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Scaffolding

Repairwork and scaffolding on Buckingham Palace in 1913

There are five main types of scaffolding used worldwide today. These are Tube and Coupler (fitting) components, prefabricated modular system scaffold components, H-frame / facade modular system scaffolds, timber scaffolds and bamboo scaffolds (particularly in China). Each type is made from several components which often include:

  • A base jack or plate which is a load-bearing base for the scaffold.
  • The standard, the upright component with connector joins.
  • The ledger, a horizontal brace.
  • The transom, a horizontal cross-section load-bearing component which holds the batten, board, or decking unit.
  • Brace diagonal and/or cross section bracing component.
  • Batten or board decking component used to make the working platform.
  • Coupler, a fitting used to join components together.
  • Scaffold tie, used to tie in the scaffold to structures.
  • Brackets, used to extend the width of working platforms.

Antiquity

Sockets in the walls around the paleolithic cave paintings at Lascaux, suggest that a scaffold system was used for painting the ceiling, over 17,000 years ago.

The Berlin Foundry Cup depicts scaffolding in ancient Greece (early 5th century BC). Egyptians, Nubians and Chinese are also recorded as having used scaffolding-like structures to build tall buildings. Early scaffolding was made of wood and secured with rope knots.

Scaffolding today

The European Standard, BS EN 12811-1, specifies performance requirements and methods of structural and general design for access and working scaffolds. Requirements given are for scaffold structures that rely on the adjacent structures for stability. In general these requirements also apply to other types of working scaffolds.

The purpose of a working scaffold is to provide a safe working platform and access suitable for work crews to carry out their work. The European Standard sets out performance requirements for working scaffolds. These are substantially independent of the materials of which the scaffold is made. The standard is intended to be used as the basis for enquiry and design.

Foundations

Good foundations are essential. Often scaffold frameworks will require more than simple base plates to safely carry and spread the load. Scaffolding can be used without base plates on concrete or similar hard surfaces, although base plates are always recommended. For surfaces like pavements or tarmac base plates are necessary. For softer or more doubtful surfaces sole boards must be used.

Materials

Tubes are usually made either of steel or aluminium; although there is composite scaffolding which uses filament-wound tubes of glass fibre in a nylon or polyester matrix, because of the high cost of composite tube, it is usually only used when there is a risk from overhead electric cables that cannot be isolated. If steel, they are either 'black' or galvanised. The tubes come in a variety of lengths and a standard diameter of 48.3 mm. (1.5 NPS pipe). The chief difference between the two types of metal tubes is the lower weight of aluminium tubes (1.7 kg/m as opposed to 4.4 kg/m). However they are more flexible and have a lower resistance to stress. Tubes are generally bought in 6.3 m lengths and can then be cut down to certain typical sizes. Most large companies will brand their tubes with their name and address in order to deter theft.

Boards provide a working surface for scaffold users. They are seasoned wood and come in three thicknesses (38 mm (usual), 50 mm and 63 mm) are a standard width (225 mm) and are a maximum of 3.9 m long. The board ends are protected either by metal plates called hoop irons or sometimes nail plates, which often have the company name stamped into them. Timber scaffold boards in the UK should comply with the requirements of BS 2482.

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23 March 2019

References

  • Cyclex
  • FreeIndex
  • Yell
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References

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