Inspection of scaffolding - what you need to know
Maximum safety on the construction site can be ensured on the one hand by high-quality scaffolding systems that comply with current safety standards. So scaffolding is erected and off you go? Not quite, because no matter how safe a system is from a technical point of view, it must not only be erected professionally, but also inspected regularly. In many countries, an inspection of the scaffolding by an appropriately trained person is obligatory. Especially if you are new to scaffolding, it is not necessarily clear from the beginning which rules you have to follow. We have compiled a list of how such an inspection is carried out and what you must observe.
When must a scaffold be inspected?
Scaffolding inspections are not a one-off affair, but must be carried out regularly over the entire period of use of the scaffolding. This begins with the first inspection after the scaffold has been erected and put into operation. This is carried out by both a competent person appointed by the scaffolder erector and a competent person appointed by the scaffold user and must always be based on the assembly instructions. Thereafter, as stipulated by authorities such as OSHA, CITB, or the German Committee for Industrial Safety, the scaffold must be inspected at least once a week and after modifications. Special rule: even after adverse weather conditions such as storms, heavy rain or heavy snowfall, the scaffold must be inspected by a competent person.
Who is allowed to inspect a scaffold?
It has already been mentioned: According to the latest safety standards, inspections cannot be carried out by everybody. A competent person who is appropriately trained is needed for this job. But what does that actually mean? In most cases, a person is qualified to inspect scaffolding if they
- have completed relevant vocational training as a scaffolder or comparable building trade activity
- have practical professional experience in scaffolding construction or as a scaffold erector
- are engaged in a relevant occupational activity in a timely manner and have received appropriate instruction
In addition, a person qualified to inspect scaffolding must have knowledge of the technical building regulations. This includes
- static knowledge for assessing the load-bearing behaviour and operational safety of the scaffold assembly
- technical knowledge that is always up to date through regular participation in training courses
The requirements for the inspecting person vary depending on the complexity of the scaffolding. For example, additional training or education may be required as evidenced e.g. by the CISRS Advanced Scaffolder Card.
How does the scaffold inspection process work?
Once the inspector has been appointed, they check three things in particular:
- that the scaffold is assembled in accordance with the regulations and that it is in safe working order
- any existing damage to the scaffolding
- the suitability and functionality of the safety measures taken
To ensure that nothing is overlooked during the inspection of a scaffold, checklists like this are helpful. With a scaffold inspection checklist, you can tick off all the important points step by step. For example, is the load-bearing capacity of the contact surface guaranteed? Are the decks properly mounted and secured? Is the distance to the wall small enough? You can find a detailed overview here. The results of the scaffolding inspection must be documented in writing so that an inspection and acceptance report can be drawn up at the end. Finally, the competent person affixes a tag to the access ladder or near the stairs stating whether the scaffold has passed the inspection and may be used.
What else do you need to be aware of?
The regular inspection of your scaffolding is an integral part of complying with common safety standards such as TRBS 2121 and contributes decisively to better work safety. In addition, everyone who is to use the scaffold should be informed that
- they are not allowed to make any structural changes to the scaffold themselves
- the scaffold may only be used after it has been inspected and approved
- no measures such as excavations may be carried out that could impair the stability of the scaffold
- access to the scaffold may only be made via the ladders or stairs
This ensures safe use of the scaffold. If you would like to learn more about safety standards for the assembly and dismantling of scaffolding, read our post on TRBS 2121 here.