The case for shrink-wrap

In this article Barry Kirkham from Tufcoat Limited, who are Associate Members of the Scaffolding Association, discusses some of the main responsibilities, considerations and benefits of using shrink-wrap.

Scaffold shrink-wrap creates a temporary barrier around a scaffold, providing weather protection and environmental containment, it can be installed to create temporary roofs or wrap elevations and has the unique feature of forming a drum-tight covering which considerably reduces damage caused by high winds.

Usually, when we receive enquiries for scaffolds to be covered using shrink-wrap there has been a request from the main contractor or client at the planning stage, here are some points to consider when it comes to using shrink-wrap.

RESPONSIBILITIES

The scaffolding company has responsibilities to ensure the scaffold is suitable to shrink-wrap. Over the years we have developed a best practice guide to help prepare scaffolding for shrink-wrap, this can be broken down into the following key areas:

DESIGN – All scaffolding that is being considered for shrink-wrap MUST have a design that allows for sheeting. It is crucial that the scaffolding is designed by a competent person and consideration for the sheeting has been accounted for to comply with guidance from HSE.

ACCESS – Shrink-wrap installers must work like any other trade on a scaffold. So boarded lifts and handrails are required, wherever there is shrink-wrap required we have to be able to reach it safely! This is especially true on temporary roofs, where the first concern is how to ensure a safe working environment with safe access and egress before, during and after installing the shrink-wrap.

WEATHER – It is also worth noting that installation will not be started unless it is certain that the forecasted weather will allow any installed sheets to be welded and shrunk before the installers leave the site, projects are at risk of becoming damaged or detaching if this is ignored.

PITCH – Wherever flat horizontal areas could be produced; it is essential to create a minimum 1 in 10 pitch to allow water to drain away and prevent pooling which will stretch the sheeting and gather more and more water until ultimately the shrink-wrap fails.

PROTRUSIONS – Ledgers, transoms, standards, handrails, beams, purlins and boards must be flush! Once the sheets are installed and heated they shrink back to the scaffolding and any projecting fittings and tubes will sooner or later punch holes through the shrink-wrap and could cause the sheeting to tear.

SHEETING RAILS – Not essential however for projects where appearance is the main driving force these additional ledgers and standards fitted at an agreed distance provide a framework for the shrink-wrap creating a shear surface once wrapped.

CONSIDREATIONS

When using shrink-wrap there are some important considerations that need to be taken into account, such as flame retardancy and environmental implications.

FLAME RETARDANCY

Since the Grenfell disaster, main contractors have taken a much more stringent approach to hot works and which products are approved for use on their sites. Shrink-wrap should be fully compliant with the Joint Code of Practice on the Protection from Fire of Construction Sites and Buildings Undergoing Renovation.

This Code of Practice states flexible materials used to clad scaffolding must conform to the requirements of LPS 1215 or equivalent standard such as TS 62 and TS 63. It also states that the material shall be manufactured in accordance with a quality assurance and certification programme, and the scaffolding covering material shall be approved by a third-party certification body accredited by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service, such as Certifire, with the relevant approval mark printed on the material.

It is neither cheap nor easy to maintain the high level of flame retardant additive in materials, as well as undergoing the annual audit, however these standards ensure materials are the safest available.

ENVIRONMENT

Whilst the benefits of shrink-wrap are widely acknowledged in protecting sites from bad weather, it also has environmental credentials in containing contaminants and preventing the pollution of water courses, areas of outstanding natural beauty and sites of special scientific interest.

Shrink-wrap is not reusable, but it can be responsibly recycled. Tufcoat began working with Suez in 2018 to recycle waste and to monitor these levels to better understand materials used during projects. We recommend customers use Suez to manage strip downs of shrink-wrap so that it is treated and recycled. Occasionally, when shrink-wrap is too contaminated to recycle, it can still be used for energy recovery.

BENEFITS

There are many well-known benefits of using shrink-wrap, and one becoming ever more important is its appearance. 

Aesthetics are becoming a frequent top priority for sites with schemes like Considerate Constructors placing high value in how sites are perceived by the public, and shrink-wrapping is seen as an enhanced sheeting option for many sites.

Scaffold shrink-wrap has been largely available in white for many years, but it can be made in any colour, meaning clients and contractors are able to not only protect sites but can minimise the visual impact of any scaffolding to the surrounding environment as well.

Find out more: www.tufcoat.co.uk

This article was originally published in AccessPoint Magazine, if you would like to receive future editions of the magazine for free you can join the mailing list here:

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