Promising Future

By David H. Glabe, P.E. / March 10, 2008

One new development is in the manufacturing of scaffolding components, particularly scaffold frames and systems scaffolds.  In the past manufacturing has generally occurred in North America for most supported and suspended scaffold components used inNorth America.  Now, as with other manufactured products, most scaffold component production has shifted to countries with lower manufacturing costs.  Is this good for the industry or is it bad?  It depends on who you talk to. On the one hand, a cheaper equipment cost means better competition.  On the other hand, cheaper costs may suggest lack of quality.  (I wonder how manufacturing would have developed if OSHA, and others, had enforced 29 CFR 1926.451(a)(1) for the past 10 years.  That’s the regulation that says all scaffolds shall have a 4 to 1 safety factor, requiring the employer to know the strength of his/her scaffolding.)

On a brighter note one promising development is in the relationship between the Scaffold Industry Association, SIA, and the US federal Occupational Safety & Health Administration, OSHA.  An alliance has been established between the two entities to further access safety in the construction industry.  This alliance, a couple of years in the making, provides a common platform to share ideas and formulate strategies that will encourage better workplace practices for scaffold users.  This appears to be another step in the evolution of access safety, an evolution that started with the establishment of both OSHA and the SIA in the 1970’s.

Another evolving development is the continuing growth of the SIA training program.  I had the opportunity to visit one of the training classes at the SIA Committee Week and it was a genuine pleasure to see the progress that has been made.  What an evolution this program has experienced since Committee Week inAlbuquerquein the mid ‘90’s when the concept was first proposed.  While it’s been a long road, the fruits of the labor are paying off handsomely.

A development that isn’t new but continues to manifest itself in clever and disturbing ways is the harassment of professional scaffold erectors concerning fall protection.  The extremely well written regulation regarding erector fall protection (29 CFR 1926.451(g)(3) is being abused, interpreted and mutilated, all cloaked in the sanctity of safety.  Let’s call this folly for what it is – a misunderstanding by misinformed individuals who haven’t worked in the shoes of an erector, perceiving that erectors, and by association the entire access/scaffold industry, just don’t care about safety.  This isn’t to say that the industry hasn’t dragged its’ collective feet in the past nor that all erectors are perfect.  However, based on my experience, this industry has invested more time, energy, money, and expertise in developing new strategies, products, knowledge and commitment to reduce the risks inherent with scaffold erection and use in the past decade than any other sector of the construction industry.  Unfortunately all this effort is being undermined by well meaning (I hope) but ill informed personnel who do not understand the bigger picture.  What a waste.  Professional erectors and professional scaffold companies are not the problem, they are the solution.

Enough of the negative thoughts.  Some (whoever they are) may think that a 70 year old product isn’t going to encourage new developments.  When put into perspective, scaffolding, whether its frame, system, suspended, aerial lifts or some derivative thereof, will continue to spawn new developments since access in construction will always be required.  It may be in the components or it may be in related areas such as engineering, assembly, inventory control, accounting or employee productivity.  We may not know what the development will be, but you can be sure there will be new development-look for it!

Tags: Scaffolding Scaffold Components Aerial Lifts OSHA Resources Scaffold Industry Association

Previous Post New Developments
Next Post Still Developing?

David H. Glabe, P.E.

See what David H. Glabe has to say about construction engineering and the scaffolding industry.