Scaffolding is one of the fundamental pieces of equipment on any building site. In fact, about 65% of all construction jobs require these structures for work to progress. However, safety is a major issue, because if the scaffolding is not used correctly, it can lead to serious injury or even death, which can result in a fine of R50,000 or up to a year in jail.
Any steel tubular scaffold structure must conform to the South African National Standards (SANS) Code 10085 in terms of design and construction, maintenance, inspection, safety precautions and usage.
Scaffolding is divided into four specific categories, based on the weight it can bear safely per square metre. In other words, the type you require is based on the load it will hold, including both vertical and horizontal wind pressure. Any scaffolding that does not fall into one of these categories must be custom designed by a scaffold designer or professional engineer.
All material used must be inspected by a supervisor beforehand to determine its suitability and ensure that it conforms to the required standards. The area on which the structure will be placed must also be inspected.
A supervisor must have the necessary qualifications from an accredited training provider and approved by the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA).
The structures may only be constructed by trained, competent scaffolding erectors overseen by a qualified supervisor. Once the structure has been built, it must be inspected and declared fit for use. No untrained people are permitted to alter or remove components from existing safe scaffold structures, as even the smallest change could make the entire structure unsafe.
If the scaffolding is enclosed with sheeting, shade netting or advertising banners, this must be investigated and approved before use since it could affect wind loading. The scaffolding needs to be checked once a week, especially after bad weather or alterations, with the details of these inspections recorded in a register.
All scaffolding structures must be clearly marked with signage that complies with the requirements of the SANS1186-1 Code to indicate whether it is safe. Every employee on a construction site must be trained to recognise and obey these signs.
If the scaffolding is over 3m high, guardrails must be in place, behind, in front, and on the sides. Workers must also be fitted with protective gear, such as head protection, fall-prevention gear, and non-slip footwear.