The amount of construction work in the UK is ever increasing, with work in both the commercial and residential sectors accelerating as part of a push to modernize living and increase housing options nationally. Naturally this has led to an uplift in the number of scaffolder services required, stretching an industry that is notoriously hard to recruit for even further.
As capacity is stretched it’s little surprise that standards can drop when operating on scaffold, in terms of personal safety and risk management. But what are the common risk factors that commonly occur when the team is busier than ever? Here we cover some of the most common occurrences.
Before you even start a job the most crucial factor is to set out protection to be in place, should the worst occur. Your company should have scaffolding public liability insurance that covers you from common risks, no operation is fool proof and when accidents happen the financial impact of legal claims can be devastating.
Proper Installation & Checks
It goes without saying that scaffolding should only be erected by qualified team members, and only those that sit within your organisation or are subcontracted. The correct design for external scaffolding not only makes future work simpler but also minimises risks to workers, meaning they have access to the building as required without having to stretch or work in awkward situations.
Once the necessary structure has been assembled and signed off for initial use, follow up checks are crucial. At a minimum two checks of structure should take place each day, before and after a shift. Letting components wear down without replacement is one of the most common faults onsite, and these regular checks will verify if defective parts are present and causing potentially dangerous instability.
Keep Clean Working Areas
Trip hazards are extremely common on construction sites. However this means complacency is even harder to avoid, as a typical worker may not be fully tuned into the risks around them on a busy site.
It goes without saying that tripping hazards are even more dangerous when working at height, and it’s not uncommon for site workers to leave anything from materials to buckets on the boards awaiting someone to fall.
Working areas should be cleared as they are worked, to avoid a build up of material that could later cause a safety hazard.
The days of scaffolders working at dizzying heights with no protection should be long gone. That being said, it’s not uncommon for those in the old school, or those without proper training, still climb scaffolding without proper harness protection.
The benefits of a harness shouldn’t need to be explained, and it’s essential to supervise workers to ensure that they are used at all times.
Be Aware Of Guidelines
Working at height on scaffolding often requires the use of heavy equipment or materials. It’s down to the scaffolders to ensure that the necessary weight restrictions are understood by all workers.
Adapt To The Elements
Working outdoors in the height of British summertime is often one of the few perks of a scaffolder’s job. However, for the majority of the year the UK weather sadly lets down those working outside. Nowhere is this more obvious when working at height in the winter, which leads to higher risks to all involved.
Colder weather instantly makes working less comfortable, and all workers should wear necessary insulating clothing such as gloves and scarfs whilst keeping their protective equipment at the same level.
Working surfaces should also be monitored, boards can quickly become slick in the rain and without proper precautions and the correct footwear the danger can quickly escalate.