I recall my first involvement with the Scaffold Industry Association, SIA, in the early 1980’s. I was impressed by the people who were genuinely involved in making the use of the scaffolding and related products safer. I also recall how I was railroaded into taking the minutes for council meetings! In fact, I was inducted (or abducted) into the role of scribe for the Shoring and Forming Council. You read that correctly. Back then there was a Shoring and Forming Council. There also was no Fall Protection Council, Aerial Lift Council, or Hoist Council. Over the years the focus of the association has changed, evolving into an organization that emphasizes the various forms of access for workers. Concurrently, shoring and forming slowly diminished in scope and involvement to the point that it is no longer represented in the SIA.
This doesn’t mean that there are no members who are involved with shoring and forming. It also doesn’t mean that there are no issues with the use of these products. In fact, there actually is more commonality between scaffolding and shoring than you might think. On the other hand, scaffolding is definitely not shoring and shoring is not scaffolding. For this discussion, we’ll leave wall formwork alone except for the fact that the work platform on a wall form is a scaffold and consequently the scaffold standards in federal OSHA 1926, Subpart L apply.
What are the common elements between shoring and scaffolding you may ask? Well, fall protection is a common element; access is a common element; falling object protection is a common element; and, capacity and strength are common elements. The significant difference between scaffolding and shoring is that a scaffold is a temporary elevated platform and its supporting structure used to support workers or materials or both. Shoring, on the other hand, can be a system of structural elements used to support the formwork for concrete (the Jell-O® mold that holds the liquid concrete). Shoring can also be a system of structural elements used to support existing structures such as buildings while repairs or modifications are being performed. Since shoring and scaffolding are different structures, different OSHA standards typically apply although there is overlap in a number of areas. That is where the similarities come into play and thus it makes sense that the SIA should consider resurrecting the Shoring and Forming council.
For example, fall protection for shoring erectors has the same issues as fall protection for scaffold erectors. For new concrete construction, the shoring equipment is always at the top of building (that is logical) and consequently, there is no convenient anchor above the erectors unless the Goodyear® blimp is in the neighborhood. Supported scaffolding can have the same issue. Interestingly enough, a review of the OSHA standards show that the Construction Industry fall protection standards are applied by OSHA through the use of Letters of Interpretation. Unfortunately, it is a circuitous route that attempts to apply the standards in creative ways so as to justify a desired outcome. The results are confusing requirements for shoring erectors to contend with during their work.
Access for both scaffold erectors and shoring erectors is an intriguing topic for those who attempt to apply inappropriate standards. OSHA considers shoring frames to be working surfaces and therefore fall protection and/or positioning devices are required. If these same frames are used as scaffolding, and they can be, then they can be climbed by the erectors. Confused yet? Wait—there’s more! Access for shoring can really be interesting. While the erector shouldn’t climb the frame because it is not a ladder but rather a working surface, the erector doesn’t need to comply with the ladder standards because his access continues to move while the shoring is constructed and the access requirements of 29 CFR 1926-Subpart X were never intended to apply to this work activity. Are you confused yet?
The final frustration is when the compliance officer or site safety employee can’t figure out whether you are working on scaffolding or shoring. Applying the scaffold standards to the erection of shoring is like trying to apply the fixed ladder standards to a scaffold attachable ladder—it doesn’t work.
The Scaffold Industry Association members have a wealth of experience and expertise that can be used to clarify the intent and application of the standards while making life easier and safer for both the erectors and users of temporary structures. Is it time to resurrect the Shoring and Forming Council? I think it is.
When is a platform a work deck and when is it formwork? This question is frequently asked during the process of erecting shoring equipment. A similar question is whether the equipment is scaffolding or shoring. Often the situation is misdiagnosed and the ensuing conversation concerning the application of regulations develops into a frustrating exchange of accusations.
Is there any significance to ascertaining the difference? Is the safety of the erector or user adversely affected? What role does the type of equipment have in determining the outcome? These are good questions that require answers.
The first step is to determine the basic difference between a scaffold and a shoring deck. As defined by the U.S. Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, OSHA, a scaffold is any temporary elevated platform and its supporting structure used to support workers and/or materials. A shoring deck, on the other hand, as described by the Scaffold, Shoring and Forming Institute, SSFI, is the sheathing, joists and stringers which act as the mold for liquid concrete. This mold is also commonly known as the formwork. These definitions surely indicate that there is a significant difference in the two definitions. So why the confusion? It begins with the fact the workers stand on both a “temporary elevated platform” and the formwork of a shoring deck. In essence, it appears that the shoring deck is a temporary elevated work platform.
Therefore, the second step is to look beyond appearances and perceptions to determine the purpose of the deck. Ask the basic question: What is this temporary structure for? Will this deck be used for workers to obtain access to their work or is this deck being used to support concrete. It doesn’t get any easier! If the deck is being used to support concrete, the workers are there doing work to the deck. If the deck is being used as an elevated platform, the workers are doing work from the platform.
The third step is to properly apply the standards. Here’s how it works. For shoring, use these US Federal OSHA standards:
For fall protection, 29CFR1926, Subpart M:
For access, use 29CFR1926, Subpart X:
For concrete and formwork, use 29CFR1926, Subpart Q.
For scaffolding, use these standards:
For fall protection, 29CFR1926, Subpart L;
For access, use 29CFR1926, Subpart L, unless you are using a portable or job built ladder, then use 29CFR1926, Subpart X;
For scaffold construction and use, use 29CFR1926, Subpart L.
What could possibly be the difference. The first is fall protection. Subpart M requires fall protection at 6 feet above the lower level. Subpart L requires fall protection at 10 feet above the lower level. This means that a scaffold platform must have fall protection once that platform is more than ten feet above the level below while a shoring deck requires fall protection at six feet. The second significant difference is in the safety factor. For scaffolding, the minimum safety factor is 4. For shoring and formwork, OSHA does not specify a safety factor although the American National Standards Institute, the SSFI, and others specify a range of safety factors of 2 to 4, depending on the component.
Keep in mind that it is not the type of equipment but rather the intended use of the equipment that determines applicable safety regulations. In other words, scaffold frames can easily be used as shoring. In this case Subpart M would apply for fall protection. Conversely, shoring frames used to support several plank for workers to use to access the top of a column would be scaffold and all the applicable scaffold standards would apply, including plank placement, access, safety factors, and fall protection. Just because the workers are standing on a tower normally used for shoring will not exempt them from the scaffold standards.
Perhaps the most problematic aspect of distinguishing between a shoring deck and a scaffold platform occurs at the work platform that typically surrounds the edge of the shoring deck. More specifically, how is the safety factor applied to the entire system? Those components supporting the work platform require a 4 to 1 safety factor while those components supporting the remainder of the deck typically require a 2 to 2.5 safety factor. Usually this is not of concern since the shoring is required to support loads that are much higher than those of a work deck. However, as with all scaffold and shoring designs, a qualified person will properly design the system.