What Are the Best Tips for Erecting Scaffolding?

Dale Marshall
Dale Marshall

When erecting scaffolding, a number of best practices should be followed. Before any components are put together, planning and review of the regulations will guide the choice of the correct scaffolding for the project. All parts should be inspected before a crew of at least two people begins to assemble the scaffold from the bottom up, completing each level before starting work on the next one. Components should fit together snugly, and workers should have sturdy planks on which to stand that are attached securely to the scaffolding.

Scaffolding levels should be equipped with planks.
Scaffolding levels should be equipped with planks.

There are many guidelines that must be followed before and while erecting scaffolding, all related to safety. The first guideline is good planning, which should take place prior to any assembly. Planning includes review of all applicable ordinances and regulations, and preparation of the area where the scaffold will be erected.

Scaffolding workers must not be fearful of heights.
Scaffolding workers must not be fearful of heights.

The next critical guideline is selecting the right scaffold design. This decision is affected by a number of factors, such as the project’s height, the weight the scaffold will bear under both normal and extraordinary circumstances, the type and duration of the work to be performed, and the requirements for pedestrian traffic. Once the right design has been selected, the components themselves should be examined, with those parts showing signs of excessive wear and tear discarded, as well as any bent or corroded tubes or couplings. Generally speaking, scaffolding components should all be made by the same manufacturer and metal parts should be made of the same metal, to avoid galvanic reaction.

The crew building a scaffold should always consist of at least two people, with one delivering materials to the other. The process of erecting scaffolding starts from the bottom up. The scaffold’s base should consist of vertical tubing secured to a metal baseplate, which itself is secured to a 2 x 10 inch (5.08 x 25.4 cm) length of lumber, called a mudsill, to help ensure stability. The ground underneath should be compacted and, if soft or muddy, filled with gravel. Jackscrews can be used to make minor adjustments to level the scaffold.

A key element of erecting scaffolding is to start from the bottom and move up.
A key element of erecting scaffolding is to start from the bottom and move up.

A scaffold’s levels should be built one-by-one, and each level should be complete before work on the next begins. This is a critical safety issue when erecting scaffolding — all the elements of a level must be in place and secured to support the next level. Vertical tubes should be plumb and horizontal components level and braced to maintain squareness; it’s appropriate to check the components periodically with a level. A scaffold out of square is inherently unstable and jeopardizes those working on it as well as those working or walking nearby.

Tubes, couplings and braces must all fit together easily for fastening. No components should be forced to fit, because this exerts undue pressure throughout the structure that can jeopardize its integrity. Parts that do not fit easily must be replaced with properly-fitting parts.

Likewise, all fasteners should fit tightly; stripped nuts and bolts should be discarded. Wires and other jury-rigged approaches to securing components cannot be tolerated when erecting scaffolding. A single brace that’s poorly secured braces nothing, and its failure could result in the failure of the entire scaffold.

All scaffolding levels should be equipped with planks on which workers can stand and move about. The planks should be secured to the scaffold framing to prevent tipping or sliding. There should be a minimal gap between planks — generally no more than 1 inch (2.54 cm). Each level of a scaffold should also be equipped with guardrails.

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Discussion Comments

anon937815

Measure corner to corner (repeat using other corners creating an x). The measurement should be the same.

dmarshall

Electronic and manual angle finders are sold by scaffolding companies; in a pinch, a carpenter's square is a reliable indicator.

anon203958

how can i check if the scaffold is square?

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    • Scaffolding levels should be equipped with planks.
      Scaffolding levels should be equipped with planks.
    • Scaffolding workers must not be fearful of heights.
      Scaffolding workers must not be fearful of heights.
    • A key element of erecting scaffolding is to start from the bottom and move up.
      A key element of erecting scaffolding is to start from the bottom and move up.