An Interview with a Scaffolder

The Future of the Scaffolding Industry

How long have you been working in scaffolding?

At 17, I chose to leave school and began working as a scaffold labourer. I was a part of a three-person team at a small business located in Chatham, Kent. The work we were doing was highly risky. The day started at 6 am, when we would show up at the yard and load up the lorry before beginning our day of work. While I spent many years working as a scaffolder, I took opportunities to advance my career in TRAD and became an advanced scaffold inspector. From there, I moved into working as a SHEQ Officer. Today, I serve as part of the SHEQ team and am the manager of quality, group safety, environment, and health.

How has scaffolding changed since you entered the industry?

I got my start working at smaller companies where there wasn’t an emphasis on safety. Workers received minimal training, while accidents were often written off as a hazard of the job. Thankfully, in recent years, there have been great strides in safety thanks to the NASC, excellent clients, the rise of mobile aluminium scaffold and reliable companies like ours. Today, scaffolders receive excellent training. I am extremely impressed with the work done by our scaffolders. Safety is taken seriously, making the risk of injury much lower.

How do you feel about statistics on workplace injuries?

After the NASC safety guidelines regarding safe practices at height SG4 were introduced in 2000, falls from high heights have significantly decreased. In fact, across the past eighteen years, the NASC reports that there has been an 80% reduction in Falls from Height. The safety report from 2018 reports that the year-to-year decrease in falls was 46%.

Before these practices, it wasn’t unusual for people to fall on the job. Both I and many of my colleagues are aware of people that sustained serious injuries or were killed while working as a scaffolder. Thankfully, members of the NASC have not sustained any fatal injuries over the last 5 years. This is excellent, but it isn’t an excuse for complacency. It’s important that we continue to improve our safety practices.

What are the primary benefits of being a member of the NASC?

Being a member of the NASC is highly beneficial, and it’s also advantageous for clients to work with NASC contractors. You’ll enjoy many perks, including more funding for training, advice on important topics like employment affairs and taxes, SSIP accreditations, and so much more. Partnering with NASC members, such as TRAD, is a guarantee that the scaffolders you’re hiring will be properly trained. More than 50% will be blue or gold carded, and the minimum PAYE is 75%. Workers are regularly audited, which means you can trust that they are safe and competent.

What are the scaffolding industry’s most significant challenges?

As time goes on, scaffolding will likely become more specialised than it is currently. Keeping this in consideration, the industry needs to attract new young workers with the dedication necessary to succeed in this field. There are plenty of candidates with the necessary drive, but it’s still crucial for the construction industry to recruit these workers. Many apprentices work at TRAD. We have ambassadors that focus on recruiting new workers, as well as an excellent mentoring scheme.

Have your past jobs helped you to work more safely?

Absolutely. My experience in scaffolding has brought me to the position I’m in today. Working on different jobs has given me first-hand knowledge. My time as a scaffold inspector allowed me to see low and high-quality workmanship. Because of this, it was easier for me to recognise the need for excellent training.