The ‘A’ in Grade A scaffold boards are a potential ‘accident waiting to happen’ because they are an unknown grade, warns Christian Brash from John Brash & Co.
By rights, Grade A timber boards should have been consigned to history back in 2009, when the latest version of the British Standard came out. But, they have reappeared and seem to be flourishing – and nobody can quite work out why. Maybe the clue is in the name Grade A, which means a lot of people are probably still buying or using them based on a false assumption.
So why does the standard matter?
Quite simply, scaffold boards keep professional builders safe when working at height, so the boards have to be fit for purpose – which means they have to comply to British Standards.
Alarmingly, Grade A boards fly in the face of the requirements of BS2482:2009, which sets the most up-to-date specification for timber scaffold boards. Not only is the standard clear but the intentions of organisations such as The National Access and Scaffolding Confederation (NASC) and the Health and Safety Executive, which are at the forefront of promoting safe working environments, are also clear: professional builders should only be using materials that meet current regulations, and this extends to timber scaffold boards.
One reason for the proliferation of Grade A board is cost – which is understandable in such a price-sensitive market. What also speaks volumes is NASC President Kevin Ward tub-thumping about cracking down on ‘rogue and inferior scaffolding firms’ in his President’s Commitment on the NASC website.
What does the British Standard say?
BS 2482:2009 replaced BS 2482:1981 for the specification for timber scaffold boards. It covers board sizing, board construction, and timber quality and grading requirements for the three main timber scaffold boards with a width of 225mm and a thickness of either 38mm or 63mm.
How to spot BS2482:2009 scaffold boards
The easiest tell-tale sign of timber scaffold board that is complaint with the latest version of the British Standard is by the banding, and more importantly by the information contained on it at either end of a length of the scaffold board. In our opinion, T32 or T28 bands are the best, dependent on the length of the board, as they help to stop the boards splitting and don’t have nails at the end that could come loose but are safely nailed along the sides.
Here are the things you should be looking for on the banding:
1. Correct support span (1.2m max or 1.5m max for 38mm boards, and 2.5m max for 63mm boards)
2. BS2482 number
3. The Kitemark
4. Initials indicating whether the board has been machine or visually graded (MG or VG
5. Suppliers identification -We put our Kitemark Licence Number (KM 07800) on our boards.
Grade A doesn’t make the grade
“We are fully aware that a single piece of timber is all that stands between a scaffolder and the floor,” declares John Brash Production Director, Brian Lancaster, “which is why meeting and even exceeding the British Standards in terms of product strength, quality and safety are so important.”
Three main types of scaffold board
• 38mm × 225mm
A grade that is suitable for support at centres up to 1.2m. It may be selected by visual or, preferably, machine strength grading. Each board is passed through a machine that measures deflection under a prescribed load. The board is tested in the plane that it will be used. This detects critical defects, such as excessive slope of grain, which can easily be missed when visually grading.
This is ideal for general construction and comes in lengths from 0.6m to 4.8m.
• 38mm × 225mm
A grade that is suitable for support at centres up to 1.5m. It may only be selected by machine strength grading.
This is preferred where higher loads or more flexibility are factors and comes in lengths from 0.6m to 4.8m.
• 63mm × 225mm
This is a single grade for 63mm thick scaffold boards and is suitable for support at centres up to 2.5m. Such boards, often referred to as timber or scaffold battens, can be either visually or machine strength graded. Care must be taken when ordering to ensure the boards match the correct system and are precision cut to the designated lengths. These are used for Kwikstage or Cuplock scaffolding.
It’s worth noting that BS2482:2009 does not cover laminated or finger-jointed scaffold boards.
For more information about timber scaffold boards from John Brash visit www.johnbrash.co.uk