Scaffolding is used in many sectors

On these pages you will find basic information about what scaffolding is, the risks there are with it, and how these risks can be prevented.

These pages are for those who drive work environment management at the workplace, for example in the role of employer, manager, safety representative and employee, but also for manufacturers and importers of scaffolding.

Before, scaffolding was used almost exclusively within the building industry. This has changed over time, and nowadays scaffolding is used in many sectors, for example within commerce, training and building maintenance. One often carries out these working tasks from scaffolding, whereas before one used ladders. This could be, for example, when one is going to read instruments, service or adjust devices that cannot be reached from the floor, change light bulbs or armatures. It is often due to the premises one is working in having high ceilings and it is not acceptable from a work environment perspective to carry out these recurring tasks from ladders. It is mainly mobile access towers and room scaffolds that are used in sectors other than the building sector.

What is a scaffold?

One can briefly describe a scaffold in the following way:

  • It is a temporary technical device.
  • It is composed of several (at least two) different components.
  • The maximum height from the base to the working level (or equivalent) must be at least 1.25 metres.
  • It is used as a workplace, means of access, fall protection, or as a protection fan.

A scaffold is often used in several ways, for example as a workplace and as a means of access. Scaffolding can also be designed so that one can partly use it to work on a roof base, partly as fall protection when one works higher up on the roof.

Sometimes it can be difficult to draw the line between what is scaffolding and what isn’t. If one hangs a temporary device in a roof and it is not adjustable in height then it is a scaffold. If one instead hangs it on rope so that the height can be adjusted, then it is not a scaffold but a machine.

You can read more about this area in the Swedish Work Environment Authority’s provisions about scaffolding (AFS 2013:4Eng), 2 and 4 §§. There are also definitions of the different concepts.

Scaffolding (AFS 2013:4Eng), provisions

What types of scaffolds are there?

Scaffolds can be divided in several different ways. One way to divide them is this:

  • prefabricated scaffolds
  • tube and coupler scaffolds
  • wooden scaffolds

A prefabricated, that is to say an already manufactured, scaffold is built up of a large number of different components which have different devices, so called connection devices, which mean that the components can be assembled into a scaffold. Prefabricated scaffolding shall also be type examined, that is to say examined by an accreditation body. Often it is the manufacturer or importer who shall make sure that the scaffolding has been type examined.

Type examined scaffolds, SP website (in Swedish), opens in new window

A tube and coupler scaffold is built of loose tubes and couplers, normally with working decks consisting of wooden planks. The scaffolding system in its entirety cannot be type examined because there is no manufacturer. There is, therefore, no one who is responsible for tube and coupler scaffolding as a whole, apart from the person who erected it. The couplers shall, on the other hand, be type examined. There are type configurations for tube and coupler scaffolds (when they are built on a facade), that is, the execution of tube and coupler scaffolds that are designed, that is to say resistance-tested so that they are safe.

A wooden scaffold is completely made of wood, normally sawn timber (planks, boards, rails etc.). Wooden scaffolding does not have a manufacturer either and there are no typical case scenarios. They must thus be designed in every single case.

One can say that tube and coupler scaffolds and wooden scaffolds are manufactured every single time they are erected.

Another way to divide scaffolding is according to area of use and function according to the following:

  • facade scaffolds
  • mobile access towers
  • room scaffolds

Facade scaffolds are used during work on facades. They rest on the ground and are anchored to the facade. Facade scaffolding can be prefabricated scaffolds as well as tube and coupler scaffolds and can be very high. If they are higher than 24 meters, and sometimes even with lower height, they must normally be designed in every individual case. Facade scaffolds are often used for work that can take a long time to carry out.

Mobile access towers are freestanding and normally rest on four lockable wheels. They are almost always prefabricated and can be used for short-term work where the scaffold needs to be moved often. The maximum height to the working level varies between different manufacturers but may not be taller than twelve metres indoors (without wind) or eight metres outdoors.

Room scaffolds are similar to mobile access towers but cannot have a higher height to the working area than 2 metres. They can have wheels but do not have to have them. They may only be used by one person at a time.

Encapsulation construction

Encapsulation construction is a temporary construction used when one wishes to cover or enclose an area where one works on a building or plant, to protect the employee and the building work from climatic influence (weather and wind). Encapsulation construction always includes a roof but there can also be walls. A covered facade scaffold is, however, not encapsulation construction, even if the covering goes over the upper working level.

Encapsulation construction must be designed for every individual case and the loads that normally occur are from wind, snow and from the people who are on them. 

Scaffolding (AFS 2013:4Eng), provisions

Omslagsbild: AFS
The provisions for scaffolding apply to scaffolds and encapsulation construction. The provisions contain, for example, material requirements, regulations for type examination, marking and instructions, as well as regulations and recommendations for placement and design.
Was the information on this page useful?

In order for us to respond to your comments, you need to enter an email address.

If you have a question, want to report abuse at a workplace or give us tips on workplaces where the working environment is not good? Contact us via our contact form.

Contact form

Last updated 2016-09-22