The Skinny on Scaffolding

Words: Dan KamysNovember 2008


New scaffolding products

Scaffolding companies strive to make innovative new products for their scaffolding systems, and now their roles are expanding into safety. New safety products and even hands-on training are being offered.

"We aren't just dealers anymore," says Justin Breithaupt Jr., VP and co-owner of Non-Stop Scaffolding Inc. in Shreveport, La. "We have to be very careful about training to make sure no one gets hurt. People are coming to work for masonry contractors who aren't looking to make a career of it. How do you keep all of the workers on the scaffolding trained with high turnover? Well, we provide the training to a competent person, so he can train the new hires."

Non-Stop Scaffolding put detailed information together so the competent person can conduct training, assure employees are trained before they step onto the scaffolding, and ensure the masonry company meets Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) scaffolding requirements.

"There are still a lot of contractors who are just finding out that OSHA means business," Breithaupt says.

Safety products and training

Safety continues to be a top concern for masonry contractors, so it's a concern for manufacturers. "A lot of what we're doing now is providing falling object protection," says Clint Bridges, VP for Columbia, Tenn.-based EZ Scaffold. "We have an overhead canopy that's made with chain link. The canopy offers an extra layer of protection for workers."

Masonry contractors can easily set up or take down the canopy in minutes, he says. It attaches to the scaffolding and protects workers from materials that could fall from overhead.

"The canopy improves worker safety," Bridges says. "Our customers need it and are asking for it."

Breithaupt says safety training continues to be a big part of Non-Stop Scaffolding's business. "Safety training has become extremely important," he says. "OSHA requires the average worker in the field to be more sophisticated and knowledgeable about the equipment they use. That puts the burden on the contractor."

The company provides training for masonry company employees and provides a written test. The contractor can then test the workers, go over any questions that are missed, and assure the workers are adequately trained to use the scaffolding.

"The contractor keeps those test scores for his records to prove the man has been trained," Breithaupt says, noting that the test results can be provided if OSHA should want proof a person has been trained.


Lifting materials and raising planks

Mason contractors are always looking for better ways to lift heavy bricks and stone to their workers, just as they're looking for labor-saving ways to move and set up planks on the scaffolding. New products offer solutions.

EZ Scaffold has a new hydraulic hoist for lifting masonry materials. "The hydraulic hoist can be used to lift material onto the scaffolding, so you don't have to get a crane," Bridges says. "It can lift up to 4,000 pounds. It's part of the scaffolding, so it goes up with your scaffolding."

The cable hoist system allows for easy, push-button operation.

"The biggest benefit is that once you get above the reach of your forklift, you need a boom truck or a crane, or you can use the hoist," Bridges says. "The hoist is a very affordable way to keep materials on the scaffolding, which keeps your guys working."

Last December, Scafjack in Lavaltrie, Quebec, hit the market with a mechanical side bracket, the SM-2, which is about half the price of the company's SH-2 hydraulic side bracket.

The side brackets attach to any type of scaffolding in a matter of minutes and raise the planks as the workers build the wall, says Christian Fortin, CEO for Scafjack.

"It removes the negative task of taking out the plank," he says. "You don't have to remove side brackets, and you don't have to remove the planks. The guys never have to leave the scaffolding. Removing scaffolding is unsafe. Guys have to turn sideways. They could fall off or hurt their backs. This is very safe for them."

Fortin says the only downside is that the brackets can't lower the planks; they can only raise them. But, the brackets can save time and money.

"The guys say they pay for themselves in three months," he says. "After that, it's money in your pocket."

Fortin estimates that a crew of six spends 30 minutes per day lifting planks onto scaffolding. At a cost of $45 per worker, that's $675 per week spent moving planks. The side brackets save that expense and let a six-person crew lay an extra 2.5 hours' worth of bricks each week.

Moving and placing scaffolding

ScaffoldingPlacing assembled scaffolding alongside a wall, then plumbing it, can be time consuming. To make placement easier and to save contractors time, Non-Stop Scaffolding offers a new swivel forklift bar that quickly slides onto a forklift and swivels up to 120 degrees. Once scaffolding towers are assembled, the bar can pick them up and move them from wall to wall. The bar allows mason contractors to set the scaffolding alongside walls, even when they can't approach the wall straight-on.

"Typically, you have to drive up to the wall at a 90-degree angle," Breithaupt says. "Sometimes, that's not always possible, because of things in the way. With the forklift bar, you lock onto the tower. It lets you go to the wall at any angle you want up to 60 degrees, then drop the tower right in position."

When scaffolding is moved and set down, it's usually not plumb, which causes the forklift bracket to bind on the scaffolding. To eliminate that problem, the company's forklift bar has spring-loaded plungers that insert into the scaffolding tower rungs. When the tower is set on the ground, enough space exists between the rungs so the bar can't bind on the scaffolding.

"You can set the scaffolding on the ground at any angle you want and not worry about binding," Breithaupt says.

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