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What is scaffolding used for?

Scaffolding is a temporary platform constructed for reaching heights above arms' reach for the purpose of building construction, maintenance, or repair. It is usually a modular system of metal pipes (termed tubes in Britain), although it can be made out of other materials. Scaffolding is generally made of lumber and steel which can range from simple to complex in design, depending on its use and purpose. Millions of construction workers, painters, and building maintenance crews work on scaffolding every day, and due to the nature of its use, scaffolding must be properly constructed and used.

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The U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Organization (OSHA) has very specific standards for the construction and use of scaffolding in the workplace, and many large commercial and government construction projects require all workers to have scaffold training and OSHA certification. Some of OSHA's regulations regarding construction of scaffolding include using specific types of lumber when not using steel, weight limitations based on the design of the scaffolding, and regular checks for weakened or broken sections. OSHA places stringent safety regulations on the construction and use of scaffolding not only to reduce serious workplace injury or death, but also to save employers millions in lost time and workers' compensation. OSHA can issue fines to any company, large or small, that they find to be in violation of scaffolding regulations.

Commercial construction accounts for the largest use of scaffolding, but even residential construction and home improvement projects can sometimes require scaffolding. Professional painters are equipped to quickly and properly construct scaffolding on the job, as are other professionals such as bricklayers and carpenters. Unfortunately, many homeowners attempt to construct scaffolding for personal use without the proper knowledge, which often results in injury. To avoid personal injury when attempting to repair, paint, or maintain your home, be sure you know how to properly and safely erect a scaffolding platform that will provide a stable work surface and will bear the weight you place on it. If you are unsure how to construct or use scaffolding, consult a professional contractor.

Scaffolding Materials

The basic materials are tubes, couplers and boards. Tubes are either steel or aluminium. If steel they are either 'black' or galvanised. The tubes come in a variety of lengths and a standard diameter. The chief difference between the two types of tubes is the lower weight of aluminium tubes and also a greater flexibility and so less resistance to force.

Extensive scaffolding on a building in Manhattan, New York provide a working surface for users of the scaffold. The board ends are protected by metal plates called hoop irons or sometimes nail plates. Timber Scaffold boards should comply with the requirements. As well as timber, steel or aluminium decking is used or laminate boards. There are sole boards which are placed beneath the scaffolding if the surface is soft or otherwise suspect, although ordinary boards can be used,another design called the scaffpad is another solution as it is made from a rubber base with a base plate moulded inside, these are great to put on uneven ground because they adapt to any ground where sole boards would split costing more money to replace.

A short section of steel scaffold pole.Couplers are the fittings which hold the tubes together. The most common are called scaffold couplers, there are three basic types: right-angle couplers, putlog couplers and swivel couplers. To join tubes end-to-end joint pins (also called spigots) or sleeve couplers are used, or both together. Only right angle couplers and swivel couplers can be used to fix tube in a 'load bearing connection'. Single couplers are not load bearing couplers and have no design capacity.

Other common materials lnclude base plates, ladders, ropes, anchor ties, reveal ties, gin wheels, sheeting, etc.

Basic scaffolding

The key elements of a scaffold are standards, ledgers and transoms. The standards, also called uprights, are the vertical tubes that transfer the entire mass of the structure to the ground where they rest on a square base plate to spread the load. The base plate has a shank in its centre to hold the tube and is sometimes pinned to a sole board. Ledgers are horizontal tubes which connect between the standards. Transoms rest upon the ledgers at right angles. Main transoms are placed next to the standards, they hold the standards in place and provide support for boards; intermediate transoms are those placed between the main transoms to provide extra support for boards. In Canada this style is referred to as "English". "American" has the transoms attached to the standards and is used less but has certain advantages in some situations. Since scaffolding is a physical structure, it is possible to go in and come out of scaffolding.

There are cross braces to increase rigidity, these are placed diagonally from ledger to ledger, next to the standards to which they are fitted. If the braces are fitted to the ledgers they are called ledger braces. To limit sway a facade brace is fitted to the face of the scaffold running right from the base to the top of the scaffold and fixed at every level.

Right-angle couplers join ledgers or transoms to standards, putlog or single couplers join board bearing transoms to ledgers - Non-board bearing transoms should be fixed using a right-angle coupler. Swivel couplers are to connect tubes at any other angle. The actual joints are staggered to avoid occurring at the same level in neighbouring standards.

Foundations

Good foundations are essential. Often scaffold frameworks will require more than simple base plates to safely carry and spread the load. Scaffolding can be used without base plates on concrete or similar hard surfaces, although base plates are always recommended.

A working platform requires certain other elements to be safe. They must be close-boarded, have double guard rails and toe and stop boards. Safe and secure access must also be provided.

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