The Germans are said to have this little passion for bureaucracy and regulations. And perhaps you have already come across their latest set of rules in scaffolding - TRBS 2121, short for German "Technical rules for industrial safety". The TRBS 2121 tightens up the existing safety standards for handling work equipment, including scaffolds. This is also relevant beyond Germany's borders, because when it comes to safety, all of us in the scaffolding business do not settle for less than the maximum. TRBS 2121 already specifies a number of things that clearly contribute to this. But what exactly is safer with TRBS 2121?
Continuous guarding for scaffolders is a must
The TRBS 2121 affects above all the procedures for assembling scaffolds. Because maximum safety is particularly important here. This is why TRBS 2121 includes that you have to use technical protective equipment from the beginning. Be it during scaffold assembly, dismantling or reconstruction: the continuous use of a technical protective device is a must. In the case of scaffolds with scaffold alignment, the protection of the access area alone is no longer sufficient. Instead, you will have to assemble a technical fall protection device on the entire topmost level of the scaffold. This can then be a one-piece side guard or an assembly guardrail. Only after you have installed one of the two options along the entire length of the scaffold you can continue with further assembly steps.
A simple TRBS-2121-compliant scaffolding solution can look like this:
Of course, continuous guarding this is not possible when you have to work on a non-continuous scaffolding alignment. In this case, an exception applies. If wall projections, bay windows, balconies or other special structural conditions prevent the continuous assembly of a technical protective device, you will have to check first whether a fall-arrest device can provide sufficient protection. If this is not the case, each member of your scaffolder team must be secured with a personal protective device against falling from a height. In plain terms, this means that you can no longer move on the scaffold freely, but you have to use safety equipment. Sounds simple, but you have to treat this exception with a little caution. Although safety equipment slows down a fall, injuries can still happen. This is why you always have to carry rescue equipment directly on the scaffold as well.
More safety with stairs
When you assemble and dismantle a scaffold, you must pay particular attention to your safety. The same applies when you are climbing up and down the scaffold. Often ladders are used, because they are cheap and particularly fast to assemble. But there are alternatives that are safer to use for you. That is why TRBS2121 now specifies that you must no longer use a ladder above a height of 5 metres. Only when you are working on single-family houses, you may still be allowed to use them after an appropriate risk assessment has been carried out and as long as they are placed inside the scaffold. Beyond that, however, you should use stairs, or even better lifts or transport platforms instead to make scaffold access as safe and ergonomic as possible.
New regulations on the inspection of scaffold assembly
Not everyone who erects scaffolds is actually trained professionally in doing so. As you can imagine, this also entails considerable safety risks. The TRBS aims to minimise these by specifying that scaffolding assemblies must always be checked by skilled employees of the scaffolding contractor. This can be a trained scaffolder or a person with comparable qualifications.
In addition, scaffolding contractors are obliged to provide their employees with assembly instructions and proof of stability if a scaffold is not erected in its standard design. As soon as you are done with erecting the scaffold and want to hand it over to the user, you must affix a label to the access to the scaffold showing the
- contact details of the scaffolding contractor
- name of the client
- scaffold number
- number of accesses
- type of project
- loading and width class of the scaffold
- indication of who may use the scaffold (e.g. all workers at a project site or just workers of a particular company)
- warning notices
- last test date and signature of the representative of the scaffolding contractor
Scaffold inspections only by trained personnel
Checks and inspections are nothing new in scaffolding. With TRBS 2121, however, they become more stringent. It is no longer sufficient to test the scaffolding for functional suitability on your own. You must now commission a trained person to inspect the scaffold both before it is used for the first time and after extreme weather conditions, such as storms or heavy snowfall. In this way, you can avoid accidents caused by incorrect use or stability defects. Also, you always have to attach the current inspection result directly to the scaffold.
TRBS 2121 requires clever scaffolding solutions
You might have guessed it already: Although we all agree that safety must always come first, there is also some criticism of TRBS 2121. The new regulation is said to slow down the work pace on project sites and thus to cost more time and labour. In order to save real money and time and without neglecting safety, clever scaffolding solutions are required that make the implementation of the TRBS 2121 as efficient and as simple as possible. If you would like to know what these can look like, simply download our leaflet on TRBS 2121 solutions here.
All rules of TRBS 2121 at a glance
Here you will find the most relevant rules from TRBS 2121 in a quick overview:
- A continuous protective device must be installed at the top level during every step of assembly. If this is not possible due to structural conditions, each worker must be secured with a personal protective device.
- From a height of 5 metres, access to the scaffolding is only allowed with stairs, transport platforms or lifts and no longer with ladders.
- The assembly of the scaffold must be checked by a trained person. The scaffold contractor must provide this person and the workers with assembly instructions and proof of stability.
- Every functional check of the scaffold must be carried out by a trained person and documented directly on the scaffold.
In addition to safety standards, regular trainings also contribute to more safety in your everyday work. Simply fill in our contact form and the members of the Scafom-rux team will be happy to provide you with more information about our height rescue trainings.