A guide to using scaffolding in the Construction Industry

Erecting, altering and dismantling scaffolding is a common yet exceedingly complex process in the building and construction industry, one which can have devastating consequences when approached incorrectly.

As such a high-stake operation, we’ve put together a general guide detailing legislative requirements and best practice scaffolding use to reference throughout your project.


Who is this guide for?

This guide is designed for entities hiring or purchasing scaffolding, or who manage scaffolding in the workplace, as a preliminary source of information to gain a general overview of requirements before seeking more detailed and specific advice pertaining to your scaffolding project. 

Note: when acquiring information regarding legislative requirements of scaffolding and scaffolding works, always seek advice directly from the governing bodies. You can also consult the General Guide for Scaffolds and Scaffolding Work distributed by Safe Work Australia and Code of Practice: Construction work.


Managing scaffolding risks

The primary objectives of scaffolding codes and regulations is to ensure the continued health and safety of workers and anyone who comes into contact with your structures.

To effectively manage these risks, it is required that the following steps are carried out before, during and after work commences.


In order to develop appropriate risk management strategies, the type and level of risks associated with your scaffold need to be identified. To help you determine what carries potential risks, it is important to:

  • Analyse the physical space and where your scaffolding may interact with people, vehicles and static structures.
  • Review the environment and ground conditions prior to installation
  • Determine functional requirements of the scaffold
  • Conduct frequent inspections of the scaffold, including before, during and after use
  • Review records for any incidents or injuries that occurred on a similar set up


Once the risks have been recognised, it’s important to clarify exactly how likely and how serious these risks are. In some instances, risks and control measures may already be known, however it’s always recommended to conduct a risk assessment to determine how critical control will be and which subsequent actions should be taken.


As stipulated throughout Australian work health and safety laws, any business or undertaking implementing scaffold throughout their construction project must do everything that is practical to reduce or eliminate associated risks.

Controlling risk is ranked from highest to lowest level of protection and reliability, also known as the hierarchy of risk control. It is required that this hierarchy be worked through in order to appropriately manage risks.


Once your control measures are in place, it is required that you regularly review them to ensure they continue to work effectively as intended. This review should take into account any changes to working conditions.


Scaffold licensing

Any person or entity responsible for erecting and dismantling scaffolding as part of high-risk construction work must be competent and licensed as required by WHS regulations. Depending on the nature of the construction work and the required scaffolding, you will be required to hold one of the following high-risk work licence classes:

  • Basic scaffolding licence
  • Intermediate scaffolding licence
  • Advanced scaffolding licence

When undertaking construction work, this entity must have also completed general construction induction training.

*In instances where there is risk of a person or objects falling four metres or less, the entity is not required to hold a high-risk work licence.


Choosing scaffold for purpose

As part of the risk control element of your project, you need to consider how your scaffold will be used and subsequently which type of scaffold will be the safest for this purpose.

Click here to learn more about the various types of scaffold.


Supporting structures

In some instances, it can be beneficial to consider the capacity of external structures to help in bearing the most adverse combination of loads possible when using scaffold. In these cases, it is important to get advice from a competent person before anchoring your scaffold to structures such as buildings or erecting on high-risk foundations such as verandas and suspended flooring.


Using work platforms

Working platforms come with duty classifications and dimensions to comply with loading as stipulated by the manufacturer. This excludes suspended scaffolds. In general, there are 3 ratings for scaffold platforms (light, medium and heavy duty), although Special Duty may be used where the designated allowable load doesn’t fit into one of these categories.

Light Duty

  • Up to 225kg / platform / bay – including concentrated load of 120kg
  • Platforms to be approximately 450mm
  • Eg electrical work, painting & some carpentry tasks

Medium Duty

  • Up to 450kg / platform / bay – including concentrated load of 150kg
  • Platforms to be approximately 900mm
  • Eg steel framing & tiling work

Heavy Duty

  • Up to 675kg / platform / bay – including concentrated load of 200kg
  • Platforms to be approximately 1000mm
  • Eg laying concrete blocks, demolition & other heavy load / impact works


Further scaffolding advice with CPS

Understanding the hazards of scaffolding as well as the requirements for safety and risk prevention is a complex process that requires meticulous planning and in-depth knowledge of legislative requirements in the relevant states and territories.

As a leader in designing and delivering code-compliant scaffolding structures in Queensland, Commercial Project Services can work alongside your team to deliver complete scaffolding and labour solutions with optimum safety and accountability on site. For those with extensive scaffolding experience, we can also offer a less encompassing approach to allow your team to operate your scaffolding as required.

Head to our services page to learn more about our 3-tiered scaffolding solutions or give us a call on (07) 3105 2831 to discuss your project requirements in more detail.