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CROSS Safety Report

Scaffold support overturns

Report ID: 575 Published: 1 January 2017 Region: CROSS-UK

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A 5m high support scaffold screened with fabric overturned when airflow was introduced to a building.

Key Learning Outcomes

For civil and structural design engineers:

  • The design and construction of scaffolding requires the same degree of competence and quality as does permanent works

  • Give attention to the whole design of scaffold support systems and the safety-critical aspects of their fixings and anchors

  • Be aware that all internal structures can be subjected to horizontal loads, including wind pressures, and should be designed to accommodate these

For construction professionals:

  • Having a competent temporary works designer/adviser in place to supply an engineered solution can ensure all temporary works are carefully considered and planned

Full Report

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The Full Report below has been submitted to CROSS and describes the reporter’s experience. The text has been edited for clarity and to ensure anonymity and confidentiality by removing any identifiable details. If you would like to know more about our secure reporting process or submit a report yourself, please visit the reporting to CROSS-UK page.


This concerns a 5m high scaffold screened with fabric that was erected to protect against debris and dust from adjacent demolition works of arched structures below a building. When the demolition broke through into the arched structure, airflow was introduced producing horizontal load on the scaffold which overturned (Figure 1). It fell onto a section of a pedestrian route for the site team and fortunately there were no injuries.

Figure 1: overturned scaffold supports

The root cause of the event, says the reporter, was misinterpretation of the scaffold standard TG20:13 Good Practice Guidance for Tube and Fitting Scaffolding, in that the need for a designed scaffold was not appreciated and wind loading was not considered. The scaffold had inadequate ties to the masonry arch.

A procedure was in place that stated all classes of temporary works/scaffold should be on a register which this was not. The scaffold requirement was discussed on site at a temporary works planning meeting however, this did not cover the scaffold screens.

Expert Panel Comments

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Expert Panels comment on the reports we receive. They use their experience to help you understand what can be learned from the reports. If you would like to know more, please visit the CROSS-UK Expert Panels page.

All internal structures can be subjected to horizontal loads, including wind pressures, and should be designed as such. This is almost a classic case of not considering the safety attribute of ‘sensitivity’. The original assumption of no wind was wrong so even a slight pressure would have been serious.

Achieving robustness always requires a presumption of some horizontal forces but there is always also danger in assuming low wind speeds for temporary works designs. The force difference in say going from 2m/sec to 4m/sec is (4/2)2 = an increase of 400%.

It is essential that temporary works are designed and constructed to BS5975 and associated Temporary Works forum (TWf) guidance. Fixings needed for stability should be designed and constructed to BS8539 and the Construction Fixings Association (CFA) guidance.

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