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Scaffold towers: More diverse than ever

Scaffold towers can be seen on construction sites all around the UK and are widely acknowledged as ideal for putting up simple structures as quickly as possible for short up-and-down jobs.

Increasingly, however, they are being used in unusual and potentially surprising ways.

Since their inception, towers have always had a wide range of uses, but recent changes are leading to an increase in using them for more diverse jobs.

A fully revised BSI standard has just been updated to clarify all the latest requirements for this type of equipment.

The revised standard, BS 1139-6, covers the design, verification and markings of advanced tower types.

In 2015 it is now clearer than ever before whether an advanced tower configuration is suitable.

Hire and assembly

Another important development has been an increase in firms that not only hire towers out, but also supply qualified workers to build them.

These ‘hire and assembly’ firms allow advanced tower types to be used safely.

“Access to these hire and assembly workers, together with the peace of mind that comes from knowing they have been fully trained, is making complex tower use much more common”

For example, at tower trade association PASMA, we require hire and assembly firms to have staff go through the advanced five-day Towers for Riggers course.

Access to these types of workers, together with the peace of mind that comes from knowing they have been fully trained, is making complex tower use much more common.

One example of towers being particularly useful for an unexpected job was a project on a swimming pool, which saw one end of a tower being completely submerged in water.

A stepped tower was used so that at the other side work at height could be carried out, with the support of the submerged structure.

Towers can be the best option for jobs for a variety of reasons.

A bridging structure used by one hire and assembly firm in a cathedral was used because the central floor was built above a crypt, so only lightweight equipment such as a tower was acceptable.

Low-level work

One of the most important facts to know about advanced tower types is that they allow towers to be built far above their usual 12 m height.

Fixing the tower to a supporting structure by tying in, or using a ‘buttress tower’ to offer stability from the base, are two options.

The latter configuration can also be repositioned without dismantling.

Just as important, however, has been work with low-level platforms.

Between the creation of the PAS 250 specification – which offers the first ever minimum standards for low-level work platforms and is now adhered to by all PASMA manufacturers – and the existence of a low level training course as part of the industry standard scheme, this type of work is now safer than ever.

Towers have never been more capable of doing complicated and diverse jobs, and with new standards now in effect, advanced tower configurations are likely to become more popular.

Peter Bennett is managing director of PASMA

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