How Should I Choose the Best Scaffolding System?

B. Turner

A scaffolding system is a series of temporary work platforms erected on a construction site to allow workers to perform tasks above ground level. There are three basic types of scaffolding system, and each offers distinct benefits and drawbacks. The most common is the supported platform system, which features elevated wooden or metal platforms supported by poles and frames connected to the ground. Next, there is the suspended scaffold, which is a platform suspended from the top of a building using ropes. Finally, there is the adjustable scaffolding system, which can be raised and lowered using pulleys or mechanical methods.

Scaffolding levels should be equipped with planks.
Scaffolding levels should be equipped with planks.

To choose the best scaffolding system for your project, there are a number of factors to consider. One of the most critical items is the condition of the ground where the scaffold will be used. If the earth is unstable in this area, or if scaffold erection would prohibit access, a suspended scaffolding system is best. This way, it will not block access to the building for other trades, or for building occupants. An adjustable scaffold on wheels is another solution, but these machines are difficult to use on uneven terrain.

Scaffolding workers must not be fearful of heights.
Scaffolding workers must not be fearful of heights.

Another important consideration is the project budget. A supported platform system is the most affordable type of scaffolding system, especially since the system's components can be reused for many years. Adjustable scaffolds are a more expensive option, though the increased productivity associated with these units may offset the initial purchase or rental costs. Suspended scaffolds are the most expensive of all because they must be engineered to work with a specific project.

Next, consider the building's design. For very tall buildings, it is easier and safer to use a suspended scaffold than to build a platform dozens of stories high. For buildings that are not square, or contain many recesses and projections in their exterior, a supported platform scaffold will provide the most flexibility. Job sites with limited space or nearby obstructions will require the use of a supported platform or suspended scaffolding system, as adjustable scaffolds are quite large, and must be moved using a crane. Finally, supported platform scaffolds are the easiest of the three to enclose, allowing work to continue during the cold winter days.

It's also important to consider a project's schedule when choosing a scaffolding system. Because they allow masons to work continuously at the most productive level possible, adjustable systems help get the work done more quickly. In general, an adjustable system is also faster to erect than a supported platform, and doesn't require the engineering needed with suspended systems. These factors usually mean that jobs on a tight schedule will work best using an adjustable scaffolding system.

Numerous accidents can occur if the scaffolding structure is not completely stabilized.
Numerous accidents can occur if the scaffolding structure is not completely stabilized.

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