History of the Trusty Scaffold Tower

michelangelo scaffolding sistine chapelWhen were scaffold towers invented?. Many people think that Scaffolds are a recent invention, where in fact they were used in ancient Greece at least 500 years BC. Records of ancient cultures in Egypt, Nubia and China indicate that these cultures used scaffolds extensively. Many early African cultures made use of scaffolds too. To reach the apex of the Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo designed his own scaffold, which was unique because instead of being deployed on the floor, he built his scaffold on brackets that were fitted into holes near the top of the chapel’s windows.

To help working at height, a scaffold tower is often used instead of scaffolds. These are free-standing systems that are easy to move and adjust. A typical scaffold tower is fitted with castors that allow it to be moved quickly and easily. The castors lock securely into place when the tower is in use. Work platforms are accessed by internal ladders.

Scaffold Tower Components

There are three major components of a scaffold tower: bars, frames and platforms. The bars and frames, which are usually made from aluminium or steel, provide the framework for the tower. Aluminium tubing is preferred because it’s light weight and highly resistant to corrosion. The bars are components that join the frame sections together. In many modern tower scaffolds, nuts and bolts are not needed, and a tower can be set up quickly by one or two people. Once the tower structure is erected, the platforms that provide the tower’s working surface are fitted. These are made from seasoned wood, and come in a variety of thicknesses. Their length can vary, with the maximum being approximately 2.5m.  Other platform materials include steel, aluminium or laminate boards.

Every scaffold tower should be fitted with a guardrail system. In fact, standard rails are required on all towers. Install the rails at both ends of every platform and along all open sides of the structure. Always perform work from a platform, not from its ladder or other parts. Do ensure that the platform’s safe working load will accommodate both the worker and any tools and materials being used. In addition, platforms must be locked / secured to the horizontal bars in the frames to prevent dangerous uplift.

Scaffold Towers: The Importance of Regular Inspections

Before using a scaffold tower on a building site / industrial setting, a competent, qualified person should perform a safety inspection. This is especially important for newly erected structures.  An inspection is also needed if there have been extensive alterations to the tower or if there has been an event that might compromise its integrity. If a tower is left in place for more than seven days, it’s wise to re-inspect it. If an inspection uncovers any parts or components of the tower that are deemed unsafe, the defect should be clearly marked. The tower should not be used until the condition is resolved by repair or replacement of the defective part. Only the manufacturer or a person designated by the manufacturer should be authorised to perform repair tasks.

Scaffold towers should be used as a method for working at height for extended periods.

 

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