Scaffold planks are one of the most important components of scaffolding due to the safety risks that substandard planks presents. Even if the most robust, perfectly built framework has been erected, poor quality planks will be almost useless. These platforms must support workers, equipment, and materials, so they must be secure, reliable, and sturdy to prevent any risks of collapsing. As you can imagine, scaffold planks must adhere to strict guidelines in order to be compliant. There are many accidents, injuries, and even deaths in the construction industry, so ensuring that safety protocols are followed is paramount. The compliancy rules surrounding scaffold planks are numerous and very specific, and this article will provide some compliancy tips to ensure you’re providing a safe workplace for your employees.
The following provides a number of safe work practices and control measures for working platforms. All scaffold planks should:
● Not be cracked or split
● Be uniform in thickness
● Contain a slip-resistant surface
● Be captive (in other words, they can’t be kicked off) and fixed to prevent displacement or uplift while supporting workers
● Be positioned in a specific way so that there are no single gaps between planks that exceed 25mm and the total gap between all planks is not more than 50mm.
In addition to this, scaffold planks may be lapped on hanging bracket scaffolds, however they must not be lapped on straight runs of modular and coupler and tube scaffolding. Lapped planks can sometimes be utilised to cover gaps around the corners of scaffold bays, and these lapped planks typically don’t need to be secured as long as the following are met:
● Planks are at least 1.2 metres in length
● Timber is lapped over metal planks
● Standards are in place that stops planks from moving sideways
● The plank overlap, past the edge of the plank underneath, is at least 300mm
On the other hand, if plywood sheets are used to cover gaps between scaffold bays, these sheets must be:
● At least 17mm thick
● Only utilised to cover gaps that are less than 500mm wide. If the gaps are wider than this, approval must be gained from a qualified engineer
If metal planks are lapped on other metal planks, they need to be secured using equipment such as strapping or a double tie wire. It’s important to note however, that tie wire or any other system must not be used to secure planks on hop-up brackets if they have not been structurally rated. Furthermore, all hop-up brackets must be used in conjunction with tie bars to prevent brackets from spreading apart, which can cause the planks to dislodge.
It goes without saying that all planks must be secured. When supported by putlogs, the overhang of planks must be at least 150mm but less than 250mm. If the overhang of planks is greater than 250mm, the risk of uplift is significantly increased. In terms of laminated planks, it’s advised to avoid nailing or screwing them into position, unless specified by the manufacturer of course. If there is a risk of a cyclone or other ominous weather (such as areas north of Bundaberg), all planks must be secured against uplift.
Marking is an important part of scaffold plank compliancy also. Each scaffold plank should be permanently marked with the following:
● The number of this Australian Standard (e.g. AS 1758)
● The manufacturer’s name
● The working load limit
● The allowable span for random planks.
Scaffold planks can either be visually graded (V), or machined-graded (M). All solid timber scaffold planks should be branded on one edge with one of these letters to identify whether the planks are visually graded or machine-graded. The lettering on all planks should be at least 25mm high, and the brands should be spaced no more than 1.8m apart.
As you can see, there are an abundance of safety guidelines to be aware of when it comes to scaffold planks. If you are unsure of whether your scaffold planks need to be replaced, or have any other concerns with the quality of your scaffold planks, get in touch with professionals at Uni-Span who will be able to assist. You can reach them via phone on 1800 822 825, or by visiting their website: http://uni-span.com.au/