The Ultimate Guide to Scaffolding Regulations

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Things to consider

  • The scaffold itself — scaffold systems have to be designed, assembled, maintained and inspected according to certain standards.
  • The people operating the scaffold — scaffolders have to have the right training and certification from providers like CISRS or PASMA to be able to assemble and use a scaffold.


Safety for construction workers is the reason scaffolding exists. It allows them to work at height around a building without the risk of falling. Since safety is essential to this purpose, scaffolding must be strong, stable, reliable and in line with a set of standards.

As a result, scaffold systems are governed by a whole host of laws, regulations and guidelines. Our definitive guide will help you understand which ones apply to you, so that you can assemble and operate your scaffold properly and safely.

What is the difference between scaffolding and scaffold towers?

Scaffolding is the general term for all temporary structures made from metal poles and walking boards. Traditional scaffolding can be extensive and labour-intensive to set up. Scaffold towers, also known as mobile access towers, are a particular type of scaffolding. They are manufactured from prefabricated components, quick and easy to erect, cheaper to hire than traditional scaffolding, and can be used internally and externally.

The different organisations that regulate scaffolding

A number of different bodies help regulate the scaffolding industry. The main ones mentioned in this guide are as follows:

  • The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the public body responsible for providing guidance on health and safety at work and proposing regulations
  • The National Access and Scaffolding Confederation (NASC), the national trade body for scaffolding and access equipment in the UK
  • The Prefabricated Access Suppliers’ and Manufacturers’ Association (PASMA), the lead trade and training body for mobile access towers
  • The Construction Industry Scaffolders Record Scheme (CISRS), the industry recognised scaffolding training body and qualifications provider.

The 4 main purposes of scaffolding regulation

Scaffolding is any temporary structure designed to provide tradesmen with a means of working above ground or floor level, on the tops and sides of buildings, and in areas that can’t be reached by ladder. Scaffolders provide a valuable service to the construction industry, making it possible for important building repairs, renovations and alterations to be done easily, without the risk of falling from edges or through openings and fragile surfaces.

Scaffolding regulations are in place to make sure a scaffold does what it says on the tin: protect people from falls. If it fails, death or very serious injury can result. The regulations serve four specific purposes:

  • 1. To make sure a scaffold’s design and materials have sufficient strength, rigidity and stability.
  • 2. To make sure scaffolds are assembled, dismantled or altered properly and in a safe manner.
  • 3. To make sure only competent people are allowed to assemble and use a scaffold.
  • 4. To make sure scaffolds are inspected and maintained regularly.

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The Work at Height Regulations 2005

The “Work at Height Regulations 2005” of the UK, states that unless the scaffold is prepared to a recognised standard configuration, then it should be designed by bespoke calculation and a competent person to ensure that it’s strong to assemble, stable during use and safe to dismantle.

Under the regulations, you have to make sure:

  • The “hierarchy of controls” is followed
  • All work at height is properly planned and organised
  • Those involved in work at height are competent
  • The risks from work at height are assessed, and appropriate work equipment is selected and used
  • The risks of working on or near fragile surfaces are properly managed, and
  • The equipment used for work at height is properly inspected and maintained.

The “hierarchy of controls” means that you first need to avoid working at height by doing as much work as you can from the ground, e.g. using long-handled poles for window cleaning. If you can’t do the job without working at height, you need to use appropriate access and safety equipment (like scaffolding) to do it. Finally, if the risk of a fall can’t be eliminated, you have to do everything possible to minimise the distance and consequences of the fall.

So the first question you have to ask under the law is, “Do I need a scaffold to get the job done?”

The rules on scaffold design

Let’s assume you’ve already conducted an assessment and you need to work at height using a scaffold to do the job. The next thing you need to consider is the scaffold’s design.

Scaffolding must conform to European Standards (ENs). The main one is BS EN 12811-1, which specifies performance requirements and general design standards for all UK scaffolds. Then there are specific ENs for prefabricated scaffolds (BS EN 12810) and mobile scaffold towers (BS EN 1004).

Whatever scaffold you hire, you should make sure it conforms to the relevant EN and is clearly marked with an EN label.

The rules on scaffold assembly

All scaffolding has to be erected, dismantled and altered safely. For fixed scaffolds, the NASC provides guidance in the form of the SG4 “Preventing falls in scaffolding” document. For mobile scaffold towers, there are two approved methods of assembly approved by PASMA. These are called Through the Trap (3T) and Advance Guard Rail (AGR).

The 3T method involves the user taking up position within a platform trapdoor opening when adding or removing the guard rails on the above level. This ensures that the user doesn’t stand on an unguarded platform.

The AGR method involves the user installing temporary guard rails from the level below, and using those as protection when accessing the platform to fit the permanent guard rails.

BS EN 1004-approved scaffold towers are specifically designed so that they can be assembled using one of these two methods.

The rules on scaffolder competency

Scaffolders have to be competent for the exact work they are doing. They should have received appropriate training relevant to the type and complexity of the scaffolding.

In particular, scaffold towers should only be erected or dismantled by scaffolders who have been trained by PASMA or CISRS. They should hold a certificate or card that is relevant to the specific tower they are working on.

Employers must also provide appropriate levels of supervision for less experienced scaffolders, trainees, and where a scaffolding structure is particularly complex.

More information about training courses and certification can be obtained from the PASMA and CISRS websites.

The rules on scaffold inspection

It is the scaffold user or hirer’s responsibility to ensure that all scaffolding is inspected as follows:

  • straight after assembly or just before first use
  • every 7 days thereafter
  • following any circumstances that might have rendered the scaffold unsafe, e.g. high winds.

All scaffolding inspections should be carried out by trained and competent people and recorded.

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Tips before hiring

Before you hire a scaffold tower or specialist scaffold tower, you need to make sure that it complies with the regulations. It should be properly labelled and certified and come from a trustworthy supplier. It should also conform to the approved methods of assembly, e.g. 3T or AGR.

Here at Lakeside-Hire, we inspect all scaffolding and access equipment prior to delivery to ensure that every safety and performance standard is carefully observed. Our scaffolds are manufactured using high-tech robotic welding technology and enhanced with additional mod-cons and safety features, as well as complying with the ENs and HSE guidance.

You should also make sure that your scaffold is erected, inspected and dismantled by appropriately trained and qualified personnel. Our scaffold towers and equipment all come with straightforward instructions, colour-coded components and a variety of features specially designed to make assembly and dismantling easy and quick. But you’ll still need to ensure that anyone using the scaffold is competent, and inspect it regularly as described above.

Contact Lakeside-Hire today for more information about scaffolding regulations and the things you need to do when hiring a scaffold tower. You can call us on 0330 134 6224 or email us at Alternatively, you can request a call back.

Top scaffold tower safety tips

Although it’s vital to participate in the appropriate training course in addition to keeping in mind the Work at Height regulations, we have listed some of our own scaffold tower safety pointers for you to follow:

  • Always make sure to check your choice of tower is appropriate for the work you are planning to carry out.
  • If something isn’t right during one of your regular checks, work must cease immediately and until the problem has been remedied.
  • Always follow the manufacturers assembly and dismantling instructions to the letter. An instruction will be provided with the scaffold tower.
  • Scaffold towers must always be placed on a firm and level surface.
  • Never build the tower to a height greater than what’s recommended by the manufacturer.
  • Avoid areas where power lines or other overhead obstructions are present.
  • Never use the tower during extreme weather conditions.
  • Ensure that scaffold tower workers receive regular breaks and rest to reduce the likelihood of any mishaps.

FAQs about scaffolding regulations

1. How do I know that a scaffold is safe and up to standard?

Your scaffold tower should be certified according to European Standards (ENs) and marked with a relevant EN label (e.g. EN 1004 for mobile scaffold towers). It should also come from reputable suppliers/manufacturers.

2. Who can assemble and use a scaffold?

Only people who are competent and qualified. All scaffolders should be trained by PASMA or CISRS and hold a certificate or card that is relevant to the specific scaffold tower they are working on.

3. Where can I get PASMA or CISRS training?

You can get training and certification at a number of PASMA or CISRS registered and approved training centres across the UK. Click here to find your nearest PASMA centre or your nearest CISRS centre.

4. Where can I get information on good practice when using mobile scaffold towers?

The PASMA Code of Practice is the definitive document to use when operating mobile access towers. It can be purchased from the PASMA online shop or viewed free on the PASMA app.

5. How often does a scaffold need to be inspected?

In general, straight after assembly or just before first use, and then every 7 days thereafter. You must also inspect the scaffold if something happens that might cause it to become unsafe, such as high winds.

6. Why should I hire a scaffold tower from Lakeside-Hire?

There are number of reasons why you are in good hands hiring scaffold towers and access equipment from Lakeside-Hire:

  • We ensure that all scaffold safety standards are strictly adhered to.
  • Our customer satisfaction rating is excellent.
  • We offer much shorter minimum rental periods than most scaffolding firms (as little as 7 days).
  • In most cases we’re 69% cheaper than our competitors.
  • We’ll deliver your equipment for free when you hire from us for three weeks or more.

Need hiring advice? call us on 0333 920 2076

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