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Mobile & Tower Scaffolding: What You Need to Know

21/07/2020

Mobile scaffolding units are a common sight on most construction sites. Commonly used by tradies from all walks of life, they do help us with those hard to reach areas.

But with that, like anything on-site, they do come with a certain level of risk. Whether this be falling over, equipment, tools or people falling off, or even rolling away because the breaks aren’t on, these are all real threats.

 

The risk of tipping over

Being a mobile unit means tipping over or swaying is a huge risk. The issues and potential consequences that present itself if a unit falls over can be devastating, for your team, your business and clients. 

Falling over is a risk that presents itself in several circumstances, including: 

  • While moving the unit from location to location – two issues can arise here – firstly, stopping the scaffolding suddenly, secondly, bumping into something or being hit while moving
  • When the unit is top-heavy – this ideally shouldn’t happen but this occurs when the top platform is greater than the dimension of the lowest platform
  • When people stand too close or lean, or objects hang too far over the edge – this can cause the whole unit to become off balance
  • When the load on the scaffold exceeds the maximum limit. Scaffolds load limits are based on distributed capacity, so when there is too much weight at one point you run the risk of toppling the unit
  • The scaffold is too narrow and light to withstand the work or conditions
  • Adverse weather conditions or events – excessive winds, storms or earthquake are scaffoldings worst enemy, and mobile units are no different

 

How can you improve stability? 

While the risk of falling is a major risk, you can reduce the risk by:

  • Closing the gap – place the scaffold as close as possible to the surface being worked on 
  • Use the breaks – if your scaffold is on castors, make sure you clip the breaks on 
  • Increase the base stability – below we outline four options to increase the stability of your scaffolding units. 
    • Follow height to width ratio guidelines
      • For units over 2m ensure the top working height is no more than three times that of the base 
      • For units under 2m ensure the top working height is no more than two times that of the base 
    • Increase the base platforms dimensions 
    • Increase or place weight on the base platform
    • Use outrigger bracing to provide support
  • Know the Safe Working Load (SWL) and stick to it – before using the scaffolding, make sure you know what the SWL is and don’t exceed it
  • If the days forecast calls for windy or extreme weather conditions, don’t use the scaffold if you can avoid it

 

Like anything that requires working at heights, mobile and towered scaffolding units come with their own unique risks. To avoid these risks becoming an issue on-site make sure you put all precautions in place. Talk to the manufacturer, have it erected by a qualified and trusted supplier, and work on and around the unit safely. This way, the site is safer for all. 

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