Date: 21 February 2019

Speaker: Mark Clark, Managing Director, Clarke Health & Safety Consultants Ltd

Gary McAteer, Vice Chairman, South Cumbria & North Lancashire IOSH Branch, welcomed members to the Branch’s joint February meeting with SCOHSG. He then introduced our speaker, Mark Clarke, who has many years’ experience of working in the scaffolding construction industry.

Mark introduced his presentation by explaining that he had learnt about scaffolding from the bottom up. He said that he began his career as a scaffold labour and worked his way up to managing scaffolding projects at Shell Stanlow oil refinery, where he also began his Health and Safety career. He wqs then appointed as the Health and Safety Adviser at one of the UKs largest scaffolding contractors where his main role was to manage scaffolding/painting and asbestos operations within the nuclear industry and the petrochemical industry across the UK. Mark moved on to Bluestone Plc (now Morgan Ashurst) as one of their safety managers before setting up his consultancy business. He also co-authored of the NASCs SG4:00 and SG4:05 and works closely with the HSE and the NASC.

He warned members that some scaffolding contractors were expecting scaffolders to undertake work beyond their competence – for instance, some scaffold labourers were being asked to put up scaffolding on relatively complex jobs without competent supervision when their training only qualified them to be scaffolding labourers. He stressed that it was important for Clients and managers to ensure that the scaffolding contractors that they employ used scaffolders who are competent to do the job. He suggested that one of the best ways to assess this was to visit jobs that possible contractors were already working on, or to ask the opinion of others who had recently employed the scaffolding contactors who you were thinking of appointing.

Mark reminded members that scaffolds should be designed, erected, altered and dismantled by competent people and that scaffolding work should always be carried out under the direction of a competent supervisor, as required by the Work at Height Regulations, 2005.
He explained that he was passionate about ensuring that scaffolding was ‘fit-for-purpose’ to help prevent falls from height because he had seen the serious impact of falls from scaffolding on scaffolders and their families. He reminded members that HSE’s statistics showed that over 60% of deaths during work at height involve falls from ladders, scaffolds, working platforms and roof edges and that these figures do not include other workers who were seriously injured and are no longer fit to work and support their families.

Mark stressed that it was important to use reputable scaffolding contractors who employed competent scaffolders.

Mark illustrated his presentation with photographs of good and bad scaffolding as he explained some of the key things that Clients and site managers need to look for when they are responsible for jobs that involve the use of scaffolding on site – such as:

  • Appropriate scaffold design plan that takes account of the specific requirements of the job – needs to include clear erection and dismantling procedures and safe systems of work.
  • Ensuring that on-the-job scaffolders have had adequate training and experience ie appropriate for the type of scaffolding work they are undertaking – relevant for the type and form of scaffolding they are working on.
  • Ensuring that their scaffolding gang includes a lead scaffolder who is qualified for the type and complexity of the scaffold that  is to be erected and that he has been trained under an industry recognised training scheme such as: a) The Construction Industry Scaffolders Registration Scheme (CISRS) and has been awarded a Scaffolder card or b) that he has received training under a recognised manufacturer or supplier scheme, that qualifies him to supervise the erection of the type of scaffolding being used for the job.
  • Use of safe scaffolding building techniques – for instance correct use of basic step-stool and harness techniques that allows each layer of scaffolding to be added in a safe manner, as recommended by NASC
  • Use of safe systems of work for storing and installing: scaffolding planks, toe-boards, guard rails, netting, ladders (especially ladder ties), tag systems.

He also said that it is important to ensure that:

  • Tradesmen using the scaffolding follow safe working procedures.
  • Scaffolders and tradesmen are trained in the correct use and maintenance of fall arrest harnesses.
  • Scaffolders and/or tradesmen will not be at risk of coming into contact with overhead power lines while building, or, working on scaffolding.
  • Chute and lift systems are safe to use and ‘fit-for-purpose’
  • There is a practical Rescue Plan – it does not need expensive equipment because it can include adapted use of basic scaffolding equipment and fall arrest harnesses. Ideally scaffolders should be trained in fall arrest harness rescue techniques.
  • There is an adequate dismantling plan – imperative because this is often a stage of the work where easily avoidable accidents happen.

Mark’s talk generated some lively and informed discussion.

Gary McAteer, Vice Chairman, South Cumbria & North Lancashire IOSH Branch, thanked Mark for giving members such a worthwhile useful presentation on scaffolding before presenting him with a small token of the group’s appreciation.

Attendees then had an opportunity to network with one another and Mark over tea or coffee and biscuits.

Related HSE web site links:

Construction work at height

Scaffold check list

Safe use of ladders


What you should be expecting to see from your scaffolder