A guide to safely assembling and dismantling scaffolds

Assembling and dismantling scaffolds remains a high-risk activity for: 

  • those carrying out the work 
  • other workers 
  • the general public 

The following guide sets out safety measures which should be taken. It is aimed at: 

  • those directly working in the scaffolding industry  
  • planning supervisors 
  • principal contractors 
  • clients 

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Training, supervision and monitoring 

Training of scaffolders in safety procedures is perhaps the most effective way to prevent accidents on-site. 

Reasonable steps should be taken to ensure work is carried out safely by: 

  • clients 
  • principle contractors 
  • others in control 

Simple steps to take include: 

  • checking the training level of scaffolders 
  • checking who will supervise the scaffolders 
  • monitor the scaffolders on-site to ensure proper safety standards are followed 

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The law and planning for safety 

The law requires scaffolding operations are properly planned and that work on-site is carried out safely. 

For detailed information, please see: 

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Protection of the public 

When scaffolding is being put up, the public can’t be allowed in or around the work area. 

Steps to ensure this include: 

  • obtaining a temporary traffic management order for pavement or street closure whilst operations are carried out  
  • putting the scaffold up in quiet hours, ie early morning, at night or at weekends 
  • incorporating fans, crash decks and tunnels as early as possible into a scaffold 
  • putting up barriers and signs diverting the public away from the area 
  • storing scaffold clips and other loose materials safely on the scaffold 
  • not raising or lowering materials over members of the public or other site workers 

Also consider that disabled people need proper access along pavements covered by scaffolding. 

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Scaffolders working at height 

Scaffolds must have safety measures to stop people falling. In particular: 

  • when lifting or lowering materials, scaffolders must be clipped on, or working within, a handing platform that is: 
    • fully boarded 
    • has double guard-rails 
    • has toe boards 
  • a minimum 3 board working platform, together with a single guard-rail, is in place when the scaffold is assembled or dismantled 
  • for one handed work, safety harnesses must be always worn and fitted with a: 
    • 1.75 metre length lanyard 
    • 55 metre opening scaffold hook or similar  
  • harnesses should be clipped on to a secure anchorage point 
  • at a minimum the scaffold must be tied to a sound structure as work progresses such as: 
    • a ledger, transom or guard-rail supported with load bearing couplers 
    • a transom supported by ledgers in a lift above fixed at both ends by single couplers 
  • at least 1 bay of a scaffold should remain boarded out as work progresses and this should be used for ladder access for the full height of the scaffold 
  • safe ladder access should be set up as early as possible 
  • scaffolders should not go up and down scaffolds without: 
    • proper ladder access 
    • safe working platforms provided on each lift being worked on 

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Stability of scaffolds 

Each year in the UK several scaffolds collapse. 

To avoid this, make sure that: 

  • the anchors specified to tie a scaffold to a structure are suitable for the base material and are installed correctly 
  • scaffold anchors or ties are installed as assembly progresses 
  • scaffold anchors or ties are not to be removed too early during dismantling 
  • more ties are provided on a sheeted or netted scaffold to ensure its stability 
  • scaffolds are not overloaded with equipment, especially tube and fittings, during assembly or dismantling 

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Page last updated:

December 28, 2022