By Brett Martin
Scaffolding is an indispensable tool on masonry projects, but it has its limitations. It can be difficult to haul, set up and move, and it doesn't always offer optimum access and efficiency. That's where accessories prove their worth. They can increase the benefits of scaffolding, helping mason contractors improve safety, increase production and save money.
While some accessories are not brand new, there's a new interest in them, particularly those dealing with safety, said Charles Dewey, vice president, scaffolding and erection services, for Waco Scaffolding & Equipment in Cleveland.
"A lot of the accessories have been available for a long time, but masons are becoming more safety conscious, which is driving the interest," Dewey said. "There is a new interest on their part from a safety standpoint."
As a result, accessories such as guardrails are garnering more attention. "We're seeing more and more use of these types of products," Dewey said. "Now that the guys have used them and liked them, they want to use them."
Improved Safety and Usability
It's no coincidence that an emphasis on job site safety has resulted in new accessories designed to protect workers. Justin Breithaupt, Jr., owner of Non-Stop Scaffolding Inc. in Shreveport, La., said his company's new Mid-run Guardrail is a safety "problem solver."
When scaffolding is used at a wall, the wall serves as a barrier to protect workers. But when the scaffolding extends past the wall, workers are exposed to a fall hazard if they walk to the end of the scaffolding, Breithaupt said. The guardrail eliminates the hazard by clamping to the scaffold planks where the wall ends.
"OSHA is getting stricter about guardrails, and we saw a need to put a guardrail that would block someone from walking into, what OSHA considers to be, a hazardous area," he said.
Easier Transport and Setup
One of the drawbacks of scaffolding is hauling it to and from the job site. It can also be burdensome to set up, often requiring the use of cranes or forklifts. Manufacturers have responded by making scaffolding easier to transport and erect.
George Biagiotti, New England sales representative for St-Mathias-sur-Richelieu, Quebec-based Fraco Products Ltd., said increased safety and efficiency was a goal for the company's new FRSM-1500.
The platform, with a 1,500-pound lifting capacity, is designed for a single person to set up and stand on while working. "One guy can set it up in 20 minutes," Biagiotti said, adding that the platform is assembled by hand ? without a crane, hoist or other lifting device ? to a freestanding height of 35 feet.
When the job is finished, the platform can be folded up into a compact kit that fits on a trailer. The trailer can be pulled by a pick-up truck, making it easy to transport, store and then position on the next job site ? a trend taking place across the industry.
America - AS Mast Climbers, a division of American Platform & Scaffolding in Baltimore, has three new lightweight, easily transportable machines (mc1100, mc2300, mc3615) that are up to 50 feet long and 400 feet tall.
"No cranes or forklifts are needed. The machines roll right off the trailer and are ready to use," said Barney Hanna, the company's development manager. "When you work in a big city, for example New York or Washington, D.C., getting a crane or forklift in is impossible."
The largest one, the mc3615, with an 8,000-pound capacity, is geared for the masonry industry, Hanna said, adding that it's electronically powered so masons can use it indoors without creating noise or pollution from a gas motor.
"The benefits are the cost savings and the efficiency," he said. "You have the ability to build them on a sidewalk quickly or build them inside."
Simplifying the transportation of scaffolding between job sites is also the idea behind L'Assomption, Quebec-based Hydro Mobile's P-Series trailer. "The first benefit is that you can move it by hitching it to the back of a pick-up. The trailer is integrated in the unit," said Director of Marketing Thierry Lachapelle. "It really is a time saver. You need less equipment. You don't need a forklift. It saves time and energy."
On site, the system can quickly position platforms or move equipment that is already set up, resulting in easy relocation and time savings, Lachapelle said.
Accessories are not only saving valuable set-up time, they're also increasing the scaffolding's versatility. Non-Stop Scaffolding's new elevating bridge is a good example. It spans 14 feet to provide a stable, safe platform for workers and materials.
"It's designed to make scaffolding more versatile by allowing users to span problem areas in a wall, such as where the dock access will go or over plumbing or air conditioning apparatus," Breithaupt said.
Not only will the bridge hold heavy loads without collapsing, it installs in five minutes by hand or forklift without special training.
"Ours is the first one that's not attached by nuts and bolts or other fasteners. It has a fool-proof assembly. It's attached by hanging onto the scaffolding, so it won't come loose. It's either on right or not on at all," Breithaupt explained. "The heavy-duty bridge adds to the versatility and usability of the scaffolding."
Hydro Mobile has taken versatile bridging to a whole new level with its new multi-purpose insert with a forward extension. "The main benefit is it can be used in many ways," Lachapelle said. "It's a better investment for a contractor."
He said the inserts are designed to work with 14-foot and 24-foot units. The seven-foot-long inserts can be assembled back-to-back to create an extension up to 21 feet; they can also be used as three-foot bridge inserts or serve as narrow bridges on their own.
Good for Business
The features and benefits of scaffolding accessories are nice for the workers, but they also have the ability to save, and even make, money for mason contractors. New weather protection, for example, is easier to use and more efficient to allow masons to work in cold weather and keep business flowing year round.
"Everybody is being forced to work through the winter," said Clint Bridges, vice president for EZ Scaffolding in Columbia, Tenn. "[General contractors] don't want to hear that you can't work through the winter."
EZ Scaffolding offers a light, easy-to-assemble weather barrier for frame scaffolding that only encloses the work area. The system stays intact so workers can move it anywhere on the scaffolding.
"What we have keeps your plastic tight so there's no plastic blowing in the wind, and you don't have to heat the entire wall," Bridges said.
Non-Stop Scaffolding also rolled out a new winter enclosure system this year. The outermost tube is round pipe, just like conventional frame scaffolding. It's wrapped with reinforced polyethylene and wind clips, and it's legal to climb.
Other new accessories enable mason contractors to accept projects that their competition can't handle. Bridges said his company's material host, which lifts up to 4,000 pounds, offers masons a tool they need to handle large jobs they might otherwise turn down.
"It gives masons a lot. It gives them the ability to do tough jobs they normally wouldn't do," he said. "They can then do jobs that others can't, so they make more money."
He points out that these types of material handling systems that eliminate the need for a crane save mason contractors money and don't make them beholden to someone else's timetable.
"The biggest part is being in control of the job yourself because you don't have to rent a crane and an operator," Bridges said. "This also gives you flexibility because you don't have to work around the crane operator's schedule."
About the Author
Brett Martin is a freelance writer located in Shakopee, Minn. with several years of construction and writing experience.