Scaffolding: How to Build, Forms, and More
What goes up mustn't come down accidentally.
Synopsis: This article describes the many forms of scaffolding, from pipe staging and roof brackets to pump and ladder jacks, and how they should be used. A sidebar discusses OSHA, the government’s job-safety program.
There are few subjects in construction with as little glamour or as much importance as scaffolding. Often erected in a hurry, abused by those who literally depend on it and torn down without ceremony, a scaffold is the ugly chrysalis whose removal reveals a butterfly.
Hard-earned knowledge of construction rigging is one of my most important resources as a builder. The ability to erect a safe, effective work platform is a skill that can be acquired only through thoughtful experimentation with the different systems available. There are nearly as many types of scaffolding as there are different types of jobs, and the ideal setup for a given situation is often a combination of several. As a result, I sometimes enjoy rigging a job more than I enjoy the job itself.
A word of caution is in order before I begin. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has identified scaffolding as a leading cause of accidents in construction. OSHA’s standards for the construction industry include 17 pages on scaffolding. While I mention some of these regulations in my discussion, it would be impossible, in this space, for me to list them all. Therefore, I recommend that everyone read the OSHA standards before setting up or using any type of scaffold. For more on OSHA and for information on how to get a copy of their Construction Industry Standards.
The basic scaffold consists of two parts: a pair of supports and a horizontal platform. Wood planking is the most common platform material. The standard scaffold plank available at lumberyards is a full 2-in. by 9-in.…