How to Ensure Public Safety When Working with Scaffolding

Scaffolding guidelines must be followed along with safety practices to ensure safety for everyone involved above and on the ground. Public signs for warnings also help.
April 19, 2024 by
How to Ensure Public Safety When Working with Scaffolding
SP Group Global Ltd

The scaffolding industry has long prioritised safety due to its high-risk nature. Measures are in place to protect scaffolders from accidents, as well as those who may be underneath, including bystanders and passersby. Various resources are available to ensure that your worksite is as safe as possible for everyone involved. Follow these general guidelines and best practices to get started.

Why Public Safety Matters?

Most scaffolding is erected in busy or urbanised areas where people walk by without any head protection. Falling debris or tools could cause serious injuries or even death. For instance, a hammer dropped from the 10th floor of a building could crush a watermelon open. We couldn’t bear to imagine what sort of injuries could be sustained if public safety was not prioritised. 

Aside from the almost irreversible damages, fines for causing public harm can range from £100,000 to millions, depending on the damages and the charges filed. With all these risks and consequences, the scaffolding industry plays an important role in taking responsibility to protect the public. 

[Source: £100,000 fine reference]

What Are the General Protocols for Scaffolding Operations?

Scaffolding must be erected, dismantled and altered by qualified professionals, as recommended by the National Access and Scaffolding Confederation (NASC). This can be achieved by following the specific instructions provided by the manufacturers of system scaffolding.

[Source: NASC Guidelines]

The safety standards on construction sites should include these general requirements:

  • A stable base: The scaffold’s base is the foundation of the entire structure. It bears the weight of both workers on the platforms and any materials being carried. It must be set on a solid and secure base to prevent it from collapsing and guarantee safety for on-site personnel and anyone in the vicinity.
  • Qualified workers under competent supervision: Effective supervision can prevent accidents and hazards that could affect both employees and the public. The supervisor must be proficient in overseeing workers during scaffolding assembly, disassembly, and relocation. They also must be able to identify existing hazards, anticipate potential risks, and implement corrective measures when necessary. 
  • Installation of debris screens: The risk of falling objects is significant in scaffolding environments. This is where debris netting comes in (more on this later). It must be placed between the toeboard and mid-rail. A toeboard is installed along the edge of a scaffold platform to prevent any materials or debris from falling to the ground below. A mid-rail is a horizontal bar positioned midway between the toeboard and the top guardrailon a scaffold.

[Source: General Requirements]

How Can We Keep the Public Safe?

There are 3 things to consider for public safety: 

  1. Safety on ground 
  2. Safety from above 
  3. Safety from wrong access

1. Safety on ground: Make it visual

The ground level is where safety efforts should begin. Scaffold tubes are often placed on pavements and pedestrian zones where many individuals walk by. Unfortunately, most passersby have their attention on their phones rather than their surroundings. Unprotected and not-so visible scaffold poles could therefore endanger anyone walking beneath them.

All ground-level scaffolding must have end caps, stud bolt caps, and yellow foam protection for safety. These components can make each tube and tube end visible even in our peripheral view, making it almost impossible to miss.

2. Safety from above: Don’t let anything drop!

Safety threats from the above are something that passers-by are never prepared for. It’s the construction site’s responsibility to make sure nothing drops from the scaffold.

Tools used at heights should be tethered or clipped to the scaffolder’s belt. This practice helps prevent them from falling to the ground if they slip from the scaffolder’s hand.

The proper use of debris netting can also save lives by intercepting and containing falling debris. By surrounding the work area, debris netting prevents loose materials or tools from falling outside the scaffold perimeter. The netting also acts as a safety catch in the event of a worker’s accidental fall. This reduces the distance and impact of the fall and minimises the potential harm to others on the ground below.

Note: It’s advisable to close the scaffolding area off to the public when there’s a high risk of falling debris. For instance, scaffold operators are dismantling a scaffold structure several stories high. The likelihood of tools or materials dropping from above is high. Leaving the area open to the public could pose a serious risk of pedestrians being struck by falling objects. Thus, closing off the area is important to keep both workers and the public safe.

3. Safety from wrong access: Enclose and signpost your area

To avoid unauthorised access to scaffold areas that could lead to accidents, make sure that all sides or entry points are closed off with proper netting or temporary walls. Ideally, entry points should be monitored closely.

The scaffold area should be clearly marked with safety signs and warnings for the public, too. PVC mesh banners or standard printed signage can be used for this purpose. Providing such information to the public goes a long way toward their safety awareness.

To know more about scaffold protection products, talk to our team of experts today for a FREE consultation. Our 5-star rated customer service is ready to help you with further queries. Contact us via or call us at +44 (028) 9442 8611.