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Five considerations when adopting system scaffolding

Across most of Europe, Australasia and the Americas, modular system scaffolding has long been the favoured choice of access methodology, whist the UK, Middle East and Asian markets cling on to traditional tube and fitting scaffolding.

But now, even in these conventional market places, many scaffolding firms are recognising the safety and productivity benefits of choosing system over tube and fitting.

Here’s a useful guide to entering the modular marketplace, with some key considerations when adopting system scaffolding…

#1 Choice of system (beware the copy)

Enter the world of system scaffolding and you immediately open up a huge range of different product types. The more popular system types include cup, rosette/ring, wedge, Turner, and HAKI. And within these system types, there’s also the choice of which scaffold brand to pick. The list is exhaustive.

In the UK, it’s recommended any system brand or supplier used is an NASC compliant company, as demonstrated by the NASC Code of Product (CoP) assessment; however if you opt to source from an non-NASC compliant company then the NASC PG6:18 purchasing guidelines should be followed, to select safely.

Given the level of investment required to adopt any system, it’s important you select the one right for all your stakeholders.

Each system has its own benefits to consider – often dependent on application – so it’s worth doing your research before making your decision. Check the manufacturers website, brochures, product manuals, the latest press and social media about the brand. And speak to their sales and technical teams first hand.

With HAKI, you are also able to arrange a free demo of the products, which allows you to see the system in action and determine if it’s the right solution for your business and customers. There’s no substitute for that.

Whatever system you favour – you should also be aware of ‘fake’ copies. Most market-leading scaffolding systems have been copied, and although these are sometimes difficult to identify visually, they are not safe like their originals.

Companies manufacturing so called ‘copy system’ tend to use lower quality materials, which are manufactured to lower standards, and in some cases have no documentation on testing or safety standards at all. Obviously, to be avoided, given the nature of their use, working at height.

Frequently with system copies, there are no quality control or safety measures in place at all. Depending on the system you decide on, there can be things to look out for to distinguish copy from the original brand. For example, HAKI has listed 10 simple ways of recognising its copies here.

#2 Reduced labour time and project schedules

One of the most obvious benefits of switching to system scaffolding from tube and fitting is the reduced labour time required for erection and dismantling.

With a vast decrease in the number of components and connections required for a scaffold, less manual handling and man-time is needed to build a structure. And time is money as we all know – so, with system, it’s an offset of the initial investment expense versus the time saved on future events.

If we look more closely at HAKI for instance, project schedules and labour time can be reduced by 60% when using the Universal system in comparison to tube and fitting, with prefabrication allowing for quick assembly. HAKI can even be up to 30% quicker to erect than other system products, like ring, and no tools are needed so even noise is even kept at a minimum.

As well as a reduced number of components, some system brands like HAKI now offer lighter weight steel and aluminium product ranges. This means manual handling is less strenuous for scaffolders, preserving their energy and increasing efficiency – and safety – of your workers.

For guidance on manual handling for the UK scaffolding industry, you can refer to the NASCs SG6:15 guide; this gives particular reference to how system scaffolding should be handled safely and considered in risk assessments.

Although reduced timing is a great benefit to contractors using system scaffolding, project schedules may need to be adjusted to reflect use of a system if tube and fitting or another type of system had originally been planned for.

Workers also need to be aware that use of system may impact their hours – as it is so much faster – and training must also be factored in, particularly if your employees are not familiar with the system you have chosen to work with. Some manufacturers are better than others at advising on this… so ask about after sales engineering, design and training support.

#3 Improving skill sets

Ongoing training is essential for any scaffolding professional, new or well-established. With the global market shifting towards system scaffolding, getting your employees trained and qualified to work with associated products and solutions is imperative; especially as more clients and principal contractors start to specify system categories and even brands.

Fortunately, specific training courses have been developed by industry bodies such as CISRS for most system categories.

These industry accepted courses are available at training centres throughout the UK, making them easily accessible.

Some system suppliers have also opened their own training centres to deliver a range of CISRS accredited courses, alongside their own product specific training. This additional service from suppliers is highly recommended, as it helps ascertain that your workers erect, maintain and dismantle the system in accordance to health and safety guidelines.

Once you have invested in a system, it’s also worth considering some on-site technical support.

Depending on the complexity of the access solution you are using, further instruction and problem-solving may be required to ensure you get the maximum productivity, speed and safety on the job.

Some system scaffolding suppliers will offer site support to help deliver your project, but it would be worth checking this service is available ahead of investment. HAKI, for example, has a team of highly skilled technicians, with many years’ scaffolding experience, to assist you on-site.

#4 Complex structures

System scaffolding, in general, is often underestimated for its adaptability in comparison to its traditional counterpart, tube and fitting. However, system will almost always be able to provide a solution, even in the most challenging environments, with the right design. Plus, there’s the added benefits of quality and safety included too. Many are even versatile enough to work with tube and fitting, so a combination hybrid can be used where appropriate.

Obviously, some sectors and projects require more complex access solutions than others. Equally, some systems are more adaptable than others, and each offers their own unique way of overcoming complex structures, so one may be more suited to your usual line of business than another.

HAKI, for example, has been designed to allow for a three-legged system where horizontal components can be turned seven degrees relative to the standard, allowing for a curved structure; making it ideal for circular scaffolds.

Similarly, the HAKI beam rider and puncheon components have been developed to get around site obstacles; improving overall adaptability – as demonstrated with the works carried out at this CETAC, Vitry-sur-Seine.

CETAC, Vitry-sur-Seine - Overcoming site obstacles with HAKI adaptability

The best way to determine whether a system has the adaptability for your upcoming contracts is to speak to the source direct. Liaise with their technical team for information and ask for a demonstration to see how the system might work for you.

#5 Hire or purchase?

Purchasing a scaffolding system requires a level of capital that some contractors can be hesitant to part with when they first adopt the product. This is fully understandable as it is a large investment to make, requiring a lot of trust and commitment. Some may even call it a risk… until they see the labour savings and safety gains further down the line.

For scaffolding companies and contractors who want to use system but don’t want to commit fully straight away, hire options are available.

These can give more flexibility in the system used by project and freedom to try new products without the large cash outlay required for an outright purchase. Hiring is also useful when specific products are only required temporarily but are necessary to a project.

Additionally, hiring system can help overcome challenges in storage, shipping, servicing and repairs – all of which need to be handled in a different way to tube and fitting.

If you’re new to adopting system, you will need to have the room and transport options to deal with having both traditional scaffolding and system on the same site and new capabilities when it comes to maintaining your stock.

Although there are clearly some benefits to hiring a system, you should consider your average project timescales and how long the scaffold is likely to be required for. If you foresee other future projects requiring similar products, you are likely to be better off purchasing the components.

Hire costs can rapidly add up if you continually choose this financing option and the cost of purchasing outright can often pay for itself in the long-run if the system is used repeatedly. However, there are several system scaffolding hire companies in the UK market, including HAKI partners UKSSH, should this be the route you want to take.

If you’re looking to invest in a scaffolding system, speak to us today to find out more about how HAKI can deliver to your requirements.