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Mon August 08 2022

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Trade body slams existing criteria for street scaffolding

3 Nov 10 The sight of rogue scaffolders building unsafe scaffolds close to the general public is an all too common occurrence on our streets today.

Yet all these scaffolds need a pavement licence to be issued from the local or public authority as they are being built from a pavement or street.

The NASC (National Access & Scaffolding Confederation) the recognised trade body for scaffolding guidance with regulated members throughout the UK undertook a survey earlier this year to ascertain what criteria a scaffold company was expected to comply with in order to erect a scaffold close to the general public.

Surprisingly almost every authority adopted different criteria. At the lowest level a number of authorities required nothing more than evidence that the scaffolding company held adequate insurance should something go wrong. These particular authorities did not require the company to demonstrate competence in scaffold construction, nor did they require the company to protect the public appropriately during erection or dismantling, and wear the necessary safety equipment.

Admittedly some authorities did ask for more evidence of competence, but almost all of the 50 plus permit criteria received from around the country failed to meet legal requirements such as the Health Safety At Work Act 1974, Working At Height Regulations 2005 and the Construction Design Management Regulations 2007.

“It is not unusual to hear of scaffold collapses on our public highways” states NASC President Bob Whincap “Any member of the public is potentially at risk every time they step onto a pavement where a scaffold is built”

The NASC has developed detailed criteria and guidance to address this situation and provide any authority in the UK with the ability to demand a consistent standard for scaffolding companies to comply with industry best practice and legal requirements.

In consultation with the Health & Safety Executive, Highways Authority, Joint Authorities Group UK and the National Traffic Managers Forum the new document is comprised of 11 pages of criteria and governance that a scaffolding contractor and main contractor must work to before a licence can be granted.

Specifically the criteria includes :

  • Risk Assessments
  • Scaffold designs
  • Scaffolder competence
  • Double boarding with membranes on pedestrian gantries
  • Scaffold Protection fans
  • Protection for public and vehicles
  • Improved signage
  • Lighting
  • Main Contractor details
  • Scaffold Inspection
  • Scaffolding competence requirements

The document is a significant ‘step change’ from the previous criteria but it is what is needed to help keep our streets safe.  The new criteria have been circulated to all authorities in the UK.

Initial reaction to the new criteria has been welcomed by a number of authorities who openly recognise that the standard of scaffolding needs to be improved. Raymond Pierson, (Transport for London) is solely responsible for the quality management system for roads including policy setting, states “TfL will be adopting the NASC's full guidelines and applauds their ‘fight’ for a universal improvement into the tightening of conditions for scaffolding contractors.”

It is hoped that all authorities will adopt the new criteria and introduce it swiftly to avoid further incidents on our streets.

The NASC would also recommend the public apply pressure on their local authority to adopt these new criteria as soon as possible. 

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