Scaffolding much like any trade is complex and should only be performed by competent fully qualified individuals. The trouble is that because of the stereotypical reputation that is associated with scaffolders, people make the mistake in thinking that it's only a 'semi-skilled' trade. This isn't helped by the way some small companies and believe it or not some larger companies go about running their businesses. The truth is that because of the way the trade was some 20 - 30 + years ago (health and safety being almost non-existent) and it being a 'hard wearing' occupation it only attracted a certain type of person. You had to be a bit mad in the head because a normal sane person wouldn't have done it. The problem that has plague many a managing director and many a H&S representative in recent years is convincing these 'mad' individuals that you can't do things the way they are used to. That is a very important point to remember, 'the way they are used to'. If you've been doing something day in and day out for some 15 or 20 years with no problems then you have been effectively brainwashed to accept certain conditions as the norm.
I believe that in the last 10 years scaffolding has turned a corner. For the most part the old school, dangerous ways have faded out and people are starting to give scaffolders the credit they deserve. The regulations are much more strict than they used to be and any scaffolder in charge of a gang has to be not only skilled and competent, but also have an intrinsic knowledge of the regulations that govern the way he and his subordinates conduct their day to day duties. Most companies run a lot smoother and safer with far less incidents and the quality of work being produced is second to none.
My problem and the whole point of this article is that I don't think enough is being done to make the public aware of how the industry has changed and what to expect from the scaffolding company that tenders for your work. There are still a large number of companies that even in this day and age are trading without appropriate insurance, under qualified or not qualified staff who install scaffolding that is sub-standard to say the least and if you asked them to provide you with a compliance sheet or a handing over certificate they wouldn't know what you are talking about! These are the companies that fully regulated, fully insured companies are competing against. How can a company invest in the training of its staff, therefore enabling individuals to better themselves and increase their earning potential whilst also supplying appropriate PPE thus ensuring that every scaffolding is installed in the correct manor and up to todays standards and also provide the paperwork to back it up and still compete in price with these cowboys! It's impossible! The trouble is that the general public doesn't know any different. They trust the opinion of the scaffolder stood in front of them. There are steps that the general public can take to ensure they are using a reputable company.
Advice For Your Next Scaffolding Project
- First and foremost look them up on companies house to see if they are registered.
- Ask what amount of public liability cover they have and get them to provide proof.
- Get the company to email copies of the tickets of the operatives that are going to do the work. Any professional company will have these on file so it will be no problem. Some trainees may not have their cards yet but you'll at least see that the scaffolder in charge of the gang is qualified.
- When they send the quotation; Do they just send an email with a figure on it or do they have a template set out with a company letterhead? Do they explain the proposed work in detail including measurements and include any additional safety features that may be necessary so you are confident you know exactly what to expect and what you're paying for? Do they provide you with a compliance sheet showing your scaffoldings design criteria so that in the event of any structural failure you have conclusive evidence showing how the scaffolding should have been constructed for the scaffolding inspector which will help determine liability?
These are 4 simple things to consider when choosing the scaffolding contractor that you want to do your work. Yes it may be a little more expensive and price is often a deciding factor but you will be confident that the job will be run smoothly by experts who not only care about their own safety, but yours too. Also, if there ever was any problems you have the peace of mind that you can contact the company and the matter will be dealt with. These cowboy companies will just turn up and take the scaffolding away and you'll never see them again! If the price is a little outside your budget then contact the company; most professional companies understand that people have budgetary restrictions and are happy to work with you and come to a compromise. Helping each other out is what makes the world go round.