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Working On A Scaffold; An Issue Of Competency

Apr 3, 2008
Most workers in the building trade will happily claim themselves competent in all manner of fields. Years of experience working in the industry tends to make many individuals consider themselves experts when in fact their expertise are not recognised by any official body.

In terms of scaffold training, the issue of competency become vitally important as in most countries it is now the case that when using a scaffold, a competent person must be on site to overview the work and working conditions. This competent person is defined by the training they have had in the erection, use and dismantling of scaffold structures.

Competency is defined by the regulating body of scaffold use, PASMA. It is this body's job to ensure there are enough people with sufficient training to uphold the rules and regulations of scaffold use. These regulations should be observed by those working on and around the scaffold and it is the responsibility of the competent person on site to keep all workers safe and negate, or at least minimise possible hazards.

Hazards form a fundamental part in the competent person's scaffold training. It is their job to ensure that they are capable of identifying routine and existing hazards on the actual scaffold and also in the working area more generally. Training should also include ways in which to identify unsanitary working conditions and ways in which these hazards can be actively diminished through efficient corrective measures. This training gives the competent person authority over anyone else when it comes to the scaffold and immediate area; these are the two words those in the trade must remember; competency and authority.

This competent person does not have to be an external party and increasingly many in the trade are undergoing sufficient training to declare themselves as competent. At the erection of a scaffold, good practise ensures that an inspector will visit the site and assess the safety of the scaffold and the level of capability the competent person possesses. Not only is the knowledge of this person assessed in detail but their levels authority and how they put into action safety measures is also evaluated. The combination of competency with the relevant information and enough authority to implement this knowledge is the perfect solution.

The competent person's duties come as a direct result of their training, it is only this person that is allowed to permit modifications to the scaffold and which components can be used. They are also responsible for the loads that are placed upon the scaffold and whether the supporting structure is strong enough to uphold these loads. They must also inspect all ropes for defects before each shift begins and at any point where the integrity of a rope may be compromised. Access to the scaffold must also be observed using knowledge from their training concerned with specific hazards.

An important responsibility of the competent person concerns the effects of weather conditions on scaffold integrity. Such weather conditions include storms or high winds; in these conditions it is up to the competent person to draw on their training and deem whether it is safe for workers to assail the scaffolding structure. Without specific information of safe working wind speeds it is up to the competent person to evaluate the situation on any specific site and put in place sufficient protective measures to ensure the safety of workers.

When it comes to working at height, safety is always a major concern. It is the employer's responsibility that there is always a competent person on site to oversee the work and ensure all those on the scaffold have sufficient training and know how to work in a safe manner that minimises risks and takes into account all of the hazards that may be present. When it comes to safety, diligence is essential to achieve safe working methods.
About the Author
Construction expert Thomas Pretty looks into the importance of having a competent person with efficient scaffold training to ensure the safety of operatives working at height.
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