Preventive work with scaffolds

Systematic work environment management is the foundation of all work environment management, even for work with scaffolds. It is important that all employers have well-thought out systematic work environment management.
Attachment of the scaffold of a building

Systematic work environment management can briefly be described thus:

  • Investigate the activities, particularly with regard to the risks that exist.
  • Assess the risks you find in the investigation.
  • Plan and take steps to reduce or remove the risks.
  • Check that the measures have had results.

You must also investigate the accidents, illnesses and incidents that have occurred in your operations. What is their cause? Are there any systematic shortcomings in how your company works that you should change? All this is included in systematic work environment management.

In order for the activities above to function in the best possible way, the regulations about systematic work environment management make demands for certain prerequisites, such as, for example:

  • that the work environment tasks need to be allocated within the organisation
  • that those who receive the tasks need knowledge and resources
  • that the employees are given the possibility of participating in the work environment management
  • that there are procedures clearly describing how the different activities must be carried out.

Systematic work environment management is thus a system of both activities and the organisation thereof, in order to be able to prevent the current risks in the activities, and create a safer and better work environment.

Read more on the page about systematic work environment management.

Work environment management

When it comes to scaffolding, the risks often consist of falls from height or collapse accidents, together with ergonomic risks. How the risk profile for individual companies looks depends, to a large extent, on how one works with scaffolds. Here are some types of company:

  1. Those who erect and then provide the scaffold to another company.
  2. Those who use scaffolds in their own operations.
  3. Those who erect scaffolds in order to later use them themselves.

Companies of type c) are affected by the same risks as both a) and b) but the company group in itself is considerably smaller than a) and b). Some important points to consider are here:

a) Those of you who erect, significantly modify and dismantle scaffolds are often subject to risks of falls from height because the scaffolding’s guardrail is often erected after the working deck is in place. In these cases you must be protected by using personal fall protection equipment. A problem with this is that it is not always obvious where the personal protection equipment can be anchored – consult with the manufacturer or supplier of the scaffolding if you are not sure.

You must also think of the ergonomics when the scaffolding is erected, significantly modified or dismantled –  ensure that you minimise the occasions entailing that the scaffolding components must be lifted or carried. Try to lift the components with a crane, or erect the elevator at an early stage so that the elevator can also be used to carry the scaffolding components.

b) For those of  you who use scaffolds, it is important to make sure that they suit your activities, that is to say the work you plan to carry out from them. If you are not sure, say something as soon as possible! It is more difficult to have the scaffold modified the longer you wait!

In addition, you must examine the scaffold before you start to use it, as well as continuously during the time you are using it. It is, for example, important that there is protection against falls from height – guardrails - everywhere they must be, and that they are complete. They must have a principal guardrail, intermediate guardrail and toeboard, or equivalent protection in another way. If you are going to use the scaffold as protection against falls from height when you work on a roof at the side of the scaffold, the guardrail needs to be both stronger and spaced more closely together.

It is a great advantage if the inspection of whether the scaffold is correctly built and well-functioning - which one must do before starting to use it - can be done simultaneously by the person who built it and the person who will be using it. Don’t forget that the inspection must be documented!

c) If you erect the scaffold and are later going to be using it yourself, you must also document your inspection – on the other hand you know yourself what is needed for you to be able to carry out your work in a good way.

Choosing equipment – which scaffold must one have?

First and foremost, you must choose the right work equipment. Must you use a scaffold at all? It is perhaps more appropriate to choose a skylift or other device for the work you are going to be carrying out. If you have decided that a scaffold is the most appropriate working equipment for the job, you must also choose the right type of scaffold.

You first have to decide if you must use a facade scaffold or a mobile access tower. If you are going to carry out work on a façade, the choice is simple – you must have a facade scaffold. If it is, however, very short term (and light) work you will be doing, you can sometimes manage with a mobile access tower. A mobile access tower is simpler to erect and is not anchored to the facade, but is not as stable as a facade scaffold. The means of access are also worse. To see more about what applies for the use of mobile access towers, see 71 § in the provisions and the text about them in the general guidelines.

Scaffolding (AFS 2013:4Eng), provisions

General about planning

Planning is everything for work with or from scaffolds. When the European Commission drew up the ’Work at Height Directive’, one took note of this and made clear that one must always carry out planning before one erects and uses scaffolds. This requirement is implemented in 25 § in the Swedish Work Environment Authority’s provisions about scaffolds (AFS 2013:4Eng). The Swedish Work Environment Authority has also produced a special form that can be used in the planning. 

Scaffolding (AFS 2013:4Eng), provisions

Planning of work on facades

When you choose which facade scaffold you shall have, you must consider a number of factors:

  • Will several companies be there, at the same time or after one another?
  • What work will be done and are the implements or tools that must be used heavy or cumbersome?
  • How wide must the scaffolding be?
  • What means of access is needed?
  • How will the scaffold be anchored?
  • Will the scaffold serve for bearing an encapsulation construction?
  • What loads will it need to bear?
  • Will you need to use more than one working deck at the same time?

Before you decide what type of scaffold you must have, you must know about the work that will be carried out from the scaffold and who is going to carry out that work. If you do not know how the job or jobs will be carried out, you should check with the companies that will be doing the work so that you know about their needs. At the same time you need to check what machines or any other heavy equipment the company wishes to use on the scaffold. This equipment could impact on the width of the scaffolding as well as on its load class.

Scaffold width

In order to be able to work on the scaffolding in a good way, the working deck needs to be sufficiently wide. The principle is that 0.60 m each is needed in order to work, for the laying out of larger material and for the transport of material. It is important that you think through the needs before you choose the scaffold – all scaffolds do not have the same possibility of greater width.

In the standard SS-EN 12811-1, there is a system of width classes in order to give the breadth of a working deck. The system, which consists of the letter W followed by 2 numbers, which give the width in decimetres. A width of 0,60 m is therefore stated with the code W06, and a width of 2.40 m is named W24. In between, there are width classes with the interval 0.30 m.

The more persons who will be working on the scaffolding, the wider it will need to be, particularly if they work in the vicinity of each other. When it comes to handling building material, building products or other things, please check the Swedish Work Environment provisions about musculoskeletal ergonomics.

Means of access

Stairs as a means of access are almost always needed during facade work. It is only if there are very few people who will be using the scaffold, and it will only be erected for a short time, that one can manage with something else.

Sometimes several stairways are necessary in a scaffold. Normally there must not be more than 25 metres between them if more are needed.

An elevator is often needed in addition to stairs. One must do a risk assessment with respect to the following factors:

  • how high it is to the working deck
  • how comprehensive the work is
  • how many will be using the means of access.

The provision about building and civil engineering work can then be of support for assessment.

Building and civil engineering work, (AFS1999:3Eng), provisions

Load bearing on the scaffold

One of the most important things when one chooses a scaffold is to decide which load class it must have. There are six load classes (1-6). The most common load classes for normal work are class 3 or class 4, sometimes class 2. Load class 5 is the most common during bricklaying and masonry. Load class 1 is almost never used during facade work and load class 6 sometimes occurs when one needs to have heavy machines on the scaffold, or if one is creating an loading bay for heavy material.

If several companies will be using the scaffolding at the same time, one must investigate if they will be working at different levels.

Design and design documents

When one knows the loads to which the scaffold will be subjected, one needs to carry out designing – that means checking that the scaffold is safe to be on if the maximum load is reached.

Often it is sufficient to have a type examination certificate (for a prefabricated scaffold) or type configuration (for a tube and coupler scaffold) as design documents, if

  1. the load class with the accompanying width class is in the certification
  2. only the working deck on one level will be loaded at the same time, and
  3. the scaffold will not be sheeted.

This applies on condition that the type examination certificate contains the information that is listed in the provisions about scaffolds (AFS 2013:4Eng).

Scaffolding (AFS 2013:4Eng), provisions

If any of a) to c) are not fulfilled, one must see that the loading capacity is further investigated. For alternative a), it can be sufficient that one compensates for a greater width by means of shorter bay length. In order to be able to load more than one level at the same time, one can compensate the increased load by means of less width, a shorter bay length and/or a lower scaffold height.

If the scaffold is to be sheeted, the anchoring is vital for safety. The anchoring strength is usually several times higher for a sheeted scaffold, even if one only covers it in with so called summer net sheeting.  One can partly use both stronger anchoring and several different anchor points, sometimes even two anchors for the same connecting point in the scaffold.

Even if one comes a long way with simple means, one sometimes needs to do a special design of the whole scaffold anyway. One can then need to turn to a technical consultant or the scaffold supplier, who can often provide design documents or give tips about a consultant who is knowledgeable in that brand of scaffolding.

For tube and coupler scaffolds there is no type examination, certificate because they are not pre-fabricated. There are, on the other hand, type configurations for tube and coupler scaffolds that are produced by SP (The Technical Research Institute of Sweden) upon assignment of the Swedish Work Environment Authority. They can be used in the same way as a type examination certificate.

If you erect the scaffold so that another company can then use it, remember to hand over the design documents – the user must have access to them.

Planning of work from mobile access towers

Mobile access towers can be used to advantage to work from if certain prerequisites are fulfilled. The work must be short term and such that the scaffold often needs to be moved. Changing light bulbs, armatures, the erection and removal of signage, as well as smaller painting, electrical, ventilation and sheet metal jobs are examples of such work. Under certain prerequisites, one can even paint facades on small houses from mobile access towers. Here it is particularly important that the employer carries out a thorough risk assessment.

It is important to keep in mind that a mobile access tower is not as stable as a facade scaffold. It does not tolerate wind loads in the same way, and may not be used if it is too windy. It must therefore never stand outdoors overnight.

In addition, be thorough when reading the instructions before you erect or use it. You may never remain on the mobile access tower while it is being moved. Also when being moved, no material that could fall down may be placed on it either.

An important difference compared with facade scaffolding is that a mobile access tower may never be used in any way other than that described in the type examination certificate – read in the instructions about how it can be used and how it must be designed! The type examination certificate is, in other words, the only design document.

Planning of work from a roof with scaffolding as guardrail

It is often difficult to erect a guardrail at a roof base or the eaves, and in these cases it can be suitable to erect a scaffold around the building, partly so that one can work with the roof base from it, but also that it forms a guardrail for those who are working on the roof. In that case one must keep in mind that specific requirements apply for guardrails on the scaffold. For example it could need to be raised or reinforced.

The height of the guardrail is calculated from the roof surface and perpendicular to it, and it must be at least 1 metre. If the working deck of the scaffold is 0.4 – 0.5 metres under the roof base, this means that the rail must be higher than 0.95m above the working deck.

If someone who works on the roof falls, he or she could come rushing down alongside the roof and finally hit the guardrail, which must then be so strong and close together that it can absorb the impact of the fall. If the abutment is greater than 10°, the guardrails need partly to be closer together, and partly to be able to absorb dynamic loads. The erection varies depending on the roof inclination and fall height (from the roof’s highest point to the base of the roof).

Planning of work with encapsulation construction

When one erects encapsulation construction or works under encapsulation construction, there are a number of important factors to take into consideration. As with anything else, encapsulation construction needs to be designed with respect to wind load, snow load and person load. If the encapsulation construction is only in place during June, July and August, one can disregard the snow load. Snow load must be at least equivalent to that which corresponds to the snow that can fall in a period of seven consecutive days (on an annual basis) based on a fifty-year period. Snow load values can be bought from SMHI but one can also choose the value 0.6 kN/m2.

It is not always enough to only design the encapsulation construction – one often places the encapsulation construction on a scaffold, and one must then ascertain whether the scaffold can cope with its own load as well with as the load of the encapsulation construction.  They must always be designed as a unit working together.

The snow load one designs the encapsulation construction for, often corresponds to the snow that can fall during a week, and that means that one must also regularly remove snow. It can also happen that a construction encapsulation roof needs to be repaired during the time it is in use – an access route to the roof must therefore exist, and one must be protected against falls from height during that time.

Don’t forget that planning and checking of encapsulation construction must be documented in the same way as for a scaffold.


In order to erect, significantly modify and dismantle scaffoldings, one must have knowledge and training. The demand for training was introduced in the provisions on scaffolds in 2006, and has been modified somewhat in connection with the provisions AFS 2013:4Eng coming into effect.

Training levels

In order to erect, significantly modify and dismantle scaffolds, one must have training, in line with the following alternatives:

Basic training

  • Special information on room scaffolds.             
  • Special information on mobile access towers.                              
  • General training on scaffolds.                                    
  • Special training on scaffolds.                                

Supplementary training

  • Supplementary training on special scaffolding construction (for this supplementary training, general training on scaffolds’ is required as a basis).
  • (Demand came into force 1 January 2016) Supplementary training on encapsulation construction (for this supplementary training, special training on scaffolds’ is required as a basis).

Everyone who works with erecting, significantly modifying and dismantling scaffolding must have the required training. An exception is apprentices, who may participate in the work during their training time, under the guidance of a supervisor.

For those companies (for example scaffolding contractor companies) where the staff primarily work with erecting, significantly modifying and dismantling scaffolds, these minimum levels are often insufficient. As a rule, more comprehensive training that is also connected with experience, is necessary. It is appropriate that they have some of the following knowledge documentation:

  • Proof of competence from STIB, the Swedish Scaffolding Contractors Association (theoretical training and      4200 hours of experience)
  • Professional qualifications from the Swedish Construction Industry Training Board, BYN (theoretical training and 4200 hours of experience)

One can also have persons undergoing training with the aim of achieving one of the two knowledge levels.

NB! Because this is general advice, the implication is that all staff must not necessarily have these knowledge levels – with peak activity during short work periods it is accepted that a smaller part of the workforce at a workplace only has the theoretical training level.    

Proof of competence from STIP and the professional qualification from BYN entails that one has basic training that corresponds to special training on scaffolds and supplementary training on special scaffold constructions. If the company also works with encapsulation construction, one must also have supplementary training on encapsulation constructions.

See the provisions about scaffolds (AFS 2013:4Eng), Annex 3, and the guidance ’safe scaffolds’, page 41 – 46.

Scaffolding (AFS 2013:4Eng), provisions

Fall protection during the erection, significant modification and dismantling of scaffolds

It is very important that you and your staff are protected against risks of falls from height during all working moments when you erect, modify and dismantle scaffolds. You as an employer can prevent the risks in different ways depending on how the scaffold is constituted. There are three different alternatives specifically for facade scaffolding.

Scaffolds that are erected so that the guardrail is already in place on the next level up

Several types of scaffolding can be erected so that the guardrail (often the principal guardrail and intermediate guardrail) is already in place when the person who is building the scaffold comes to the next level. Because one is then protected against falls from height, one does not need to use personal fall protection equipment. The toeboard must be erected as soon as possible so that the rail is complete.

Use of temporary rail system

Such a system is erected on the lower level and then pushed up to the next level. If the system has a principal guardrail and an intermediate guardrail, one is not required to use personal fall protection equipment when one erects the scaffold’s ordinary guardrail.

Personal fall protection equipment

If none of these possibilities exist, one must use personal fall protection equipment until all principal and intermediate guardrails are in place.


When one has erected a scaffold or encapsulation construction and will be handing it over for use, the person who built it must first check that it is correctly erected and that it works well. The user must, if possible, participate in the examination. In this way, one can check that it is correctly built, that safety devices and means of access are in place, that all the requisite components are in the right place, and last but not least, that it is suitable for the work that will be carried out from the scaffold or under the encapsulation construction.

The examination must be documented, and the examination document must, together with a number of other documents, be handed over to the user and - where necessary - be able to be shown. In some situations the documents must also be handed over to the building work environment coordinator for the execution phase.             

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.
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Last updated 2016-09-21