Guidance at last on demolition scaffolding

It has taken almost five years of prevarication and discussion, and the final wording of the latest guidance from the Health and Safety Executive tiptoes around the subject. But there is now official guidance on the use of scaffolding in a demolition environment.

Reservations aside, this is a victory for certain individuals within the UK demolition sector that have thought and fought long and hard to clarify when scaffold should and – more importantly – should not be used.

The change in guidance was promoted by the collapse of a large scaffold in Reading back in 2019. That thankfully non-fatal collapse sparked a spate of similar collapses up and down the country, forcing the industry and – ultimately – the Health and Safety Executive to take action.

In a new bulletin from the HSE, it says:

Recently, during demolition work on a town centre site, a building collapsed. It breached the hoarding around the site, the front elevation falling onto the road and it was only by good luck that both the highway and footpath were empty. The public road was closed for a period following the incident and the collapse became the subject of an investigation by HSE.

In the guidance itself, the HSE goes on to say:

A scaffold will not allow a reduction in the size of an exclusion zone around a building. Scaffolding must not be used to support structures unless it specifically designed as a support. 

‘Standard’ scaffold will not restrain a building during demolition or alteration.

Most ‘standard’ scaffolds in Great Britain are tied independent scaffolds. This means that, though they are independent for vertical support, they must be tied to a building for sideways support.

A scaffold will not allow a reduction in the size of an exclusion zone, it may increase it. This is because the presence of scaffolding means that, in the event of a collapse, the area where debris could fall is increased.

You can read the full guidance here.