Those who work with scaffoldingwill be well aware of all the relevant safety measures that must be followed. Contractors have a responsibility to ensure that scaffold equipment is sound and in good working condition to minimise the likelihood of any accidents or injuries. There are many components that make up scaffold equipment; too many to talk about in one article! Instead, today’s article will be focusing on scaffold planks and we’ll be providing you with a range of compliance and safety tips for contractors.
All components of scaffold equipment must be in good working condition to ensure the structure is solid and safe to use. A brand new, perfectly built framework may have been erected but if poor-quality scaffold planks are used, workers are at risk. Scaffold planks must be properly secured, reliable, and strong considering that they support several workers, equipment, tools, and materials. There are a variety of guidelines and safe work practices which must be followed to ensure scaffold planks are sound and in good working condition.
The Australian Standards for Scaffold Planks (AS 1577 – 1593) provides numerous and very specific compliancy rules when it comes to scaffold planks. It states that each scaffold plank on working platforms should:
- Be even and uniform in thickness
- Be fixed and properly secured to avoid displacement or uplift whilesupporting workers
- Have no cracks or splits
- Contain a slip-resistant surface
- Be positioned so there are no gaps between planks which are greater than 10mm, and
- Not be lapped on straight runs of modular and tube and coupler scaffolding but can be lapped on hanging bracket scaffolds where butting of planks at a pair of brackets isn’t possible.
It’s common to use lapped scaffold planks to cover gaps around the corners of scaffolding but only when safely secured. Despite this, these planks do not need to be secured when the following conditions are met:
- Timber is lapped over metal planks
- The plank overlap (past the edge of the plank below) is greater than 300mm
- Each plank is at least 1.2 metres in length, and
- Planks are prevented from moving sideways by using standards
If, however, plywood sheets are utilised to cover gaps between scaffold bays, these sheets should be:
- At least 17mm thick
- Secured, and
- Used only to cover gaps less than 500mm wide, unless permitted by a qualified person such as an engineer
Metal planks can also be lapped on other metal planks when they are properly secured with fixings like strapping or a double tie wire. It’s important to keep in mind that tie wire or other systems that have not been structurally rated must not be used to secure planks on hop-up brackets. Each hop-up bracket should be supplied with tie bars unless constructed with scaffold planks secured into position to stop brackets from spreading apart or causing planks to dislodge.
Of course, all metal planks must be secured. When planks are supported by putlogs, the overhang of planks should not be less than 150mm and not greater than 250mm. If the overhang is greater than 250mm, the risk of uplift is substantially increased.
If laminated planks are used, it’s strongly encouraged to avoid using nails or screws to hold them into position unless it has been permitted by the manufacturer. The reason for this is that moisture can penetrate the planks causing damage that cannot be easily detected by inspectors or workers.
Another vital aspect of scaffold plank compliancy is marking. Each scaffold plank must be marked permanently with the following:
- The manufacturer’s name
- The working load limit
- The maximum span for random planks
- The Australian Standard (e.g. AS 1577)
Additionally, scaffold planks must be branded on one edge with their grading. There are two types of grading – visual grading (V) or machine grading (M) and the grading letter must be at least 25mm high and spaced no more than 1.8 metres apart on each scaffold plank.
With the large amount of compliancy requirements for scaffold planks, it can clearly be difficult to determine whether scaffold planks meets every requirement. If you have any questions or concerns about the quality of your scaffold planks, it’s best to seek expert advice. Get in touch with the scaffolding specialists at Uni-Span by phoning 1300 882 825.