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by the NFCC



Hazard Knowledge

Scaffolding is used to provide a means of access, working platforms or support to structures.

There are two generic types of scaffolding systems:

  • Tower scaffold – this is an independent scaffold, which is standalone and is often moveable with provision of outriggers for stability 
  • Fixed scaffold – this is formed of tube and fittings or modular systems that lock together and is normally tied or anchored to the structure 

See Building Research Establishment supplementary information for further information about scaffolding.

Different materials and methods are used in scaffolding, depending on the requirement. Not all scaffolding structures are load-bearing; this is considered during the design stage and scaffolding constructed accordingly.

Heat from fire, high winds or structural failure of the building may affect the anchor bolts, fixings or tubing, leading to weakening of failure of the scaffolding. Localised collapse may leave other sections of the scaffolding and structures vulnerable, particularly in wind or where affected by heat from fire. Unstable structures of failure of anchoring can result in progressive collapse.

Scaffolding may also be covered in sheeting or netting to:

  • Prevent falls from height
  • Prevent tools, materials and debris falling
  • Provide a more aesthetic appearance
  • Provide fire protection

Evaluating the integrity of scaffolding may be difficult, particularly where it is covered in sheeting or netting. Sheeting is rated to prevent firespread, but printing on the sheeting may affect the fire-retardant qualities of the material.

Scaffolding may be fitted with lighting and cables, presenting a hazard of entanglement or exposure to electricity. Netting also presents an entanglement hazard.

There may be external lifts (also known as a hoists); some are used for transporting site staff, while others are used only for transporting building materials and equipment.

Scaffolding involved in a fire - photograph courtesy of Scottish Fire and Rescue Service


Ian Moore
Mon, 08/30/2021 - 11:50
Scaffolding involved in a fire – photograph courtesy of Scottish FRS