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Work at height including scaffolding (HSE guidance)

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Work at height takes place in a variety of work activities, including construction, maintenance, cleaning... Safe access, safe working platforms and suitable edge protection are normally required. This includes permanent edge protection and temporary scaffolding for certain types of work

  • Work at height - basic concepts

    • Employers and those in control of work at height must first assess the risks.
    • Before working at height you must follow these simple steps:
      • avoid work at height where it is reasonably practicable to do so
      • where work at height cannot be easily avoided, prevent falls using either an existing place of work that is already safe or the right type of equipment
      • minimise the distance and consequences of a fall, by using the right type of equipment where the risk cannot be eliminated
    • You should:
      • do as much work as possible from the ground
      • ensure workers can get safely to and from where they work at height
      • ensure equipment is suitable, stable and strong enough for the job, maintained and checked regularly
      • not overload or overreach when working at height
      • take precautions when working on or near fragile surfaces
      • provide protection from falling objects
      • consider emergency evacuation and rescue procedures
  • Step by step approach to working at height

    • Considering the risks associated with work at height and putting in place sensible and proportionate measures to manage them is an important part of working safely. Follow this simple step-by-step guide to help you control risks when working at height.
    • For each step, consider what is reasonably practicable and use 'collective protection' before 'personal protection'.
    • 1. Can you avoid working at height in the first place? If no, go to prevent
      • Do as much work as possible from the ground. Some practical examples include:
      • using extendable tools from ground level to remove the need to climb a ladder
      • installing cables at ground level
      • lowering a lighting mast to ground level
      • ground level assembly of edge protection
    • 2. Can you prevent a fall from occurring? If no, go to minimise
      • You can do this by:
        • using an existing place of work that is already safe, eg a non-fragile roof with a permanent perimeter guardrail or, if not
        • using work equipment to prevent people from falling
        • Some practical examples of collective protection when using an existing place of work:
        • a concrete flat roof with existing edge protection, or guarded mezzanine floor, or plant or machinery with fixed guard rails around it
        • Some practical examples of collective protection using work equipment to prevent a fall:
        • mobile elevating work platforms (MEWPs) such as scissor lifts
        • tower scaffolds
        • scaffolds
        • An example of personal protection using work equipment to prevent a fall:
        • using a work restraint (travel restriction) system that prevents a worker getting into a fall position
    • 3. Can you minimise the distance and/or consequences of a fall?
      • If the risk of a person falling remains, you must take sufficient measures to minimise the distance and/or consequences of a fall.
      • Practical examples of collective protection using work equipment to minimise the distance and consequences of a fall:
      • safety nets and soft landing systems, eg air bags, installed close to the level of the work
      • An example of personal protection used to minimise the distance and consequences of a fall:
      • industrial rope access, eg working on a building façade
      • fall arrest system using a high anchor point
    • 4. Using ladders and stepladders
      • For tasks of low risk and short duration, ladders and stepladders can be a sensible and practical option.
      • If your risk assessment determines it is correct to use a ladder, you should further minimise the risk by making sure workers:
      • use the right type of ladder for the job
      • are competent (you can provide adequate training and/or supervision to help)
      • use the equipment provided safely and follow a safe system of work
      • are fully aware of the risks and measures to help control them
  • Scaffold, Street decorations, Temporary structure and hoarding

    • Scaffolding standards
    • Scaffold erected in Guernsey and Alderney must comply with the relevant British Standard BS EN 12811-1:2003.
    • In practice, the construction, erection and design must comply with the recognised industry technical guidance.NASC - National Access & Scaffolding Confederation
    • Scaffolders must be competent to undertake the work. They can demonstrate their competence through the UK CISRS or Channel Islands STARS schemes. The competence schemes provide a card to demonstrate they have achieved a basic, standard or advanced level.
    • All scaffolders must work safely and in accordance with SG4:15 Preventing falls in scaffolding operations.This includes wearing and using fall arrest (harness and lanyard) systems, or using advanced guardrails / step systems.  
  • Permit Applications for Scaffolds, Street decorations, Temporary structures and Hoarding 

    • There is a fee to apply for scaffold, street decoration, temporary structure and hoarding permits. pdf icon Fees for licences and permits 2022 [254kb]
    • You must obtain a permit for any of the above erected on or over a footpath, road or verge interacting with a public highway. A public highway includes any road, street, lane or public place.
    • Public place means any place to which the public or a substantial group of the public has access and includes, but is not limited to, streets, highways, and the common areas of schools, hospitals, apartment houses, office buildings, transport facilities, piers, slipways and shops.). 
    • Note. Whilst Terres Mises a l'Amende signifies a private parking area the land is still considered a public place when public or a substantial group of the public has access eg common areas of schools, hospitals, apartment houses, office buildings, transport facilities, and shops.
    • The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) will consider the application under the terms of the Public Highways Ordinance, 1967.
    • Permits granted under the terms of the ordinance will often require specific safety features to ensure that the general public are not put at risk.  This includes the erection, dismantling and the intended use of the scaffold, street decoration, temporary structure or hoarding.   Application therefore, must be made in advance of the date anticipated for the building of the scaffold, street decoration, temporary structures or hoarding.
    • It is necessary to obtain the consent of the Traffic and Highways Services or (in the case of the Harbour areas of St Peter Port and St Sampson, of Guernsey Harbours), before scaffold, street decoration, temporary structure or hoarding is erected.
    • Paper Scaffold Applicationpdf icon Paper Scaffold application [399kb]
    • Digital Scaffold Application Digital Scaffold Application
    • Street decoration application form.pdf icon Street decoration application [229kb]
    • Temporary structure application formpdf icon Temporary structure application [228kb]
    • Hoarding permit application form pdf icon Hoarding Application Form [222kb]
  • Protecting the public during scaffolding operations

    • If you erect or dismantle scaffolding in areas where the public normally have access, you should:
      • exclude the public from the work area whenever possible;
      • fence off the area and provide alternative routes which are clearly signposted and avoid additional crossing of the road wherever possible;
      • erect, modify and dismantle equipment when there will be fewer members of the public in the area and always use warning notices;
      • fans, tunnels and sheeting are a useful means of protection. Make sure the scaffold is designed to take the extra loading and wind resistance;
      • ask for protective measures to be put in place at an early stage during erection and have them removed as late as possible during dismantling;
      • lighting may be necessary in tunnels;
      • use brick guards, netting or other suitable protection to prevent materials falling;
      • do not drop or throw components during erection or dismantling;
      • make sure the working platform is constructed to prevent materials falling through it, eg double board scaffold platforms and insert a layer of strong polythene between the two sets of boards (a few small punctures will allow rainwater to drain away);
      • make sure scaffold components do not project where there is a risk to people or vehicles;
      • bolts on couplings should face away from the public or be wrapped;
      • consider enclosing the base of the scaffolding to prevent climbing, especially on or near occupied residential premises and schools. Consider the use of anti climbing paint;
      • out of hours, remove ladders from the scaffold. Secure them in a compound or in storage containers;
      • make sure that doors to buildings or those allowing access to the roof, lift motor rooms etc are locked at all times when work is not in progress, eg during lunch breaks, at the end of shifts and at weekends;
      • consider using alternatives to scaffolding such as mobile elevating work platforms, cradles and mast climbers. These can reduce the likelihood of people gaining access to heights providing the equipment is properly isolated when not in use; and
      • debris chutes should be protected either by providing lids or covers etc.
  • Ladders and stepladders

    • Ladders and stepladders are not banned under health and safety law
      • In fact they can be a sensible and practical option for low-risk, short-duration tasks, although they may not automatically be your first choice.
      • Make sure you use the right type of ladder and you know how to use it safely.
    • Safe use of ladders
      • Maintain three points of contact when climbing (this means a hand and two feet) and wherever possible at the work position.  However, where you cannot maintain a handhold, other than for a brief period (eg to hold a nail while starting to knock it in, starting a screw etc), you will need to take other measures to prevent a fall or reduce the consequences if one happened
      • Make sure the ladder angle is at 75° - you should use the 1 in 4 rule (i.e. 1 unit out for every 4 units up)
      • You should secure the ladder (eg by tying the ladder to prevent it from slipping either outwards or sideways) and have a strong upper resting point, i.e. do not rest a ladder against weak upper surfaces (eg glazing or plastic gutters).  Securing devices are also available.  Footing for stability should be a last resort.
    • Safe use of stepladders
      • Check all four stepladder feet are in contact with the ground and the steps are level
      • Don't stand and work on the top three steps (including a step forming the very top of the stepladder) unless there is a suitable handhold
      • Ensure any locking devices are engaged
      • Maintain three points of contact at the working position. This means two feet and one hand, or when both hands need to be free for a brief period, two feet and the body supported by the stepladder
  • Common work at height myths

    • HSE have banned the use of ladders on building sites
      • No, this isn't the case. Ladders and stepladders can be a sensible and practical option. They can be used for work at height when the use of other work equipment is not justified because of the low risk and short duration (short duration means working on a ladder for no more than 30 minutes at a time); or when there are existing workplace or site features which cannot be altered.
    • You need to be formally 'qualified' before using a ladder at work
      • No, you do not.  You need to be competent. This means having the necessary skills, knowledge and experience to use a ladder properly for the work you will carry out, or, if you are being trained, you work under the supervision of somebody who can perform the task competently. Training often takes place on the job and does not always have to take place in a classroom. What matters is that an individual can apply what they have learned in the workplace.
    • I am working at height if I'm walking up and down a staircase at work
      • No, you are not. Work at height does not include walking up and down a permanent staircase in a building.
    • You need to have two feet and one hand on a stepladder at all times when carrying out a task
      • No, this isn't true. When you need to have both hands free for a brief period to do a job using a stepladder (eg putting a box on a shelf, hanging wallpaper, installing a smoke detector on a ceiling) you need to maintain three points of contact at the working position.  This is not just two feet and one hand, it can be two feet and your body (use your knees or chest to help with stability) supported by the stepladder. Ensure a handhold is available to steady yourself before and after.
    • HSE has banned the use of ladders to access scaffolds and you will be fined if you ignore this ban
      • No, this isn't true. Ladders can be used for access as long as they are of the right type (i.e. a suitable grade of industrial ladder), in good condition and effectively secured (tied) to prevent movement. You should ensure they extend at least one metre above the landing point to allow for a secure handhold when stepping off.
  • Scaffold Inspection

    • Scaffolds must be inspected before they are used and confirmed in the initial inspection report or in a handover certificate.
    • Scaffolds must be inspected every 7 days.
    • Scaffolds must be inspected following events which could affect the safety of the structure, e.g. alterations, adverse weather or an earthquake.
    • Inspection reports must be kept in a format which can be reproduced in a printable form and is secure from loss or unauthorised interference.
    • The person carrying out an inspection must prepare a report before the end of the working period within which the inspection is completed and this must be shared with the client / employer within 24 hours.
    • An employer receiving a report must keep it at the site where the inspection was carried out until the construction work is completed and then at his/her office for 3 months.
    • Protection may be removed but only for the time and to the extent necessary to gain access for the performance of a particular task and shall be replaced as soon as practicable. The task must not be performed unless effective compensatory safety measures are in place.
  • Inspection Report

    • The scaffold inspection report should note any defects or matters that could give rise to a risk to health and safety and any corrective actions taken, even when those actions are taken promptly, as this assists with the identification of any recurring problem.
    • All scaffolding inspection should be carried out by a competent person whose combination of knowledge, training and experience is appropriate for the type and complexity of the scaffold. Competence may have been assessed under the CISRS or an individual may have received training in inspecting a specific type of system scaffold from a manufacturer/supplier.
    • A non-scaffolder who has attended a scaffold inspection course (eg a site manager) could be deemed competent to inspect a basic scaffold structure.
    • An inspection report should include the following:
      • The name and position of the person making the report.
      • Details of any further action considered necessary.
      • Details of any action taken as a result of any matter identified.
      • Details of any matter identified that could give rise to a risk to the health or safety of any person.
      • The date and time of the inspection.
      • A description of the scaffold.
      • The location of the inspection.
      • The name and address of the person for whom the inspection was carried out.
    • Example inspection report.pdf icon Scaffold Inspection Record [168kb]
  • Scaff Tags and Handover Certificate

    • Tagging a scaffold as safe to use is best practice although it is not a legal requirement. Although the opposite is true if a scaffold is incomplete or unsafe to use where you must tag the structure as unsafe. It is also necessary to physically prevent access.
    • Whilst there is no statutory requirement for a scaffold contractor to issue a handover certificate, clients may, in their own interest, require that the scaffold contractor does issue one. Once the scaffold contractor has completed the erection of a scaffold and it has been inspected by a competent person, it is recommended that the scaffold contractor issues a handover certificate to their client. This will advise the client that, at the time of the handover, the scaffold had been built to their specification, had been left in a condition suitable to perform the duty for which it was intended and it complied with the requirements of statutory regulations and any local authority requirements, was structurally sound and in a condition that was safe for use.
    • Handover Certificates should refer to any relevant drawings, intended and actual loadings on scaffolds, permitted working platform loadings and any specific restrictions on its use. It also demonstrates that the client has accepted that the scaffold is fit for purpose and has acknowledged their responsibility to inspect and maintain the scaffold, and to follow any loading limitations and any restrictions for its use etc.
    • The handover certificate can also be considered the first inspection of the scaffold.
    • Ideally the handover inspection should be conducted by a representative of the scaffolding company with a representative from the contractor/client; after all they will be responsible for the scaffold. It is also acceptable to email the certificate to the client.
    • In the Health and Safety at Work (General) (Guernsey) Ordinance, 1987. General duties of employers and self-employed to persons other than their employees. 2. (1) It shall be the duty of every employer to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in his employment who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety. Inspection reports and handover certificates can demonstrate scaffold contractors compliance with this duty.
    • Example handover certificatepdf icon Scaffold Handover Certificate [176kb]
  • Scaffold Design

    • Strength and stability calculations for scaffolding should be carried out unless it is assembled in conformity with a generally recognised standard configuration (TG20:21)
    • Essentially any scaffold where Tube & Fittings have been used and a TG20:21 compliance sheet cannot fully cover all aspects of the scaffold, should be designed.
    • See CG6-20 Scaffolding design 
    • Scaffold structures that normally require bespoke design
    • Include:
      • all shoring scaffolds (dead, raking, flying)
      • cantilevered scaffolds 1
      • truss-out scaffolds
      • façade retention
      • access scaffolds with more than the 2 working lifts2
      • buttressed free-standing scaffolds
      • temporary roofs and temporary buildings
      • support scaffolds
      • complex loading bays 1
      • mobile and static towers 1
      • free standing scaffolds 1 
      • temporary ramps and elevated roadways
      • staircases and fire escapes (unless covered by manufacturers instructions)
      • spectator terraces and seating stands
      • bridge scaffolds 1
      • towers requiring guys or ground anchors
      • offshore scaffolds
      • pedestrian footbridges or walkways
      • slung and suspended scaffolds
      • protection fans 1
      • pavement gantries
      • marine scaffolds
      • boiler scaffolds
      • power line crossings
      • lifting gantries and towers
      • steeple scaffolds
      • radial / splayed scaffolds on contoured facades
      • system scaffolds outside manufacturers' guidance
      • sign board supports  
      • sealing end structures such as temporary screens
      • temporary storage on site
      • masts, lighting towers and transmission towers
      • advertising hoardings/banners
      • rubbish chute
      • any scaffold structure not mentioned above that falls outside the 'compliant scaffold' criteria in TG20 or similar guidance from manufacturers of system scaffolds.  
      • The above list is not exhaustive and any scaffold that is not a standard configuration or does not comply with published manufacturers' guidelines will require a specific design produced by a competent person. 
    • Note:​​​​
      • 1: TG20:21 provides compliant scaffolds for a limited range of cantilever scaffolds, loading bays, static towers, mobile towers, use of rakers, bridges and protection fans.
      • ​​​2: TG20:21 provides a range of compliant scaffolds, which can be boarded at any number of lifts, but only two platforms can be used as working platforms at any one time.
    • Scaffold design calculations should include:
      • A thorough assessment of loading conditions and combinations of the scaffold.
      • A check of the capacities of every single scaffold component to support the loads/combinations of loads involved.
      • An assessment of the scaffold's rigidity and stability, ensuring adequate safety factors are included.
      • Identification of the loads the scaffold will hold. This is an absolute necessity in proving whether the scaffold itself is adequate, the structure relies upon the safe transmittal of loads, so it is essential to undertake a substantiation process for all supporting and adjacent structures.
  • Guidance on employing a scaffolding contractor

    • Under The Guernsey Construction (Design & Management) ACoP 2020, principal contractors and contractors have an important role in managing health and safety risks during the construction phase. Among their duties, they are required to check that anyone they appoint has the skills, knowledge, experience and, where relevant, the organisational capability to carry out their work safely and without risk to health.
    • Scaffold Design, Calculations and Risk Assessment / Method Statement (RAMS)

    • Once the principal contractor / contractor has selected a scaffolding contractor, it is important that the scaffolding is erected to either a recognised configuration (e.g. to a TG20 compliance sheet or for system scaffold, erected to the manufacturer's user manual), or to a specific design with calculations. The scaffold should also be erected, modified, and dismantled to a Safe System of Work.
    • All relevant documentation should be communicated to the scaffolding operatives and kept on site.
    • Scaffolding Inspections and Handovers

    • The hirer / user of the scaffold has a legal duty to ensure the scaffold is inspected when it is first erected, significantly modified and also weekly. Once the scaffold has been completed, it should be inspected and handed over in good order, together with any required paperwork such as:
      • Scaffold design drawings with calculations and / or TG20 compliance sheets, and/or system scaffolding user manual.
      • Tie testing reports etc
    • Guernsey Legislation:
    • UK Legislation:
    • Approved Codes of Practice and other Guidance:

Downloads

Public Highways Ordinance 1967 as amended - version May 2016 SG4:15 Preventing falls in scaffolding operations The Organisation and Management of Health & Safety in Construction [Expired 01 December 2020] 5 Steps to Risk Assessment Protecting the public during construction work Fees for licences and permits 2022 Scaffold Inspection Record Scaffold Handover Certificate Scaffold Application Form Scaffold Application Guidance

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