Scaffolding: The History, Components and Use

Did you know that scaffolding was used in ancient Greece at least 500 years BC? If you didn’t, you are not alone. The majority of people think that scaffold towers are a modern development. Historical records show that scaffold towers were frequently used in Egypt, Nubia and China in their ancient cultures. Many early African cultures also made use of them.

In the Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo designed his own scaffold tower so that he could reach the apex of the chapel.

Typical scaffold towers are fitted with castors so that the tower can move. The castors lock securely into place when the tower is in use. The platforms on which work is carried out are accessed by internal ladders.

Scaffold Towers: Purpose, Structural and Safety Requirements

When working at height for long periods of time, scaffold towers are the best for the job as this is the purpose of their design. In comparison to a ladder, the platforms are much more comfortable and safer to stand. Overreaching is a major danger associated with standard ladders. To avoid overreaching when standing on a standard ladder, it must be moved constantly, while scaffold towers allows for greater and safer reach from the secure platform.

Scaffold Towers: An Overview of Their Components

There are three major components of a scaffold tower:

  • Bars
  • Frames
  • Platforms

The bars and frames, which are usually made from aluminium or steel, provide the framework for the tower. Aluminium tubing is preferred because it’s light in weight and highly resistant to corrosion.

The bars are components that join the frame sections together. In many modern scaffold towers, nuts and bolts are not needed, and a tower can be set up quickly by one or two workers. Once the tower structure is erected, the platforms that provide the tower’s working surface are fitted. These are made from seasoned wood, and come in a variety of thicknesses. Their length can vary, with the maximum being approximately 2.5m.  Other platform materials include steel, aluminium or laminate boards.


The Basic Components of Scaffold Towers

A scaffold tower’s base section is one of its most important components. A solid and stable base unit means the tower will be safe for working at height for extended periods. Remember, though, that a scaffold tower’s base is only as stable as the surface on which it’s erected. That surface should be clean, dry and free of impediments.

Although tempting, it’s never wise to use the cross braces to access a tower. Always use the tower’s integral ladder. One of the most important components of a scaffold tower is its bracing system. Always connect frames and panels with diagonal and/or crosswise braces. This will ensure that the vertical members are laterally and adequately braced.  Because the sections of the tower are stacked, it’s critical to use cross braces/bars to keep the structure square, level and plumb. Brace connections can become dislodged so always ensure that they are secured.



The Importance of Regular Inspections

Before using a scaffold tower, a competent, qualified person should perform a safety inspection. This is especially important for newly erected structures. An inspection is also needed if there have been extensive alterations to the tower or if there has been an event that might compromise its integrity. If a tower is left in place for more than seven days, it’s wise to re-inspect it. If an inspection uncovers any parts or components of the tower that are deemed unsafe, the defect should be clearly marked. The tower should not be used until the condition is resolved by repair or replacement of the defective part. .

Scaffold towers are the preferred access method for working at height for extended periods.

Alloy Access are Ireland’s leading provider of access solutions. If your looking to buy new or used scaffold towers or if your looking to hire, then contact us today!

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