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Scaffolding towers are the preferred solution for working at height for extended periods. They're safer and more comfortable than conventional ladders or scaffolds, and help prevent falls that are caused by overreaching. In addition, these structures are very stable and easy to move because they're fitted with sturdy lockable castors. However, like any trade, industrial or DIY tool, a scaffold tower should undergo a thorough safety inspection before every use. Here's some important information about these useful structures, including some guidelines from HSE.
Inspect scaffolding towers before and during every use. The tower must be in full compliance with all safety codes, standards and directives. There should be no missing, loose or defective parts or components, and parts must never be removed without permission from the appropriate safety authorities. It's also important to post safety guidelines in a conspicuous place near the tower, so all workers have the chance to read and heed them. A major cause of scaffold towers accidents and injuries is overloading. Never exceed the manufacturer's safe working load specification. As a general rule, many follow the 4-to-1 requirement. This is a specification that says that a tower should be able to support at least four times its intended load. If possible, the scaffold tower should be secured to the wall being worked on with heavy wire, both vertically and horizontally, using an approved tying pattern. In addition, the tower must be braced as required by the manufacturer. Depending on working conditions, additional bracing may be required. Always use a combination of horizontal, cross and diagonal braces. Although tempting, never use the braces to climb the tower. Use only its inbuilt ladders.
Other Important Components to Inspect
According to some government bodies, it's likely that about 1/3 of all scaffolding systems like towers don't have an adequate guardrail system. In fact, for maximum safety, a double rail system should be used. These should be fixed on all open sides from which a person may fall. Safety authorities also recommend the use of midrails and toe boards. All guardrails should be fixed at a minimum height above the working platform of 950mm or 37.5â€ and toe or kick boards should surround the platform and be a minimum of 100mm or 4â€ high to prevent tools or materials falling from the platform. A midrail should also be fitted between the upper guardrail and toeboard so that no gap through which a person might fall exceeds 470mm or 18.5â€ . Both supervisors and workers should be familiar with all pertinent safety regulations. In addition, they should use a detailed checklist when performing an inspection. Scaffold towers must conform to both HSE and manufacturer's safety and use standards. Key components to inspect include guardrails, decking, planks, cross members, locking devices, ties, braces, legs and base. Do not use a tower unless the base and cross members are level and not warped or buckled. The legs must be correctly braced and straight. All locks should be tightly secured, along with ties. The planks must be properly installed with no gaps or loose members.
Before workers mount a scaffold tower, they should receive comprehensive training by a qualified person who has undergone training themselves. In the daily inspection, watch for safety hazards such as improper assembly and excessive wear and tear. The tower must not be used until any hazardous conditions are remedied. When using a tower, the loads used should be reviewed as well, and should never exceed the manufacturer's specifications. Workers must have a safe way to access a scaffold tower and never should have to mount it in a non-standard way such as jumping upon it or climbing the external frame rather than using the integral ladder. When working on a tower scaffold, users should move slowly and deliberately, and should never run or jump. It's a good idea to post a â€œsafe useâ€ document prominently that outlines what can and cannot be done safely on a scaffold tower. Of course, such procedures must be aligned with and supported by all relevant safety regulations, procedures and policies. The document should be highly specific in describing what are acceptable and safe actions whilst using a scaffold tower.
Information from HSE
Refer to HSE's Construction Sheet No 10 (Revision 4) for specific and detailed information about using a scaffold tower. In addition, the Work at Height Regulations 2005 require that an assessment be done to determine if there is an alternative to working at height. If there isn't one, then a work at height solution should be tailored to the specific requirements of the job. HSE reports that inappropriate erection and misuse are the major causes of tower-related accidents and injuries. This is especially true of towers with aluminium or thin-wall steel construction.
Special attention should be paid to the surface on which the tower is erected. It must be firm and level, with the base plates or castors fully locked. Never use loose blocks or bricks under a tower's base section. Always use outriggers or stabilisers as specified in the manufacturer's instructions, since they will add greatly to the tower's stability. Avoid using towers in high winds or as a hoist. It's also not designed to support rubbish chutes. A tower never should be loaded with heavy equipment.
An Example - The Folding Mobile Alloy Tower
This tower features a 7.2m working height and is designed for light trade use or serious DIYers. It's certified to HD1004 Class 3, and is fully compliant with the important 3T safe assembly method recommended by HSE. It comes in modular packs that allow users to choose exactly the right height needed. Included are the base pack, guardrail pack, extension pack, and a final extension pack. It contains everything needed to work safely at height. It's also compact and lightweight when disassembled, making it easy to transport and store. The platform length is 1.75m. and it's 0.78m wide. The platform height is 5.20m, and the tower will support a maximum load of 150kg. The maximum load is the combined weight of the user, along with any tools or materials being used.