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Scaffolding: the rules

By Rebecca Milligan

The Trusted Traders team look at the regulations around using scaffolding, what you and your trader need to know.

Ask five different people about whether or not to use scaffolding and you’ll probably get five different answers. There is a common misconception that ladders and stepladders are banned when traders work at height, but the law recognises that low-risk situations do not require scaffolding. It is a matter of using common sense.

When do you need scaffolding?

It is up to your trader to assess the level of risk and use the appropriate equipment. Fixing a single broken tile on a low roof would not be the same as installing solar panels 20 stories up. It really depends exactly what work you are doing and what level of risk it involves.

Traders do need to ensure their staff are safe as they work on your property. This means working from the ground if possible. If they need to work at height, they must minimise the risk of falling by using existing safe roof areas or scaffolding.

What sort of scaffolding will they need?

Most scaffolding around residential properties will follow an established, standard structure. Supported scaffolding is built from the base upwards to a set design.

However, if it is not possible to use a straightforward standard configuration, a competent person – either a scaffold contractor or designer – must create a bespoke design to ensure the strength, rigidity and stability of the structure while it is built, used and dismantled. Your trader will know if this is necessary.

Will I need a licence?

If your builder or scaffolder needs to put up scaffolding within the boundary of your property there is no need for a licence. However, if any part of the scaffolding needs to go on the pavement or the road outside your property your builder or scaffolder must get a licence from your local council. It is up to them to obtain the licence, but it is your responsibility to check that they have the appropriate paperwork.

If there is a risk to the public, you must schedule scaffolding work for quiet times or get a highway closure from your local council.

Who is responsible for health and safety?

For work done on your home NOT in connection with any business, the builder, scaffolder or contractor who is using the scaffolding is responsible for maintaining safety on site.

But the rules are different for individuals, partnerships or companies that have construction work carried out as part of their business. This includes property developers and companies managing domestic properties like landlords, rental agents or estate agents. The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 state that their main responsibility is to make sure their project is suitably managed, ensuring the health and safety of anyone who might be affected by the work, including the general public.

Who can put up scaffolding?

You must use a builder or scaffolding contractor who is trained and competent to put up scaffolding. This means they need to have the necessary skills, experience and knowledge to manage health and safety. A qualified scaffolder will hold a valid Construction Industry Record Scheme (CISRS) Card – it is up to your trader to check that this person is competent before any work begins.

When should scaffolding be checked for safety?

By law the hirer or user of the scaffolding, must check it, to make sure it is safe:

  • Before they first use it

  • Every seven days when it is up

  • After alterations, damage or extreme weather conditions

Insurance

Scaffolders face a unique set of risks due to working at height. Builders or scaffolding firms need insurance that covers those risks, including public liability insurance to cover any injury to the public caused by falling items from the scaffold as well as employers’ liability insurance to cover their people if they are injured while working at height. It is worth checking that they have this insurance in place, before starting work.

If you want to ensure that your scaffolding complies with the regulations, one of our Which? Trusted Traders will be able to help. 

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