Home Features Opinion Scaffolding in an industrial environment

Scaffolding designs and systems for factories and industrial sites vary from sector to sector, but what they all demand is expertise and an awareness of the risks. Julian Sanders from Portway Scaffolding outlines how to approach an industrial client and what to plan for.


When embarking on a complex or fast-moving industrial contract, risks are there at every turn of the spanner. Firstly, managing people; making sure they have the necessary skills and ensuring a safe environment is critical. Equally, in an industrial environment the risk of interrupting production can have serious consequences and expose scaffolding contractors to considerable commercial risks.

Our experience is that work programmes are often intense and demand the highest standards. Projects often have to be undertaken outside production time, so night time and weekend working are not uncommon.

As such, pre-planning is a critical component where you can take steps to ensure that your management team and operatives have the necessary knowledge and experience of working on industrial sites. It is often the case with industrial contracts that access is restricted and your workforce may need to undertake bespoke training to understand the environment in which they will be working. Also consider what special permits to work your team will require.

Many factory managers are often unaware of what is involved in a scaffolding project, so it’s a good idea to arrange to meet with them and give them a full brief of your operations.

Industrial production spaces are dangerous places: you will be required to prepare a detailed risk assessment and establish if any special PPE is required. Identify the location of live electrics, moving machinery and any hazardous substances, and put in place procedures to lock-off production prior to work commencing.

It will also be essential to establish vehicle access routes, unloading areas, and safe and secure storage space. In some industrial environments, you will need to establish what lifting equipment can be used in the plant, such as a fork lift truck, a pallet truck or carts, because in some instances special tyres may be needed to prevent marking or static electricity.

Time is often at a premium on industrial scaffolding contracts because of their complex or fast-moving nature. So, clearly set outline logistics plans to move materials to work areas and ascertain whether there are any restrictions surrounding material movements within a plant.

As part of your methodology, make sure you understand the plant’s emergency procedures and find out what the client’s induction process is for your operatives and permits to work. For example, you might need to send them in a week before the job starts to get inducted, obtain passes and have a familiarisation walk of the plant.

Strong supervision is essential throughout the job, so allow for a trained supervisor to be on-site whenever operatives are working. If possible, only send experienced scaffolders who are familiar with the type of work.

As mentioned earlier, try to involve the client and the plant managers in your processes wherever possible, getting them to approve all your documents and plans at every step. This means communication – before and during the contract – is the key. If a problem is hit, stop work and report it back, because on many occasions plant managers can help. We have found that plant managers often organise their maintenance departments to assist with logistics as they have greater knowledge of their plant and often prefer to keep involved and do it themselves.

From the outset, consult your engineer and get them to the plant. Quite often, a drawing is required – be prepared to do a post-erect drawing as well.

One final point. During the contract, once a scaffold has been erected, make sure that it can’t be accessed when it’s not in use. It’s not uncommon to find plant workers wandering around the scaffolds…!


What accreditations are required?

Scaffolding in an industrial environment often exposes subcontractors to risks that are unique to certain industries.

Scaffolders and labourers will be expected to hold a skills competence card such as a valid AICS or CISRS card.

Certain industries demand that scaffolding contractors have secured a third-party assessment. The type of independent audits that are available include:

Scaffolding Association Audited Member Scheme

Achilles UVDB Certificate

Rail Industry Supplier Qualification Scheme



Julian Sanders
Portway Scaffolding Limited

T: 01564 822847


Contact the Scaffolding Association to find out more

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