This document has been compiled from the most common questions WorkSafe is asked about tower-frame scaffolds.
Its publication is intended to assist people by clarifying and explaining WorkSafe’s position on these common questions.
1. What are tower-frame scaffolds?
Tower-frame scaffolds are a particular form of prefabricated scaffolding. They incorporate fabricated frame units constructed as single-bay towers.
Most tower-frame systems are aluminium, but steel systems are also available.
Mobile tower-frame scaffolds are mounted on castors for ease of relocation between uses.
Typical mobile tower-frame scaffolds
2. Who can erect and dismantle tower-frame scaffolds?
If the fall-height from the scaffold’s top working platform will be more than 4 metres, anyone erecting, altering or dismantling the scaffold at a workplace must hold an appropriate scaffolding certificate of competency, or be a trainee under the direct supervision of a certificate holder
The minimum nationally uniform certificate class required is basic scaffolding (class code SB).
A certificated scaffolder directly supervising a trainee must be specifically authorised by the employer to oversight the trainee.
Note: The fall-height is taken to be the vertical distance from the top working platform to the lowest point to which an object could fall. It takes no account of edge protection provided to the platform. As shown in the illustration on the right, a low-height scaffold located adjacent to the edge of an elevated floor can have a potential fall-height exceeding 4 metres, and would require certification to erect. Also note: Perimeter guard-railing on the suspended floor shown on the right has been omitted for clarity.
If the fall-height from the top platform will not exceed 4 metres, then a person who has been adequately trained and instructed in the erection and dismantling of that brand and model of scaffolding system may carry out the work.
3. What should the supplier’s information include?
Suppliers of tower-frame scaffolding must have adequate information concerning:
- The purpose(s) for which that particular system was designed, and
- Any conditions necessary to ensure that scaffolds constructed from the system’s components are safe and without risks to health if used for a purpose for which the system was designed.
This information must be given to each business or individual to whom tower-frame scaffolding components are supplied.
The information must also be given, upon request, to anyone using or about to use that particular system’s components.
Suppliers’ safe-use information usually takes the form of product brochures or data sheets. Some suppliers also publish this information on their internet websites.
As a minimum, the supplier’s documented information for a particular make and model of a tower-frame scaffolding system should include:
- Instructions for erection, dismantling, transportation, storage and maintenance.
- A guide on safe working practices, including ensuring the stability of the erected scaffold.
- Guidance on the type of scaffolding coupler(s) to use when connecting ties and other accessories. [See Question 11 for further information on this issue.]
- Duty of scaffold, including maximum platform capacity. [See Question 10 for further information on this issue.]
- Maximum number of working platforms. [See Question 6 for further information on this issue.]
- Maximum height. [See Question 5 for further information on this issue.]
The supplier’s documented information should be readily available to those erecting, using, inspecting or dismantling scaffolds, to those supervising or monitoring the work, and to workers’ elected health & safety representatives.
4. Can towers be linked together to form a safe run of scaffold?
Not unless both the following apply
- It is possible to construct a full length, unobstructed working platform at any lift in the configuration, and
- The supplier’s documented information specifies such a configuration.
5. How high can tower-frame scaffolds be safely erected?
The maximum height for which the particular tower-frame scaffolding system has been designed should be clearly stated in the supplier’s documented safe-use information.
Note: The height of a scaffold is regarded as being the vertical distance from the supporting structure to the highest working platform of the scaffold.
The freestanding height of a light duty aluminium tower-frame scaffold with a base width of less than 1.2 m should not exceed twice the least base width (unless otherwise specifically stated in the supplier’s documented information).
The height of any light-duty tower-frame scaffold should not exceed 9 m (unless otherwise specifically stated in the supplier’s documented information).
6. How many working platforms can a tower-frame scaffold have?
The maximum number of working platforms the particular tower-frame scaffolding system has been designed to support should be clearly stated in the supplier’s documented safe-use information.
If this is not clearly stated, then only one working platform should be used.
Note: A working platform should be the full width of the scaffold frames. Most systems include prefabricated platform units (usually about 600 mm in width) which can be positioned side-by-side to form the platform. Some older steel systems are designed to be used with cleated timber scaffold planks.
Intermediate platforms are generally installed for access purposes only, not as working platforms.