Guide to scaffolding load classes in the USA, Australia and New Zealand

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Guide to scaffolding load classes in the USA, Australia and New Zealand

High-quality scaffolding systems are designed to withstand a great deal of strain. However, accidentally overloading the scaffolding can pose an immense safety risk as it can severely impair its stability. To ensure that your work on scaffolding is as safe as possible, scaffolding is divided into different load classes, which are standardised depending on the region or country you’re working in.

The load classes indicate the maximum load you can place on your scaffolding and therefore the type of work you can safely use it for. If you need to assemble scaffolding in the USA, Australia or New Zealand, see below for an overview of the applicable standards for scaffolding load classes.

Scaffolding load classes in the USA

In the United States, occupational health and safety is regulated by the OSHA (short for Occupational Health and Safety Administration). This also includes regulations and standards for scaffolding. OSHA classifies scaffolding into 3 load classes based on the maximum intended load:

  • Light duty: max. 25lb per square foot
  • Medium duty: max. 50lb per square foot
  • Heavy duty: max. 75lb per square foot

To ensure that the scaffold is used safely and that there is no accidental overloading, it is important that the maximum loads are applied uniformly to all levels of the scaffold.

You can determine the correct scaffolding load class for your project by calculating the maximum additional weight that will be on the scaffolding at any given time. You will need to take into account all equipment, tools and materials that will be transported or stored on the scaffold, as well as the number of people working on the scaffold at the same time.

Scaffolding load classes in Australia and New Zealand

New Zealand and Australia follow the same AS/NZS 1576 standard, ensuring consistency and compatibility in scaffolding practices between the two countries. The AS/NZS standard categorizes scaffolding in the following load classes:

  • Light Duty: up to 225kg per Platform per bay with a concentrated load of 120kg
  • Medium Duty: up to 450kg per platform per bay with a concentrated load of 150kg
  • Heavy Duty: up to 675kg per platform per bay with a concentrated load of 200kg
  • Special duty: specified design load for that scaffold only

Light duty scaffolding is suitable for painting, electrical work and inspections, while medium duty scaffolding can be used for general construction and trades work such as light steel framing and tilting. Heavy duty scaffolding is primarily designed for heavy impact work such as bricklaying or demolition.

Special duty scaffolding is an exception to light, medium and heavy duty scaffolding as it does not have a standardised load rating. Instead, the load rating is based on the individual design of the scaffold. Examples of special purpose scaffolding include cantilever scaffolding, hanging bracket scaffolding and spur scaffolding.

Standardised load classes for scaffolding make a significant contribution to the safety of your team and others on the construction site. For more information and insights on safety in scaffolding, see our blog articles below. If you work in scaffolding in Europe and the UK, see also our blog post on scaffolding load classes there.

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