What is Scaffolding in Construction

What is Scaffolding in Construction? Gain Insights into Various Methods

Scaffolding is commonly used in construction and renovation activities. In its most basic form, a scaffold is any temporary elevated or suspended work surface that supports workers and materials. If you are new to the construction industry, you may have heard the term scaffolding. Today, we will walk you through this guide to what is scaffolding in construction. You will discover what it is, its advantages, types, applications, safety, and much more. So, let’s get started.

The History of Scaffolding in Construction

Humans have used scaffolding since they first built structures 17,000 years ago. It was used to paint Paleolithic caves, and ancient Egyptians built their magnificent pyramids using wooden scaffolding.

Since then, scaffolding has been used in many different ways. Traditional wooden facets were replaced in the early 1900s by more commonplace metal scaffold poles. The typical frame scaffold system that we see today was developed during the post-World War II building boom, allowing businesses to build faster and safer.

Scaffolding is still improving today, with the introduction of safety netting and working regulations to improve safety, as well as new types of scaffolding, such as cantilevers and aerial lifts, to increase efficiency.

What is Scaffolding in Construction?

Scaffolding in Construction
Figure 1- Scaffolding in Construction

In construction, “scaffolding” refers to a temporary raised structure or framework that supports workers during the construction, repair of buildings maintenance, bridges, or other difficult-to-access areas.

Scaffolding is a necessary component of almost every construction project and has been used since the first structures were built. Scaffolding is commonly used to gain access to structures at height during construction, but it can also serve a variety of other purposes.

Scaffolding is sometimes used to support workers and their tools, but it is also required to support significant loads from building materials. Bricks, blocks, stucco, and cast-in-place concrete are examples of shoring, as opposed to scaffolding. Scaffolding is essential for the safety and efficiency of construction work.

The Benefits of Scaffolding

There is a reason scaffolding has been used for thousands of years: it works. Scaffolding remains one of the most practical and efficient methods for people to work at height.

Here are the main benefits of using scaffolding for work at height:

Access

Scaffolding can provide unobstructed, stable access to almost any part of a structure.

Balance

Scaffolds provide workers with a firm footing, allowing them to balance themselves in various positions while working.

Ease of Construction

Scaffolding is relatively simple to assemble and disassemble and can be set up and taken down quickly.

Long-lasting

The majority of scaffolds, whether made of wood or steel, can last a very long time.

Safety

Scaffolding provides workers with a stable platform for their work, making safety one of its most significant advantages. However, the best solution for working at heights is to reduce or even eliminate the need for a person to be present.

Serves as a Bridge

A number of construction activities need workers to travel long and winding routes to reach specific job site locations, which is a massive waste of time. Bridging points in scaffolding can help alleviate this issue by reducing the distance that workers must travel.

Uses of Scaffolding

Scaffolding for Building Renovation
Figure 2- Scaffolding for Building Renovation 

Scaffolding is used for a variety of purposes these days. The following are some of the most common applications for scaffolding:

Cleaning

Workers can often stand on scaffolding to clean windows and other parts of skyscrapers.

Construction 

Scaffolding is useful in construction because it allows workers to stand at a height on a level surface. This is particularly true for skyscrapers and other high-rise structures. But it is also used for lower-level construction projects.

Industrial Inspections

Scaffolding is commonly used for inspections because it allows inspectors to reach areas they would not otherwise be able to access in order to perform visual inspections or other types of NDT testing.

Inspectors frequently use internal scaffolding or other temporary structures for both internal inspections, such as those performed inside large industrial boilers or pressure vessels, and external inspections. Regardless of the inspection, the scaffolding serves the same purpose: it allows inspectors to stand at a height and perform various types of testing to meet inspection requirements.

Maintenance 

Inspections are usually the first step in the maintenance process because they reveal areas that may require attention. After inspectors identify these areas, maintenance workers will address the defects by standing on scaffolding.

Other Uses

Scaffolding is used in a variety of ways, including

  1. Art installations
  2. Concert stages
  3. Exhibition stands
  4. Grandstand seating
  5. Observation towers
  6. Shoring
  7. Ski ramps

Scaffolding Parts

Here are all of the parts used to build scaffolds:

Standards: This framework is made up of vertical members that are supported by the ground, drums, or are embedded in the ground.

Ledgers: Tubes with a case wedge fixing device on one end are placed horizontally between two standards to determine the length of the scaffold bay.

Braces: Braces are diagonally attached to the standards.

Putlogs: A putlog links the wall being worked on to the ledger. A putlog hole is cut into the side of a building to accommodate a putlog.

Transoms: A transom is a type of ledger putlog that is compatible with both ledgers.

Bridle: Bridles support one end of the putlog and are used to span a gap in a wall.

Boarding: During the working process, boarders serve as horizontal platforms to support workers and materials.

Guard rail: A rail installed at the same level as the ledger.

Toeboard: A parallel set of boards supported by putlogs that offers protection at the working platform level.

Ladder Scaffolding: Scaffolding ladders make it easy for workers to ascend and descend the scaffold.

Scaffolding Wheels: The scaffold has wheels at the bottom that allow it to be easily moved from one location to another.

Types of Scaffolding

Here are the eight most common types of scaffolding used around the world.

Aerial Lifts

Aerial Lifts
Figure 3- Aerial Lifts

Aerial lifts are commonly used in construction projects where workers must access multiple levels within a single day or work cycle.

An aerial lift can be used not only to transport people, but also to make it easier and safer for workers to lift large amounts of material up and down.

Cantilever Scaffolding 

Cantilever scaffolding (also known as needle scaffolding) is designed to extend from a building at an angle using a separate scaffold.

This type of scaffold eliminates the need for unsightly frames or poles on building facades. It is frequently built near balconies to allow workers easy access.

Double Scaffolding

Double scaffolding is a type of ready-made scaffolding that is commonly used in stonemasonry. The stone surface makes it difficult to install scaffolding directly into the wall. Therefore, double scaffolding allows workers to work at height without having to construct a structure that is attached to the stones.

To ensure stability, double scaffolding has two tiers of support, with cross braces and rakers providing additional support.

Patented Scaffolding

Patented scaffolds are readymade and include special couplings and frames, as well as brackets to support the working platform. In some cases, the brackets can be adjusted to different levels to accommodate work at various heights.

Single Scaffolding

Single scaffolding is one of the most ancient construction methods. It is widely used for brick masonry work. Though simple, this method produces a sturdy and dependable structure for working at heights.

Suspended Scaffolds

Suspended scaffolds are another type of ready-made scaffolding. It’s lightweight and widely used for repairs, including painting.

The name refers to the fact that they are suspended from a building’s roof by wire, rope, or chains. The platform is supported by suspended scaffolding and can be raised or lowered as needed.

Supported Scaffolds

Supported scaffolds are the most common type of scaffolding used in construction. They are a popular choice for creating temporary structures for work at heights. This type of scaffolding is simple, inexpensive, and built from the ground up.

A supported scaffold can take many forms, each serving a specific purpose. If the scaffolding is long or has a high weight capacity, workers may need to add additional support to its base.

Trestle Scaffolding

In trestle scaffolding, a tripod or portable scaffold board provides a work platform for laborers.

Trestle scaffolding is commonly used in small spaces for painting and minor repairs. There are no standards or putlogs—only working platforms supported by movable ladders. The platform can be easily moved from one location to another.

Scaffolding Materials

Scaffolding can be constructed from a variety of materials; here are three of the most common:

Aluminum Scaffolding

Aluminum is commonly used for scaffolding because it is lightweight, highly resistant to corrosion and durable.

Bamboo Scaffolding

Bamboo Scaffolding
Figure 4- Bamboo Scaffolding

Bamboo is an excellent alternative to steel because it is strong, lightweight, flexible, easy to work with, and abundant in certain parts of the world. In Hong Kong, for example, bamboo is the most common scaffolding material, and it is frequently upcycled from other applications to reduce waste.

Steel Scaffolding

Steel scaffolding is among the most popular types of scaffolding. Despite being more expensive than bamboo or aluminum, it is extremely strong and durable, making it an excellent choice for work in densely populated areas.

The Dangers of Working on Scaffolding

Any time a person has to work at a height, there is a risk involved, and working on temporary structures like scaffolding is no exception.

Given how common scaffolding work is, the injury rate is not particularly high. However, it is important to note that scaffolding work carries inherent risks and that avoiding it will improve worker safety.

Do you want to know what the most common risks are when working on scaffolds?

These are the most common:

Defects

Scaffolding-related accidents are frequently caused by faulty scaffolding, which can include compromised steel tubing or screws that do not align properly.

Falling Objects

Falling objects like tools, construction materials, and debris are a common cause of injury for stagers. To avoid injuries from falling objects, provide a cover for each level of scaffolding.

Weather

Working at heights on a partially constructed building can be extremely dangerous when the weather changes. Rain or snow can make the planking slippery, and temperature changes can weaken attachment points, causing planks to loosen, crack, and fail.

Ignoring Safety Standards

Many other factors can contribute to serious and fatal accidents, such as overloading scaffolding and placing scaffolding too close to hazardous energy sources.

Inadequate Training

Scaffolding and construction require specialised training. Scaffold builders and erectors must be trained in scaffold construction and safety standards relevant to the scaffolding being installed. Scaffold workers must be aware of the risks associated with scaffolding.

Inadequate or Weak Planking

Strong planning is essential for scaffolding for all types of work to ensure worker safety. Weakened or insufficient scaffolding supports, posts, mast climbers, pump jacks, and other mechanisms can cause fall hazards.

Inexperience, Incompetence, and Negligence

It is dangerous to work on a construction site with people who lack training or experience or do not take safety precautions seriously. Coworkers’ negligence can be especially dangerous when scaffolding is involved. 

Insufficient Supply of Safety Equipment

Even when scaffolding is appropriately designed, manufactured, and constructed, workers must still have access to appropriate safety equipment.

Poor Construction

Improper scaffolding construction, such as failing to properly attach all attachment points, failing to install bracing, or failing to install guardrails, is a common cause of construction site accidents.

Poor Maintenance

To remain structurally sound, scaffolding must be properly maintained. Inadequate maintenance can cause slippery surfaces and other safety hazards, as well as wear and tear on old materials over time.

Conclusion

Hopefully, you have learned what is scaffolding in construction. Scaffolding is a temporary structure used to support workers and materials during the construction, maintenance, and repair of buildings, bridges, and other man-made structures.

Every construction worker who enters the field should understand the purpose of scaffolding in construction and how to use these temporary platforms to elevate and support workers and materials while building, repairing, or cleaning structural machines. Scaffolding is made up of one or more planks of a suitable size and length, which are supported using a variety of methods depending on the form and application.

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