Is There a Height Limit in Scaffolding Assemblies?

December 10, 2018

The laws of physics prevent scaffolding assemblies from climbing too high. Scaffolding safety guidelines simply translate such common sense instincts into written rules, which must be observed by an erection team. The competent person must be familiar with all such rulings. Having said all that, what are these limits? Are they absolutes? Do they vary, perhaps because of the scaffolding type? Let's find out where we stand.

It's a Stability Debilitating Move

A tall network of safely coupled staging sections can climb high, but its peak will pass a point at which the entire structure is no longer considered safe. Beyond this point, the staging becomes unstable. To offset this problem, there are actions that can be taken by the scaffolding team. Outriggers keep the structure stable. Ties and braces help, too. There are lines that can be fastened at higher points as long as the tie-off points are themselves firm. Remember, even if there's no personnel on the tower, the slightest imbalance can send the framework toppling. A breeze, subsidence below the outriggers, the smallest side-directed influence is enough when scaffolding is erected too high.

How High Can You Go?

That information is usually supplied by the scaffolding manufacturer, because only the manufacturer knows all the properties of their own system. Materials, such as light gauge alloys, will impact the load-bearing properties of a tower, no matter how well it's erected. The best erection team in the world could come together for one night only to erect the scaffolding, but if the metal is a soft gauge steel, then it'll still collapse under its own weight. Of course, some factors are constant and predictable. The wind blows, gravity remains unchanged, and stability issues occur. Note the width of the framework. Apply the four times base width rule as a height regulating formula. A 4 to 1 ratio helps the competent person to locate tie-off points as the system is erected.

Common sense is a great tool for a competent person to possess when he's onsite. For example, this individual will likely advise a maximum height limit of 12-metres if the tower is mobile. Adjustable height jacks and outriggers may help, but these parts must be used judiciously. For staging assets that rise above 18-metres and are solidly erected, the 4 to 1 ratio is enforced. Again, the action only works if the tie-offs are made to a structure that's entirely stable. At the end of the day, the manufacturer guidelines impact this puzzle. The gauge of the steel, the diameter of the cross-members, all of these factors are decided by the fabricator, so a hire agency-to-fabricator communications line is always desirable.

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