With all the high-rises and tall buildings around us, you have to stop and wonder how they got that high. At one point or another, you’ve seen scaffolds erected on construction sites during a build. While many people are used to seeing the traditional scaffolding used to aid workers on a construction job, there are different types of scaffolds for specific purposes.
But how do you differentiate between other scaffolding types? Let’s have a look:
What Is a Scaffold?
First, let’s go over what a scaffold is. According to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, scaffolds are temporary structures that consist of one or more elevated platforms. Scaffolds provide safety and help workers access higher areas that can’t be reached from the ground level.
All scaffolding must be designed and constructed to support and withstand the weight of heavy loads.
There are two different types of scaffolds:
- Suspended Scaffolds: A suspended scaffold is a platform hung from a permanent solid structure, such as a roof. Most suspended scaffolds are supported using rope, wire, or other durable/flexible materials.
- Supported Scaffolds: A supported scaffold is a platform built with durable rigid ground supports. Ground supports include poles, brackets, posts, legs, outriggers, or frames. Supported scaffolds can hold substantial weight but must be set up properly to avoid tipping over.
Over time, supported scaffolding has become the most common type of scaffold because of the different variations available in the construction industry.
Different Types of Supported Scaffolding
Frame Scaffolds/Fabricated Frame Scaffolds
Frame scaffolds (or fabricated frame scaffolds) are built with fabricated end frames and supported by posts, cross beams, and horizontal supports. Frame scaffolds are used for larger construction projects and allow access up to several stories high.
This type of scaffolding comes with extension ladders, ramps, or built-in stairs to help workers access different levels.
Tube & Coupler Scaffolds
Tube and coupler scaffolds are the most common type of scaffolding in the construction industry. Why? Because of their versatility. These scaffolds are designed with metal tubes that are joined together using couplers.
The durability of a tube and coupler scaffold plays a big part in why it’s a popular choice. Since it’s made of metal, it can handle heavier loads which are common in a construction project. It can also reach higher levels which is useful for construction and painting jobs.
While tube and coupler scaffolds can be put together in various ways, you must ensure they’re built properly to avoid safety hazards.
Wood scaffolds are not as common today as other types, but they are helpful for projects that require staying in the same place for long periods. Each wood scaffold accommodates a specific need during a build. Once the job is over, the scaffold is discarded. These scaffolds are essentially a one-time use, making them an outdated scaffolding method.
Most wood scaffolds are erected with single or double poles. Single poles are useful when the scaffolding needs to be affixed next to a standing structure, whereas double poles are built independently from a structure. Both types require posts, braces, and bearers securely connected at fixed levels.
Ladder Jack Scaffolds
A ladder jack scaffold is a platform that rests on brackets attached to ladders at each end. These scaffolds work as a cost-effective solution but are also portable and easy to assemble. However, it’s best to familiarize yourself with OSHA requirements before putting together and working on a ladder jack scaffold.
Pump Jack Scaffolds
A pump jack scaffold is supported with brackets that move on vertical poles. This scaffold can be raised and lowered much like an automobile jack, which is helpful for construction workers who need to reach certain heights. Pump jacks are effective options as they’re easily adjustable and inexpensive.
As you might have guessed from the name, mobile scaffolds have wheels or casters attached at the base. The wheels provide easy mobility when setting the scaffolding into place. Mobile scaffolding is a go-to choice for projects that require covering different parts of a construction site at specific heights.
Mobile scaffolding wheels can work on numerous surfaces but function better on leveled areas. Most wheels and casters will come with a locking mechanism that will keep the scaffold from moving while in use. If there aren’t locks on the wheels, concrete blocks are utilized to keep the scaffold still.
A mast climber scaffold is used to complete tasks at great heights while needing to carry heavy loads. Mast climbers are built as free-standing structures or can be attached to permanent structures using a beam to create a stable connection.
Mast climbers can be built on a stationary base while still being able to move and reach different heights. Mast climber scaffolds may also be used on a mobile base if the job requires tasks in several locations.
An aerial lift is a platform that’s mounted on a vehicle. This scaffolding method does exactly as the name suggests. Aerial lifts can elevate workers, materials, and construction equipment to great heights. The lifts can be operated manually or mechanically, making them useful for many different tasks.
Scissor lifts are mobile scaffolds that are attached to a motorized base. The platform is surrounded by guardrails that are fixed on cross beams. Scissor lifts can be raised or lowered and driven at shorter distances to transport materials and workers to different locations. You might mostly see scissor lifts used in warehouse settings, but they’re also reliable for construction sites.
Tighter quarters may require specific types of specialty scaffolding. Some of those scaffolding options may include:
- Chicken ladders or crawling boards
- Horse scaffolds
- Outrigger scaffolds
- Step, platform, and trestle ladder scaffolds
- Roof bracket scaffolds
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