—this allows for a clear fall zone in the event of a fall.
  • Fixing and removing trolley tracks on suspension rigs.
  • Erecting or dismantling cantilevered needles and decking between the needles. Fall arrest systems could also be used when the first lift of scaffold is erected where workers are standing on the deck between the needles.
  • Erecting and dismantling the first lift of a cantilevered scaffold including the first platform.
  • Attaching and removing spurs projecting from the supporting structure.

Falling objects

Falling object risk control measures include fall arrest platforms, overhead protective structures, perimeter containment screens and exclusion zones to eliminate or minimise the risk of falling objects.

Perimeter containment screens can be made of mesh, high quality shade cloth, timber, plywood, metal sheeting or other suitable material. Before using perimeter containment screening, consider other risks like conductivity of electricity and additional dead and live loads. For example, the extra wind loading on the scaffold should be considered when selecting a screening material and the framework supporting a screen must be able to support loads resulting from the screen.


Ladders may be used where entry to the working platform is needed by only a few people and where tools and equipment can be delivered separately to the working platform, for example by materials hoist, crane or a rope and gin wheel. Ladders used for entry to or exit from a scaffold should be:

  • fixed industrial single ladders—not extensions ladders
  • located within a separate ladder access bay of the scaffold wherever space permits, and
  • set up on a firm, level surface, be securely fixed and not used on scaffold bays to gain extra height above the scaffold structure.

Ground conditions

Ground conditions should be stable and those doing the scaffolding work should be aware of any factors that may affect ground stability before the scaffold is erected or during its use.

Ground conditions should be assessed by a competent person to check the ground is stable and able
to bear the most adverse combination of dead, live and environmental loads that can reasonably be expected during the period the scaffold is to be erected and dismantled and while it is in use.

Water and nearby excavations may lead to ground subsidence and the collapse of a scaffold. Any likely watercourse, for example a recently filled trench that has the potential to create a wash out under the scaffold base should be diverted away from the scaffold.