Best Practices For Scaffolding Inspection And Maintenance

June 2, 2023


Scaffolding is a critical component in the construction industry, providing workers with a temporary structure to stand on while they perform tasks at heights. However, it can be dangerous if not inspected and maintained correctly. The collapse of scaffolding can cause serious injuries or fatalities and increase the risk of fall-related accidents. Statistics have also reported that about 60 deaths and 4,500 injuries in construction sites are attributed to scaffold-related accidents.

It’s recommended that scaffolding should be inspected regularly to ensure that it’s safe to use. The frequency of inspections may depend on the type of scaffolding, its location, and how often it is used. Generally, scaffolding should be inspected before and after use, as well as after extreme weather conditions. If the scaffolding is rented through scaffold hire, it should still be inspected thoroughly.

In addition, scaffolding should be inspected every seven days if it is in use and every 28 days if it is not in use. However, if the scaffolding is in a high-risk area, such as near a railway line or a busy road, it must be inspected more frequently. Through regular inspections, you can prevent accidents among yourselves and your team of construction workers and prolong the life of the scaffolding.

Scaffolding Inspection And Maintenance: Best Practices

This article will discuss best practices for scaffold inspection and maintenance to ensure safe working conditions. With these practices, workers can work at heights safely and efficiently.

  1. Check The Base Plates
    The base plates are the foundation of the scaffolding, and any instability can lead to accidents. Thus, checking the base plates should be on top of your scaffolding inspection checklist.

    Ensure that they are level and secure in all directions. If the ground is uneven, use adjustable base plates to level the scaffolding. You must also inspect their condition for any damage, such as cracks or bends. Damaged base plates can compromise the safety of the scaffolding. If damage is located, replace the damaged base plates immediately.

    Furthermore, the base plates must be in the correct position. They should be positioned directly under the vertical standards of the scaffolding. They should not be placed on soft ground or on top of debris. Nuts and bolts that hold the base plates in place should also be tightened to the manufacturer’s specifications. Loose nuts and bolts can cause the base plates to move, leading to instability and accidents.

  2. Inspect The Scaffolding Structure
    Inspecting the scaffolding structure is an integral part of scaffolding maintenance. The structure of the scaffolding supports the weight of workers and their tools, and any damage or defects can cause accidents.

    Conduct a visual inspection of the structure to check for any scaffolding issues, such as cracks, dents, or bends. You must check the horizontal and diagonal braces, the vertical standards, and the ledger beams to find any damaged components that need to be replaced immediately.

  3. Examine The Guard Rails
    Guard rails are a vital safety feature of the scaffolding, as they prevent workers from falling off the platform. Here are some best practices for checking the guard rails:
    • Height: Ensure that the guard rails are at least  950 mm above the working platform. The height of the guard rails is vital to prevent workers from falling off the platform. There shouldn’t be any gap between the top rail and the intermediate rail that is more than 470 mm. Additionally, the regulations require toeboards to be fit and appropriate to avoid people or materials from falling.
    • Strength: Ensure that the guard rails are strong enough to support the weight of workers. The guard rails should be able to withstand a force of 100 kg applied at any point.
    • Secure attachment: The guard rails must be securely attached to the scaffolding structure. Check that the guard rails are not loose or wobbly. Loose or wobbly guard rails can cause instability and accidents.
    • No gaps: Ensure there are no gaps in the guard rails. Gaps can cause workers to fall off the platform. Check that the guard rails are continuous and that there are no missing sections.
      Use these tips when checking the guard rails to ensure they’re securely attached, in good condition, and provide adequate protection to workers.
  4. Check The Access Points
    Access points are used by workers to enter and exit the scaffolding platform, and any defects or damage can cause accidents. Thus, ensure that access points are secure and safe to use. Ladders should be in good condition and securely attached to the scaffolding.

    Other access points must also be properly positioned and not located near hazards or dangerous areas. Studies show that 28% of scaffold-related accidents are due to scaffolds and access points (e.g., ladders, stairs) positioned too close to power or utility lines. On another note, ensure that the access points have a non-slip surface. The non-slip surface will provide adequate grip for workers to enter and exit the scaffolding platform safely.

  5. Check The Working Platform

    The working platform is where workers stand and carry out their tasks. Thus, it should be free of debris and in good condition. Ensure that it is level and has the appropriate weight capacity. Preferably, the maximum weight capacity of the working platform should be displayed and marked on the scaffolding for everyone’s awareness.

  6. Clean The Scaffolding
    Clean scaffolding ensures that workers can work safely and efficiently. Here are some best practices for cleaning the scaffolding:
    • Use appropriate cleaning agents. The cleaning agents should be suitable for the type of scaffolding being used and should not cause any damage to the scaffolding or its components. Avoid using harsh chemicals that can corrode the scaffolding or cause harm to workers.
    • Remove debris. Remove any debris or materials that have accumulated on the scaffolding. Debris can cause workers to trip and fall, leading to accidents.
    • Check for corrosion. Inspect the scaffolding for any signs of corrosion. Corrosion can weaken the scaffolding and compromise its safety. If corrosion is found, it should be treated immediately to prevent further damage.

    Regularly clean the scaffolding to ensure that it remains in good condition. Cleaning should be carried out by a competent person who is familiar with the type of scaffolding being used. Cleaning should be conducted before and after use, as well as after extreme weather conditions.

  7. Inspect The Scaffolding After Extreme Weather Conditions
    After extreme weather conditions, such as heavy rain or strong winds, inspect the scaffolding for any damage. Strong winds can cause the scaffolding to move, which can lead to instability. So, in case of extreme weather, don’t forget to inspect the scaffolding for any signs of damage, such as cracks, bends, or rust. If you identify any damage, have it repaired or replaced immediately.

    You must also check for any signs of water damage. Heavy rain or snow can cause water to accumulate on the scaffolding, leading to corrosion or damage.

  8. Store Scaffolding Correctly
    When not in use, store the scaffolding in a dry, secure location. Proper storage ensures that the scaffolding remains in good condition and will be ready for use when needed.
    Before storing it, disassemble the scaffolding and clean it thoroughly. Then store components separately in a dry and secured place to avoid damage from moisture or theft. You may also cover the scaffolding with a tarpaulin to protect it from the elements.

The Bottom Line

By following these practices, you can ensure that your scaffolding is safe and in good condition. Regular scaffolding inspections and maintenance can prevent accidents and prolong the life of the scaffolding. Remember to always observe the manufacturer’s instructions and seek professional advice if you’re unsure about anything