What Is Suspended Scaffolding?

Mary McMahon

Suspended scaffolding is a platform for temporary access created by hanging from above, rather than supporting from below or at the height of the scaffold. It can be used for everything from window washing on high rises to construction projects. In many regions, the building department regulates the use of scaffolding and requires a permit before people can install it. The permit may need to include proof that authorized installers and operators will be on site to supervise the use of the scaffolding, in the interest of worker safety.

Man with a drill
Man with a drill

There are a number of different designs for suspended scaffolding, each with its own benefits, limitations, and safety concerns. Some designs are multi-level for access from a number of heights. The two-point suspension design is the most common, although single and multi-point systems are also available for special applications. The height is typically adjustable with hoists and other equipment to raise and lower workers. Adjustability may also be necessary to allow people to get onto the platform at some work sites.

Companies routinely engaged in construction and maintenance work may own their suspended scaffolding equipment and have their own personnel to handle it. They manage any installation and control needs with their own work crews. In other cases, a company may hire a service to install and manage its scaffolding. Services specialize in this and may be able to provide very high quality products and support to their customers. In addition, some offer scaffolding training to teach workers how to use it safely.

The construction code may require safety measures like working harnesses, tethers, and barrier rails, cables, or ropes. These can reduce the risk of falls and make high work safer. The suspended scaffolding may also need a cover to protect workers from falling objects, along with a net below in case the workers drop anything. Objects falling from considerable heights could injure other workers or passersby.

Before a suspended scaffolding unit goes up, workers inspect it for signs of wear and damage. If any components do not appear to work right on the ground, they need to be swapped out for functional parts. Workers also regularly check the scaffold before starting work, looking for any issues that might compromise safety. Dangerous scaffolding can cause delays on the work site in addition to injuries, and may subject a company to fines if there is evidence that it knew about safety issues and failed to take appropriate action.

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