Scaffold and Scaffold Towers - Guidance on Using Scaffold Towers Safely

Summary: How to use scaffolding, scaffold towers and access equipment correctly. Advice and information about using scaffold towers safely and where to get further guidance so that you understand the legislation about working at height. We also suggest some alternative solutions to scaffold towers that might be appropriate.

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There are many reasons why a normal tube scaffold should not be put up in a DIY way. Scaffolding is not only a trade in itself but it is a very dangerous one and if a scaffold is not put up 100% correctly, the results can be fatal. Back in 2003/4, falls from height accounted for 67 fatal accidents at work and nearly 4000 major injuries...and could be you.

In 2005, regulations were brought in to cover working at height. However falls from height is still the top cause of workplace fatalities and again in the top three causes of injuring requiring over 7 days hospitalisation. Thankfully the numbers are falling; a decade after the new legislation has been introduced the number of fatalities due to falls is 46 per year but this is still unacceptably high.

It is not worth taking a risk!

Useful information resources:

Constructing a scaffolding tower

Constructing a scaffolding tower layer by layer

Scaffolding tower fully assembled

Fully assembled scaffold tower

This project will concentrate on the use of tower scaffolds which can be used to gain access pretty much everywhere.

Working with a Scaffold Tower

Scaffold towers are easily portable and can be carried, in lightweight sections, directly to their place of use. Most have lockable wheels so once a job like cleaning out gutters is started, the scaffold can simply be pushed further down the line allowing safe access to all parts of the project. Always dismount the scaffold tower when moving it.

Please follow the comprehensive guidelines provided in the useful links above, but as a summary please ensure that:

  1. The tower is level and on firm ground. Make sure the castor wheels are locked and the tower cannot move or wobble
  2. Many towers have out riggers; don’t take a risky short cut and use these. Follow the instructions for constructing your tower carefully
  3. Never exceed the manufacturers limits, particularly in height
  4. Don’t use them in strong winds, or if parts are missing – the strength of the tower comes from all the parts and if one or some are missing it could weaken your tower dramatically
  5. Reduce the height of the tower and remove all equipment (and people!) from the tower before moving it
  6. Check for cables and overhead obstructions when moving

Buying a Scaffold Tower

There are many companies throughout the country that hire and sell scaffolding and tower access platforms, aluminium towers, podium steps and all other access equipment and you can find information on these companies by simply searching on the internet.

It is sometimes cheaper to buy enough scaffolding for your project and then re-sell it on once you have finished, so this is also worth considering this.

In the majority of cases these towers can be erected by one individual but we always suggest that two people (with, sometimes, a third person) are involved for safety.

It is important that all towers are designed specifically to comply with the requirements of (European Standard), the BS1139 (part 3) 1994 & HD 1004 and all towers supplied are warranted.

Scaffold towers come in a range of sizes, the taller the more expensive that the get. Towers typically range from 3 - 7 meters and can be constructed in a variety of configurations – please check the instructions before attempting this.

Zages 7 meter access tower

A Zages 7 meter Tower in use - Available from our online store

Alternatives to a Scaffold Tower

Multi Purpose Ladders

These are ladders that can be converted into a platform, although their height doesn't come close to a scaffold tower. These can also be used as normal ladders and step ladders so they are very versatile.

Multi-purpose ladder

Multi-Purpose Ladder 2 x 3 and 2 x 5 Rungs - Available from our online store

Access Platforms

This is similar to a stepladder but it is much more sturdy and robust so that you can stand of the platform at the top and work from it safely.

Access platform

Access platform - Available from our online store


Using scaffolding is another option; however we do not think that this is a DIY project due to the great risk of injury. We strongly advise that you use a professional firm (you can find one in your area on our find a tradesman page

Hiring Scaffold Towers

Scaffold towers of all kinds can be purchased but it is more usual, in a domestic/DIY situation to hire them. General hire rates for are below but they will vary across the country. The standard platform dimensions are 1.8m x 1.4m and the price increases the higher the platform. Standard heights and their weekly costs are listed below. These prices are valid in the South West of England for 2014/5.

Working Height Platform Height Cost per Week
4.2m 2.3m £62.50
4.7m 2.8m £67.50
5.2m 3.2m £72.50
5.7m 3.7m £77.50
6.2m 4.2m £82.50
6.7m 4.6m £87.50
7.2m 5.1m £92.50
7.7m 5.7m £97.50
8.2m 6.2m £102.50
8.7m 6.7m £107.50

A 5.1m high platform tower is usually the maximum height hired by DIYers as this will reach the highest domestic gutter. For a normal 2-storey house the gutter height will sit at between 5m and 5.5m so you may want to hire a slightly shorter tower to avoid bending down (or nose-bleeding as it's called in the trade) for any length of time.

Working at height legislation

Here are some do's and do not's about working at height from the Health and Safety Executive when working on a mobile scaffold or scaffold tower.

Using the Scaffold Tower

  • Do not use a scaffold tower in strong winds
  • Do not use as a support for ladders or any other form of access equipment
  • Do not use with any of the parts missing or any parts which clearly belong to other types of scaffold. Each tower is only at it's correct strength when all off the correct parts are connected together

Moving the Tower

If you need to move a tower you must always ensure:

  • The tower height is reduced to 4m or less
  • There are no tools, materials or people on any part of the tower
  • There are no wires, cables overhead power lines or telephone lines in the way of any movement
  • There are no obstructions such as bay windows etc.... in the way of movement
  • Movement can take place on solid (fairly level) ground and no scaffold leg will dig into a lawn or flower bed
  • That you pull or push the tower from the base section only

For more information about the Health and Safety requirements for scaffolding and scaffolding towers please have a look and scaffolding check list on the HSE website.

Don't fancy doing this project yourself? We work with Plentific to ensure that we recommend only reliable and trustworthy tradesmen.

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