Need some scaffolding? Find out what to look for when searching for a scaffolding company in the UK.

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You might need to use scaffolding for a range of projects; building a new property, refurbishing an old one, putting up an extension or carrying out a conversion. You may even need scaffolding for simpler tasks such as roofing or window work, or changes to external walls. Work out with your contractor how long you will need to hire scaffolding for; it is always cheaper and safer to hire scaffolding rather than buy your own second hand.

Falls from height are the biggest cause of death on construction sites, reports the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Many of these accidents occur from faulty or poorly erected scaffolding and can cause devastating consequences, as HSE Inspector Geoff Clark points out: “Too many lives are shattered as a result of falls from height at work.”

When hiring a scaffolding company, get confirmation that the employees working on your project are competent and have been trained to work with the type of scaffolding you’re using. There are many competent scaffolding companies to choose from, including those who are members of The National Access and Scaffolding Federation (NASC).

The NASC’s 2010 scaffolding safety report shows a 30%reduction in falls from height in the last year, which represents a 19% drop when hiring an NASC registered company. “We want to be able to objectively show people that what the NASC is doing does make a difference,” says NASC President Bob Whincap. “Our safety report is testament to the fact that NASC companies perform safer.”

An NASC registered scaffolding company will:

  • Adhere to the NASC code of conduct and follow the latest scaffolding guidelines.
  • Be independently audited by the NASC to ensure they are financially solvent; trading accounts for the last two years are inspected.
  • Be VAT registered.
  • Have at least 75% of its employees registered with CISRS – the Construction Industry Scaffolders Record.
  • Have a minimum of £5 million public liability insurance and £10 million employee’s liability cover.
  • Provide a Method Statement and a Risk Assessment before the start of the project.
  • Check that scaffolding is secure every week, after severe weather and whenever it is altered.
  • Will put up scaffolding on firm, level ground, placed not too close to power cables and they will use protective barriers to prevent falls. They will use hoists for heavy items and securely attach ladders to the scaffolding.

Overview of Scaffolding Regulations UK

Scaffolding regulations in the UK exist to reduce falls from height and ensure that those who work on and with scaffolding are qualified to do so. People who work with scaffolding must adhere to the Work at Height Regulations 2007. To ensure safety, qualified scaffolding companies should:

  • Provide risk assessments and method statements before starting work.
  • Erect scaffolding on a firm and level ground not too close to cables.
  • Use protective barriers to prevent falls.
  • Check that the scaffolding remains secure each week, after severe weather and after any alterations have been made.
  • Use hoists to move heavy items.
  • Get a licence to work on a highway or pavement.

Scaffolding Associations in the UK

hiring-a-scaffolding-companyIt could be a good idea to look for a scaffolding company that’s registered with an established trade association in the UK. While this doesn’t ensure quality completely (you should always carry out your own independent checks before hiring anyone), companies often have to pass rigorous checks to be granted membership, which means they’re normally reputable. The main scaffolding association in the UK is the National Access and Scaffolding Federation (NASC); members of this association will:

  • Be independently audited to make sure they’re financially solvent.
  • Be VAT registered.
  • Have a minimum of £5 million Public Liability insurance and £10 million employee’s liability cover.
  • Be trained to adhere with UK scaffolding regulations.
  • Adhere to a code of conduct set by the NASC.

Other scaffolding associations in the UK include the Association of Northern Scaffolding Companies (ANSC) and the Scaffolding Association.

What to Look for in a Scaffolding Company

There are thousands of scaffolding companies in the UK, to help you choose which scaffolding business to hire, here are some things to look for in addition to asking if they’re a member of a trade association:

  • Scaffolding Training – ask for proof of employees’ training credentials before you hire. Check that the individual employees who will be working on your project are trained to handle the type of scaffolding you’re using.
  • Are they local? – always look for local scaffolding companies which will cost less to employ since the equipment isn’t being transported over long distances.
  • Check they’re insured – make sure that the scaffolding company you hire has valid Public Liability insurance to cover you if anything goes wrong; ask to see proof of this before you hire.
  • Ask for references – request recent client references and follow them up.
  • Get multiple quotes – always get at least three quotes from scaffolding companies before you decide who to hire.

image credit: arcticscaffolding.co.uk, fox-scaffolding.co.uk