Using data to keep workers safe

With slips, trips and falls still the number one cause of accidents and injuries on scaffolds, it is imperative that both scaffolders and contractors understand the most common reasons that scaffolds fail the weekly inspection. Ian Chambers, sales and marketing director at SMART Scaffolder software, looks at how digital technology is the key to understanding on-site risks.


In 2018/19, the HSE reported 40 fatal injuries to workers due to falls from height and the rate of fatal injury within construction at four times higher than the average across all industries. The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 state that commercial clients must make sure their projects are suitably managed to ensure the health and safety of all who might be affected by the work, including members of the public. Failure to provide a safe environment can lead to unlimited fines and up to two years in prison. The HSE regularly prosecutes contractors and other scaffold clients for a failure to carry out comprehensive inspections by a qualified person.

The weekly scaffold inspection is a vital element of keeping workers safe and preventing the scaffolder or contractor ending up in court, facing hefty fines. The use of specialist scaffold inspection apps helps to improve the quality and consistency of inspections because they prompt the inspector to report defects from a defined list and also provide the ability to attach photos and other relevant information to the reports.

Another advantage of using a mobile app for scaffold inspections is that the data can be used to analyse and report the most commonly occurring defects. This, combined with the photos attached to the reports, provides clear evidence of where either scaffolders need further training or trades have been repeatedly interfering with scaffolds, such as removing toe-boards, ties and boards.

SMART Inspector has been used on more than 365,000 weekly scaffold inspections across all clients in the past year, providing a valuable insight into the most common defects. Obstructions (50 per cent), debris (14 per cent) and board condition (10 per cent) are the most common faults reported. Additionally, guard-rails and toe-boards were often either missing or incorrectly placed/secured (4 per cent). Other common faults were materials stacked above toe-boards, damaged cladding, missing ties, undermined foundations and missing ladders.

The ability to use modern cloud-based reporting techniques allows managers to improve safety on-site for everyone and to address reoccurring issues earlier. The photographic evidence removes any potential argument and the management reports ensure no inspections are missed, no reports are lost and that all legal duties have been met.

Ian Chambers
Sales and Marketing Director
SMART Scaffolder