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July 5, 2010

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Guidance – Scaffolding deadline approaching

From 1 January 2011 the HSE will no longer acknowledge the British Standard BS5973:1993 as a recognised standard for the design of tube-and-fitting scaffolding structures.

The withdrawal of the document will mean that, from next year, all scaffolds will need to be built in accordance with the European standard BS EN12811-1:2003. According to the National Access & Scaffolding Confederation (NASC), the British Standards Institution (BSI) decided to withdraw BS5973:1993 as it contains conflicting information with the 2003 European standard.

Among the differences between the standards, the Confederation says that BS EN12811-1:

  • is broader in scope than BS5973;
  • covers the whole of the UK (BS5973 is not valid in Scotland); and
  • includes scaffold designs that comply with European standard and the Work at Height Regulations 2005.

The NASC describes the 2003 standard as a performance document, which doesn’t give any detailed advice on safe systems of work for erecting, altering, or dismantling scaffolds when erected using tubes and fittings. The organisation has, however, attempted to fill this gap by publishing a good-practice guide for scaffolding with tubes and fittings, called TG20:08.

It envisages that all its members will be working to the new guidance, in full, by no later than the end of 2010.

For more information on scaffolding guidance, including TG20:08, visit


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