Safety gear, alternative materials and labor-saving accessories improve adjustable scaffold systems
By Brett Martin
At first glance, it may not seem a lot has changed in adjustable scaffolding. But a closer look reveals that accessories and equipment are making scaffold systems safer, easier to use and less labor intensive.
“Adjustable scaffolding is perfect for the mason,” says Clint Bridges, VP of EZ Scaffold in Columbia, Tenn. “The guys are always at the right level for working and not jumping boards. You never stop laying brick, and your production goes up.”
Scaffolding is now even better: Easy-to-attach guardrails protect workers from falls; new brackets and buckets make transporting scaffolding and parts more convenient; and metal and synthetics replace wood for mudsills and planking.
Accessories and safety equipment
A new barricade guardrail from Non-Stop Scaffolding Inc. in Shreveport, La., protects workers at corners, where the scaffolding extends past the building and at openings in the wall, such as truck docks, says Justin Breithaupt Jr., VP and co-owner of the company.
“This actually lets you block out sections of the scaffold,” Breithaupt says. “It prevents the masonry contractor from walking passed the corner of a building.”
This year, Non-Stop released its Parts Basket, which holds parts, braces, guardrails and tools.
“This is for our customers who were having trouble keeping all of their parts in one place and wanted to move around easily from job to job,” Breithaupt says. “You shouldn’t have to go looking for parts and brackets when it’s time to go to the next jobsite.”
Non-Stop added guardrails to the baskets to produce the Man Basket, which holds workers.
“There are times when [masonry contractors] have a spot on the wall 20 feet high,” Breithaupt says. “They used to put a guy on a pallet and lift him up there on a forklift to fix it. If OSHA catches you doing that, you’re in for a very expensive fine. With a Man Basket, you can put a man with tools and materials in there and work anywhere a forklift can reach. The workers can also be tied off for safety.”
Charles Dewey, VP of scaffold and erection services for Cleveland-based Waco Scaffolding and Equipment, says masonry contractors don’t know about a lot of the features, benefits and accessories of frame scaffold systems.
“We’re still having people hurt in our business, because people don’t know how to use the scaffolding properly or don’t know the regulations, which is amazing in the age we live in,” Dewey says. “Part of it is that guys don’t want to take the time to learn about scaffolding, so they just don’t know about it.”
Safety products have been available for a long time, Dewey says. “The problem has been that the guys didn’t know they were available or didn’t use them.”
Replacing wood with metal, synthetics
Wood has long been used with scaffold systems for mudsills and planking, but it’s starting to be replaced by metal and synthetic materials.
“We have metal mudsills, instead of wood, that attach to the screw jack,” Bridges says. “It’s not going to get cut up on the jobsite, so you’re always going to have an OSHA-compliant mudsill for your scaffolding.”
On jobsites, wood mudsills tend to get used for things besides scaffolding, leaving masonry contractors without a vital piece to their systems, he says.
“Metal is more durable than wood, and the mudsills stay with the scaffolding when you pick it up to move it,” Bridges says. EZ Scaffold also has steel inside boards. “People love these. They are the boards between the towers.ÊThey are cut to fit, are more likely to stay OSHA compliant, and are not as likely to be taken to be used for something else.”
Waco Scaffolding is currently working with a company that’s developing a fiberglass-based synthetic plank, which should be available later this year, Dewey says.
“Aluminum and steel have been used for a long time, but they’re heavy,” Dewey explains. “The synthetic planks will be quite a bit lighter and just as strong, if not stronger, than steel.”
Adjustable scaffolding is also a cost-effective system to use with mast climbers. It’s about half the price of mast climbers, yet the two systems complement each other, Bridges says.
“Adjustable scaffolding works well with mast climbers,” he says. “They fill holes in the wall or can be installed next to mast climbers. The planks run straight across the scaffoldings, not at an incline, so you can move from one to another safely.”
Time, labor savers
Recent improvements to scaffold systems allow masonry contractors to save time, labor and money. Non-Stop’s Rack Brackets let contractors take down their stop towers, and then clamp them together in a compact, four-foot-wide bundle.
“It eliminates a lot of headaches that they have had in transferring scaffolding quickly and efficiently, and not losing parts along the way,” Breithaupt says. “It turns a three-day job into a one-day job.”
The brackets reduce disassembly time. “Once clamped together, 10 towers can be easily stored on a jobsite, because you don’t need a bunk rake,” Breithaupt says. “It saves you time and labor, which is money. Labor is always money to a contractor.”
EZ Scaffold has a new weather-protection system that has fewer parts and easily attaches to the scaffolding, Bridges says. A bracket holds the weather protection in place. As the crank-up scaffolding moves up and down, the weather protection goes with it.
“We’ve got lightweight weather protection that’s easy for two guys to put up,” Bridges explains. “It’s a lot less labor intensive than other weather protection.”
Bridges says crank-up scaffolding allows masons to be more productive. “Crank-up gives you a big increase in production, which gets you off the job faster and saves you labor,” he says. “You’ll get 20 percent more production verses frame scaffold.”
Once the scaffolding is assembled on the jobsite, masonry contractors no longer have to hassle with moving planks.
“With crank-up scaffolding, you’ll see an increase in production,” Bridges says. “You never have to stop to move boards, and masons are working at waist level, at a comfortable level, which is more efficient and ergonomic. The benefit of the crank-up is definitely the production increase and moving it around the job fully assembled.”
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