Scaffold Inspection Requirements During Coronavirus Shutdown


Scaffold Inspection Requirements During Coronavirus Shutdown

April 16, 2020 |

Please note that during the current Government advised Covid-19 general lockdown arrangements, it is worthwhile remembering that the duty to periodically inspect temporary access scaffold structures remains and Client’s need to ensure their appointed  (Principal) Contractors have in place suitable and sufficient arrangements to comply with legal requirement. We at KOK offer the following by way of information and further guidance. Please do not hesitate to contact us should you require any further assistance or advice.

Scaffold Inspection Requirements During Coronavirus Shutdown

What happens if the site is shut down? Do we still need to carry out weekly inspections?

Section 12(4) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 states that ‘every employer shall ensure that a working platform used for construction work and from which a person could fall 2 metres or more is not used unless it has been inspected within the previous 7 days.’

This doesn’t provide any flexibility for ‘out of service scaffolds’ and it must be realised that even without regular use, the condition of these structures can still deteriorate and they can become unsafe.

However, if scaffolds are no longer required for construction purposes, (ie. the site is subject to Coronavirus shutdown),  Regulation 12(3) allows for work equipment ‘to be inspected at suitable intervals’ and each time that exceptional circumstances which are liable to jeopardise the safety of the work equipment have occurred.’ (e.g. high winds, ice/snow, or collision of a vehicle etc.)

Therefore, whilst it is not possible to completely discontinue scaffold inspections, intervals between inspections may be extended when structures are ‘taken out of service’. Suitable intervals between inspections should therefore be determined by risk assessment and will of course vary dependant on the type of scaffold, how it has been constructed, its location (security of site/proximity to public access) and potential exposure to the elements etc.

A risk assessment for each structure must therefore be carried out (and recorded) to determine maximum intervals between inspections. Assessments should take into account (but not necessarily be limited to) things like:

  • Is it situated within a building, or a very sheltered location (i.e. not subjected to wind/rain/snow.)?
  • Is it situated outdoors and exposed to moderate or severe weather conditions?
  • Is it free standing or tied in?
  • Are the boards still in position, are they securely tied down or loose?
  • Can the foundations be guaranteed?
  • Is it subject to vibration (e.g. nearby machinery)?
  • Will it be subject to extreme temperatures, hot/cold?
  • Is there a possibility of it being struck by a vehicle?
  • Is cladding or sheeting fitted?
  • Is it a ‘bespoke design scaffold’ or is it a conventional arrangement conforming to a TG 20 compliance sheet?

Of course, the issue of what is considered ‘suitable intervals’ will vary from Project to Project. In reality, some may still require a 7-day inspection and whilst it may be determined that others can be safely inspected at greater intervals, periods in excess of one month may be difficult to justify.

However, to minimise the opportunity for damage/deterioration to occur and extend inspection intervals as long as possible, it may be prudent to tie down scaffold boards; remove any sheeting or netting; fit additional ties and/or bracing; etc.

In addition to extended inspection intervals, as stated above, all out of service scaffolds must be inspected immediately after any event suspected or likely to have affected the scaffolds strength or stability has taken place (e.g. severe weather, collision of vehicle, undermined foundations etc.)

Access to all out of service scaffolds must also be prevented, so far as is reasonably practicable . e.g. Ladders removed, decking removed, barriers fixed, clear and obvious signs fitted etc. to prevent other workers, passers-by and intruders from gaining access. You will also need to take into account if/how access will be gained by a scaffold inspector, when an inspection is required.All out of service scaffolds must also be subjected to a thorough inspection and where necessary made good, before being returned to service or dismantled. All inspections require to be suitably recorded and maintained.