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Our concern over scaffold boards is not scaremongering

LETTERS

Sir,

I read with interest the letter of November 25, 'Scaffolding timber scares are all hype'.

I feel the writer's comments show a lack of understanding of the standards governing the manufacture of scaffold boards.

But the anonymous writer is correct in one instance - there is no standard to say whether machine strength-graded boards or visually graded boards should be used.

As a company we use both methods but are firm supporters of machine grading.

With today's heightened awareness of health and safety issues, all professional scaffold board producers should keep safety at the forefront of their manufacturing policy. I am both surprised and disappointed therefore that the writer refers to this as 'scaremongering' The scares of scaffold board failure are not hype. In fact they are very real and, although rare, can have serious consequences.

There are, in the main, three grades of 38 mm-thick scaffold board in circulation:

British Standard BS2482, either machine strength-graded or visually graded; NASC specification boards, visually graded to a 1.5 m support span to the NASC grading rules; and Grade 'A' 1.2 m span boards.

(There are, in addition, some very specific in-house grading rules for some national companies).

The principal area of concern surrounds Grade 'A' boards.These are principally supplied to the manufacturer's specification and this is the area where the quality varies widely.There are no universally accepted Grade 'A' visual or machine grading rules and, where there are, some of these cannot always be justified. In most cases these boards work, but not always.

My firm, John Brash, with three other scaffold board manufacturers, took part in a research project backed by the HSE to review board performances.

This information was used by the British Standards subcommittee, of which I am chairman, to review the current British Standard. As a result, BS2482 is being revised and is shortly to go forward for public comment.

In the meantime my firm is taking the lead and using this information to manufacture all its 1.2 m-span support boards under the Alpha+ trademark.

We have also produced a checklist that should be used when purchasing boards.

Are the graders fully trained and regularly and independently assessed? Is there a recognised quality system in place? Does the company hold the kitemark licence to manufacture British Standard boards? Can the grades used be fully justified, and are there clear and precise grading rules for each type of board?

If any one of these questions cannot be fully answered a buyer must ask one important question: am I confident in using the boards manufactured by this company and will they stand by their product?

Christian Brash Managing director John Brash Group Gainsborough Lincolnshire