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How to build safe scaffolding structures?

  • 21 March, 2016

Scaffoldings are necessary structures for construction and maintenance. However, erecting and dismantling scaffolding structures remain a high-risk activity to workers and pedestrians. That is why NCEES requires qualifying Professional Engineers to know how to build scaffolding structure. If you're an aspiring Professional Engineer and would like to ace the NCEES PE exam, here's what you should know about safe scaffolding construction:

How to build safe scaffolding structures?

Read the OSHA standards

The Occupational Safety and Hazard Administration (OSHA) has laid down strict guidelines to ensure the safety of workers using scaffoldings for construction work. Hence, it is imperative for a qualified person to be aware of the OSHA standards before building scaffoldings. A complete guide to safety standards can be found on the OSHA website.

Analyze requirements

Before building a scaffolding structure, it is necessary to have a complete plan on paper. Know what is required, how much load the scaffolding is expected to take, the height it's supposed to reach etc. This ensures that all the required parameters are met before actual construction begins. Review all the written requirements to determine what type of scaffold is needed and where it should be used.

Select the right scaffold material

It is the most crucial step in building safe scaffoldings. From suspended to supported type, each scaffold caters to a different set of requirements.

Design calculations

Before actual construction begins, a Professional engineer must substantiate the design drawings by carrying out scaffold design calculations. It involves assessment of all loading conditions, a capacity check of individual components and evaluation of rigidity and stability. The NCEES Exam tests engineers on their competency to carry out such design calculations.


Assign tasks to competent personnel who have adequate knowledge of reading design drawings and are capable of directing the construction work.

Safety comes first

Accidents that arise due to poorly constructed scaffoldings can be avoided if strict adherence is paid to the safety standards laid in place by OSHA. The following are the common reasons why scaffold-related mishaps occur and must be avoided at all costs:

  1. Improper access to scaffoldings
  2. Absence of guard rails
  3. Planking gives away - this happens either due to improper placement of the planks, use of poor quality material or overloading.
  4. Tipping of tall scaffolding structures due to improper support i.e. lack of ties or braces.
  5. No fall protection system.


Even the best-laid plans can go awry sometimes. A loose bolt or a poor quality plank may seem like a trivial flaw but can be disastrous if left unchecked. It's a must to inspect the structure thoroughly before giving it the green-signal.

Ideally a scaffold is considered to be safe at the height of four times the width of the base is. This aspect should be inspected to avoid any unforeseen situation. Also, Scaffoldings should be kept away from power lines and the weather conditions should be kept in mind before placing the scaffoldings.

The NCEES PE exam tests PE Civil construction aspirants on a variety of construction-related topics and design calculations. If you'd like to ace the NCEES exam and become a successful PE, these steps on knowing how to build safe scaffolding structures can be really useful.

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