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Working with a Scaffolding Contractor

Some aspects of construction I’ve not had the pleasure to perform. I did not handle the live electrical leads from the local power utility to the service panel. I did not make the final circuit connections at the main or sub-panels. I could have purchased scaffolding frames, planks, and level legs, but chose to select a local experienced scaffolding contractor instead. I hope in the short run, it will save money.

The assembly crew arrived at 7 AM for a 3 hour assembly of approximately 100 linear feet by 18 ft high scaffolding. My roof line is quit complex, so the various levels of the scaffolding also varies considerably to accommodate the level changes. I have learned many tips for the next scaffolding order, and wanted to share them, so the reader does not share in the frustration I’ve experienced while the planks and frames on my jobsite.

Safety is the 1st concern. Clear the jobsite on any obstacles for either the plaster or masonry scaffold frames. Have a plan for the contractor to work their way around the building, noting any special restrictions when it come to locations and widths. I have several constrictions around the building, and my contractor especially fabricated some frames, which is very convenient. Where lower roofs or ledges may interfere make sure the distance from the workplane to the first scaffold plank is maintained. One several locations around my building, the frame is pushed out beyond the maximum safe distance, or impedes flexibility by not allowing plank movement.

OSHA guidelines recommend a maximum of 18″ separation from 1st plank to work surface. International standard use a 0.5 meters standard, so technically you can maintain a 19-5/8″ gap between the plank and wall, and not violate any safety protocols. As the jobsite installation requirements moves from windows, flashing, weather proofing, to exterior cladding, the planks need to accommodate that variety too. I tried to maximize my plank location to 18″ from the wall surface, but there are several frames that were set too close, and I had to remove a plank, making the 36″ walkway just 24″ which can increase fall risk.

I should have made a scaffolding floorplan or elevation plan, and signed off with the contractor exactly where each level and position fell, to aid in window and door installation. I found myself upside down on the scaffolding planks installing heavy large windows. In one location, the headroom from level to level is under 5′ which forces a constant assembly and disassembly of the planks. With a complex roofline, I would have preferred a slightly higher final plank level, instead of going up and down discontinuous plank heights.

The contractor, for unknown reasons, on a few levels, left just one 12″ scaffold plank, instead of the 36″ wide plank boards, removing any margin of safety. I have not found any difference between solid wood planks to engineered planks in terms of stiffness. It took weeks to get used to the springy nature of the scaffolding, but if installed properly, that becomes an irrational fear. My contractor agreed to bring additional planks, once I complained too.

The scaffolding system allows me to perform faster and safer than any ladder jack, pump-jack, or other system. Careful considerations before the scaffolding crew arrives makes the job so much better.

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