With summer ending and the autumn weather already rearing its ugly head, contractors and tradesmen who work at height are once again facing the unpleasant reality of British weather.
When working at height, wind and bad weather can be a serious hazard.and cost lives if work is carried out in improper conditions.
Risk assessments should always be carried out before work, and highlight if the roof is damp or icy, and work stopped if it is deemed unsafe.
Furthermore, the Health and Safety Executive recommends that if wind speeds are in excess of 23mph, work should be stopped, as this will affect a person’s balance.
Any supervisor worth their salt will not allow work to go ahead in dangerous conditions. But, whilst workers can and should be able to vacate the roof when necessary, they will often leave something behind: scaffolding.
Scaffolding in bad weather
The standard that dictates how scaffolding should be properly erected is TG:20, published by the National Access and Scaffolding Confederation, and the contractor that erects the system – unless it is pre-designed – should be able to provide you with a compliance sheet stating that the system meets this standard.
There is understandably no wind speed limit for scaffolding as this is hugely variable depending on the location and time of year, and scaffolding cannot quickly be disassembled if the wind picks up to dangerous levels.
Instead, the contractor should take several factors into account, including size and position of the scaffold, to ensure it can withstand likely wind speeds of the area.
The nature of scaffolding means it can remain up for weeks or even months, exposed to all types of weather, which can affect the integrity of the system and mean that scaffolding which was safely built to start with becomes hazardous.
The Work at Height Regulations require scaffolding to be inspected by a competent person every seven days, as well as immediately after significant events such as storms or high winds.
These inspections should hopefully ensure the system is safe to use, but will do little to negate the other risks of leaving scaffolding up during bad weather.
In March of this year, many people were horrified by images of scaffolding which had collapsed during high winds in North London. Thankfully, no one was hurt, but this could have been much more serious.
As well as the, thankfully rare, risk of collapse, there is also the danger of boards or screws being blown loose, causing injury or worse.
The other option
While it may be the favourite solution for many contractors and tradesmen, scaffolding is always a risky undertaking, and may not be the best option every time.
In areas prone to seriously bad weather, or where the scaffolding might be exposed to other dangers such as vandalism or trespass, it could be more trouble than it’s worth.
Often, costly scaffolding systems are erected for short duration works where other solutions might be better, and remain up for days beyond the end of the task, until the contractor can return to disassemble it.
Instead, a temporary solution such as a rapid access platform could be used in place of full scaffolding.
For contractors who carry out regular jobs requiring costly and risky scaffolding, an investment in a solution such as Easi-Dec could mean lower costs and more peace of mind.
The Easi-Dec platform can be transported from site to site in a transit van or estate car and raised up to the roof level in minutes.
Easi-Dec offers the same freedom to carry out work up to the roofline as standard scaffolding, but can be disassembled quickly and easily when the job is complete.
Scaffolding has been around in one form or another for thousands of years, and definitely has its uses, but depending on the job and risks involved, there could be a better solution for you.