Alert: introduction of heavier brick pallets risks overloading scaffold structures

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Reports have recently surfaced that some brick manufacturers are increasing the sizes and weights of the pallets of bricks they supply to construction sites. This increase is reportedly from 1 tonne to 1.2 tonnes per pallet.

These larger brick packs may not be identified and therefore risk overloading a scaffold structure designed with a smaller weight pack in mind – potentially leading to a collapse.

What are the risks and how do you control them?

If these brick pallets are loaded onto scaffolding without anyone noticing the increased weight, there is an increased likelihood of a scaffold collapse. This is particularly hazardous as more pallets are added, the risk of collapse of a 10Kn loading tower is significantly increased by loading just two packs with the new 1.2-tonne weight.

We recommend checking this and raising awareness within your workforce if you’re currently managing or working on a site with scaffolding installed.

If you’re a scaffolding contractor, we recommend obtaining information regarding the use and loading requirements from your customers at the scaffold design stage so that you can factor in the additional loads according to the size pack of brick packs specified.

You may also wish to consider having your loading towers designed to take a 15Kn load as a minimum, just to be extra safe.

What can happen if scaffold is overloaded?

Overloaded scaffold is a collapse risk, and scaffold collapse can have potentially fatal consequences. In 2006, one man died and two more were seriously injured following a scaffolding collapse at a hotel construction site at Witton Gate in Milton Keynes.

Two workers were standing on the west elevation of a 40-metre-high scaffold, installing large cladding tiles onto the outside of the building. Each tile weighed 20kg and around 150 tiles were stacked on the scaffold. Another sub-contractor was working on the north side of the elevation and was installing brackets onto the side of the hotel.

At this point, the scaffold suddenly collapsed, and all three men fell to the ground. The men were then trapped under the rubble until rescue workers arrived at the scene to free them. One was taken to hospital suffering from serious injuries to his left leg. Three days later he died from a pulmonary embolism, as a result of the damage to his leg.

During the early stages of the project, the HSE had visited the site, raising concerns about the size of the management team and number of workers on-site not being sufficient, as well as informing the principal contractor that the scaffolding had not been properly inspected.

Following the incident, the HSE issued a Prohibition Notice against the scaffolding and demanded that the scaffold was not touched until it had completed an inspection of the site. The investigation revealed the reason for the scaffold collapse was that it was overloaded. HSE Principal Inspector said: “One worker lost his life in this incident and two others have had their lives changed forever as a result. It’s a wonder that more people weren’t hurt.

“It is totally unacceptable for companies to disregard the safety of their workers. If the scaffolding had been designed, erected, and managed properly, this incident would never have happened.”

The company appeared in court and pleaded guilty to breaching s2(1) and s3(1) of the HSWA 1974. It was fined £90,000 and ordered to pay costs of £42,000.

How Citation can help  

If you are concerned about potential overload of scaffold at your site, or you’d like one of our experts to help you identify any risks associated with your scaffold structures, you can call our Health & Safety advice line 24/7 on 0345 844 4848.

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