Safely putting up and taking down scaffolds

Part of: Scaffolding, hoarding, container and crane licences

Assembling and dismantling scaffolds is a high-risk activity for:

  • those carrying out the work 
  • other workers
  • the general public

Training, supervision and monitoring

The best way to prevent accidents on site is to make sure scaffolders are trained in safety procedures.

Simple steps that can be taken to make sure work is carried out safely include:

  • checking the training level of scaffolders 
  • checking who will supervise the scaffolders 
  • monitor the scaffolders on site to ensure proper safety standards are followed

This is the responsibility of clients, principle contractors and anyone else in charge of the planned work.

The law and planning for safety

It is the law to make sure that all scaffolding work is properly planned and that work on site is carried out safely.

For more information about regulations see:

Protecting the public

When scaffolding is being put up, the public should not be allowed in or around the work area.

Steps that can be taken to make sure the public is safe include:

  • applying for a temporary traffic management order for pavement or street closure while work is carried out
  • putting the scaffold up in quiet hours, for example early morning, at night or at weekends
  • use of fans, crash decks and tunnels as early as possible
  • putting up barriers and signs diverting the public away from the area
  • storing scaffold clips and other loose materials safely on the scaffold
  • not raising or lowering materials over members of the public or other site workers

It is important to consider that disabled people will need proper access along pavements covered by scaffolding.

Scaffolders working at a height

Scaffolds must have safety measures to stop people from falling.

When lifting or lowering materials, scaffolders must be clipped on, or working within, a handing platform that: 

  • is fully boarded
  • has double guardrails
  • has toe boards

A minimum 3-board working platform, together with a single guardrail, is in place when the scaffold is assembled or dismantled.

For one-handed work, safety harnesses must always be worn and fitted with a:

  • 1.75 metre length lanyard
  • 55 metre opening scaffold hook or similar

Harnesses should be clipped onto a secure anchorage point.

At a minimum, the scaffold must be tied to a sound structure as work progresses such as:

  • a ledger, transom or guardrail supported with load-bearing couplers
  • a transom supported by ledgers in a lift above, fixed at both ends by single couplers

At least 1 bay of a scaffold should remain boarded out as work progresses and this should be used for ladder access for the full height of the scaffold.

Safe ladder access should be set up as early as possible.

Scaffolders should not go up and down scaffolds without:

  • proper ladder access
  • safe working platforms provided on each lift being worked on

Stability of scaffolds

To avoid scaffolds from collapsing, make sure:

  • the anchors specified to tie a scaffold to a structure are suitable for the base material and are installed correctly
  • scaffold anchors or ties are installed as assembly progresses
  • scaffold anchors or ties are not removed too early during dismantling
  • more ties are provided on a sheeted or netted scaffold to ensure its stability
  • scaffolds are not overloaded with equipment, especially tubes and fittings, during assembly or dismantling