Ensuring Product Quality for System Scaffolds
Scaffolding remains a popular solution as a safe and reliable piece of equipment when working at height. The use of system scaffolding around the UK is extensive and there are a number of types of systems available on the market today to accommodate almost any requirement.
The very nature of system scaffolding results in works being carried out high above ground and anybody either working on the scaffold or indeed renting or buying the scaffold should feel assured that the equipment is of good quality and of sound construction, and therefore safe.
The popularity of system scaffolding has resulted in, as in many other industries, sources of manufacture coming now from all around the globe, but unfortunately, as in many other industries standards of workmanship and material content differ considerably.
The NASC (National Access and Scaffolding Confederation) is the regulatory body in the UK for all scaffolding issues and has been working closely with the HSE (Health and Safety Executive) to set in motion a code of practice which aims to improve the quality of systems scaffolds in the UK, to ensure compliance with the European standards and enable customers to make an informed choice.
There already exists an NASC code of conduct for all hire and sale scaffolding companies that was published in October 2007 that set a benchmark to start from. Since that date developments to the code have continued. 2008 will now see a far more detailed Code of Practice be re-issued to all NASC hire, sale and manufacturing member companies.
“Some similar systems have been treated as totally compatible and technically equal but we have found that on closer inspection and testing, sometimes the product’s performance is considerably different. Anybody buying or renting system scaffolding should know what the product’s capabilities are. The NASC aim to implement an audit procedure for all our members which will ensure that users can determine the products performance clearly and accurately” states David Johnson, Chairman of the NASC’s Hire and Sale Committee and Managing Director of SGB’s Hire and Sale Division.
The NASC’s new audit for hire, sale and manufacturing scaffolding companies aims to provide a documented procedure which may go right back to the manufacturers factory. Build quality and goods inward inspections will be regulated and will need to come up to a satisfactory standard if they are to be supplied by an NASC member company.
Some of the areas particularly under the microscope include,
- Weld quality
- Steel grade
- Product test results
- Component traceability
- System specific user guides
The scale of this issue has been a concern for the NASC as increasingly the UK market relies on imports, particularly from China. The UK is not alone in this matter; the scaffold industry in the United States is also working to improve controls over product quality after a number of bad experiences with imported scaffolding.
Once the new Code of Practice is agreed and launched all named system scaffolds supplied by NASC member companies will be subject to an annual audit. Hire, sale and manufacturing members who fail the audit will need to improve their standards or face losing their NASC membership.
Following on from the audits all NASC Contracting members will be encouraged to only seek supply from approved NASC suppliers. Major influencers to the construction industry, such as the Major Contractors Group will also be encouraged to take a strong stance on selection only from approved sources.
The new Code of Conduct is intended to be available by the autumn of this year (2008), with all NASC system suppliers having their audits completed by early 2009.
“The new Code of Conduct will enable everyone in the supply chain (from the supplier to the contractor) to make an informed decision when selecting a system scaffold, ensuring that scaffolding remains a safe and viable access product”, states David Johnson.