Scaffolders erect and dismantle working platforms which allow construction workers access to higher levels on existing buildings and structures during renovation or maintenance work, and to upper levels on new-build projects.
Jobs can range from putting up scaffold around a house to allow for re-roofing, through to large-scale construction of new commercial developments, external cleaning of office blocks, and repair of historical monuments. Scaffolders also use scaffolding techniques to erect permanent or semi-permanent structures for spectator stands, stages and other uses.
The scaffold itself is made up of a series of upright metal tubes (standards) joined with couplers to horizontal poles (ledgers). At right angles to these are transoms, usually much shorter in length, on which the wooden working platforms (battens) rest. To add strength to the scaffold, cross-braces are placed at diagonals and where possible, clamps are used to 'tie in' the scaffold to the building or structure. Guard rails and safety nets are added to minimise dangers for the workers using it and for anybody passing below.
Falsework scaffolding involves providing a framework to support the formwork or shuttering and reinforcement bars used in making large concrete structures, such as bridges. The scaffolding is removed once the concrete has set.
All scaffolders work in teams to strict safety standards and use a variety of hand tools and safety equipment including swivel spanners, spirit-levels, harnesses and hoists.
Scaffolders work 39 hours a week, but this varies when deadlines must be met.
Scaffolders work indoors and outdoors, and at heights. The work is physically demanding and scaffolders may have to work in cold, dirty or windy conditions. The work involves a lot of climbing, carrying and lifting of heavy equipment.
Protective helmets, footwear and safety harnesses are worn. Travel from site to site is required, as is working away from home for short or long periods. A driving licence would be useful.
To be a scaffolder you should:
Scaffolders work for specialist scaffolding firms, building contractors and oil and power companies. There may be opportunities to work abroad on contracts, and it may be possible to progress to supervisory, estimating or construction management roles. With appropriate computer-aided design (CAD) skills, a scaffolder could move into project design and planning.There are opportunities to become self-employed.
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