Before the virus hit, the construction industry had been in a multi-year boom, especially in the non-residential sector. The growing trend that started in 2016 was projected to go for at least another year with the recent spate of commercial project approvals.
Once the COVID-19 pandemic abates, economies across all sectors will be eager to return to normalcy, and with them is the construction industry. Scaffolds will be a welcome sight again as interrupted projects are expected to resume.
Safe Construction Work Access
No other structure signals an ongoing construction more than the scaffolding. It enables workers to access the structure being built and finish the job. And with the expected resurgence of activity in the industry, one thing that must not be overlooked is safety. Work safety around scaffoldings can be ensured through the following steps:
- Criteria for a Safe Design
For ladder-based erection platforms, the load rating must be no less than 120 kg and space in between stiles at a minimum of 350 mm. The platform area must be at least 350 mm wide and 300 mm deep.
For erection platforms less than 1.2 m in height, a mid-rail must be installed on the three non-access sides. For those up to 2 meters high, guard rails must be built-in instead of the mid-rails.
The minimum load rating for erection platforms built on ledgers is also 120 kg, but the platform area should be at least 500 mm x 600 mm. Scaffold planks supported on transoms must be at least 2 x 225 mm wide.
Scaffolds must be erected as close as possible to the working surface. If they are more than 225 mm apart, guard rails or mid-rails must be fitted into the inner face standards.
- Scaffold Erection Generic Work Sequence
- Building out the scaffold base – As one scaffolder holds the standards, another installs the transoms and ledgers for the base lift. Level the scaffolding by adjusting the screw jacks. Install the transoms and ledgers for the first lift then erect the plank from below.
- Finishing the first lift- Install the ladder or stairway for the first lift. If using a stairway, make sure that the access bay is fitted with the run of the structure. Install guard rails, mid-rails, toe boards, or mesh panels on the first lift, whichever is applicable.
- Erecting the next lifts – Once the platform on the first lift is fully planked, erect the standards, ledgers, transoms, and hop-ups for the following lift. Next, place the planks within the transoms of the succeeding level then install the stairway or ladder. Finally, access the working platform above to install toe boards and other edge protection.
This process is repeated as more lifts are added.
- Additional precautions
A system must be in place to prevent the overloading of the scaffold. This can be done by physically closing off access to non-working platforms, placing signs advising the duty rating of a working platform or if it is closed, and designating a coordinator to control access.
A Sound Structure for Safe Work
It is hard to imagine narrow pieces of metal scaffolding supporting workers high above the ground, but if built right, the job can be performed safely and efficiently on it. Designers, contractors, and workers must all be proactive in continuously identifying and managing risks, so appropriate actions can be taken to finish the project without harm to both people and property.