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 meters or more is not used unless it has been inspected within the previous 7 days.’ information. 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.
Our site inspector Nigel Raines spoke with the NASC (National Access and Scaffold Confederation) who provided the information below:
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, 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 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 person to person. 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 1 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.
We appreciate that this explanation has become quite complex, but it is felt important to advise regarding the numerous issues which you may come up against.
If in doubt, we would advise that you contact the HSE ‘concerns team’.