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I am currently very very confused to what I have recently been told and I wondered if you could tell me the correct thing.


According to a ND tutor of Technical Theatre, you have to have a scaffolding tower signed off by a qualified person - is this right?


The reason I ask is because the same 'tutor' told people you could put 250V @ 15A through speaker cable - cable I wouldn't even run a mic through!


Anyone any ideas?

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Just what is the connection between assembling a scaff tower and an electrical question?


Towers should be assembled by a competent person.


Speaker cables CAN be suitable for mains if so designed. Flexible mains cable IS suitable as a speaker cable, given a suitable CSA. Mic cable is only usable for very small speakers. Speaker cable is NEVER suitable for microphones.


There, you have learnt something today.

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Just what is the connection between assembling a scaff tower and an electrical question?


Towers should be assembled by a competent person.


Speaker cables CAN be suitable for mains if so designed.  Flexible mains cable IS suitable as a speaker cable, given a suitable CSA.  Mic cable is only usable for very small speakers.  Speaker cable is NEVER suitable for microphones.


There, you have learnt something today.


What I was getting at, is this was very thin speaker cable, proved she did not know her electrical basics, therefore if she is giving wrong info about speaker cable (rated at 9V max probs) she could be giving wrong info out about scaffolding.


So it has to be put up by a competant person, fair enough - but does it have to be signed off?

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You won't find a law stating that a scaff tower has to be "signed off by a competent person" however if this is a venues policy then you should follow it. A rule like this is probably wise in an educational establishment where you may have lots of students who are inexperienced/ new to putting up towers who may assemble it incorrectly.


Having towers being signed off once assembled may be control measure within their risk assessments. If they fail to take adequate steps to protect students, teaching staff and the public the will fall foul of the HSAWA (Health and Safety at Work Act) as they will not be providing a safe working environment for their staff or the public.



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Well, sorry that this is slightly OT, but I will briefly share what the status is in New Zealand, for those who care (and those who don't, skip this post...)

Any scaff tower being constructed over 5m here MUST be assembled and signed off by a qualified scaffolder under our Occupational Safety and Health laws. You can assemble it yourself and then they check it, but they must watch you put it up. So you may as well get them to put it up since you're paying them to do it anyway. In order to get qualified you must undergo training in the scaffolding industry, on the job. Basic qualification = approx 1 year, enables you to put up proprietry scaff (i.e. not just tube & clamps) to a height of 33m. Full qualifacation = 3years minimum. So for most small (one-night) shows we do it's not worth getting a qualified person to do this. We can still hire the scaff and do it ourselves, (and I do know how to do it, have done up to 10m before, but that's NOT the point...) but we would be in the poo if there was an accident. It's a risk that we haven't taken yet, but will think long and hard about before (if) we do... however back to the OP, sorry I can't help much, but get some training, *from a professional*, if you are unsure how to set up your scaff system. And always do a risk assessment. I would imagine it would be far cheaper to get a tower signed off, than to deal with the rigmarole if there was an accident and it wasn't signed off




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Er, I'm confusled, are we talking Boss type scaffolding (prefabricated), or the stuff that comes in poles, and a bag of clamps? I have some pics of how not to make the later if this topic is. I have put Boss stuff up loads of times, but am amazed at the ways some people put them up differently. Never taken a course on it though.
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Just a very simple, and personal point, but I will get back to the topic afterward.

I personally think there is nothing more dangerous than a Mobile scaffold tower, constructed from slot together parts with little clips on the end (youngman, boss, etc)

This is only because in the industry I came from, and also in this industry, I have seen them assembled incorrectly around 80% of the time, used in ways they were not intended very often, and, when you rent one from a hire shop, for example HSS (a company name I offer here as an example of the type of business I mean, not due to thier practice in this (I never hired from this one))

The scaffold is often supplied incomplete for the hieght intended.


Scaffold of this type should never have mixed manufacture, they often do.

Scaffold of this type should, if used correctly, have outriggers in use after the second lift is added, they rarely do, many just bolt them to the tower and leave them floating/rigged two feet off the floor.

Scaffold of this type should have landings up its full height if going three or four lifts high to allow for safe constuction, and these landings should remain in place after construction is complete. They rarely do.

Scaffold of this type should have a trapdoor landing at every level.

They should use toeboards, see the topic titled as such.

They should have a handrail at waist height (approx)

They should have a ladder, or ladder sections in a continuous line throughout their height.

They should never, never be climbed on the outside of them.

They shouldn't really be erected over two lifts high with only two people, more like four or five.

They should never be moved with people up them.

I have witnessed all of these occurences over the years myself, and that is not so many years (7)


I, as I often say in the blue room, came from the construction industry. I came into the entertainment industry full time in 2003, having done amateur and casual work in this industry since my school days, the majority of the points I make above are occurences seen in the construction industry, but many here will have seen them all, but in this industry.


Like I say, I personally can think of nothing I dislike more than a scaffold tower, and will only use one if I have constructed it myself, and then I am not happy. On one construction site I was so wary of the scaffolds, as they were so unsafe looking and feeling, I used to suffer from something that felt like tunnel vision and blackouts when on some of them, or even being near them. This has never happened to me either before or since that site, but I remain convinced that towers are bad.


I believe this because they are so easily and frequently misused.


I was trained in tower erection as part of my apprenticeship, in a college environment, where we were shown the correct method of tower construction. I have only ever seen a tower erected that way once since, and that was at my previous venue in Blackpool.


A competent person should be constructing the tower, by this I mean being in charge of its construction, if not doing the work. Thus the erector should be able to 'sign off' the tower. I do not think this is H&S law, the 'signing off' of towers, but have been to sites where this is accepted and implemented practice, but also to others of a similar scale where this is not done, so I think it may be a venue specific, risk assesment and risk management/reduction measure; but a good one nonetheless.


I shall say however, that since entering this industry full time, I have found the application of H&S ruling, and risk management to be much, much more thorough and widespread than my experiences in construction. H&S is applied in all areas, in my experiences within this industry but the wearing of PPE was, in my experience, the only rigidly enforced rules on a construction site. This industry is dangerous, we are all aware of that, yet seem to be more prepared to do our utmost to control the risks, and in many situations all but eliminate them, an example the construction industry could well follow better than I feel it does. The fact people are prepared to seriously discuss H&S, and openly in the workplace, not just in a forum like this is something I never experienced in the construction industry.


These are my experiences and opinions, and are not meant to upset or offend any persons currently in the construction industry.


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Interesting post there Mikienorth,

On the back of it, I am guilty of doing a couple of the points you raise. This may be by the by, but I am only 8 1/2 stone, and I prefer a tower to a ladder any day. I often climbed on the outside to assemble it, I recall being told that if it collapsed, you can jump to safety. There again, if you are on one side, it will all fall toward you :D ! Not anymore, its inside for me! I cant think of a time when a tower hasn't been moved without people at the top, there simply isn't time sometimes! However I always request that those at the top are sat, and tell them exactly what I am going to do (ie breaks off, outriggers rised, moving!)

I once had the luxury of a pair of scissor lifts, result? Rigging done by coffee at 11! We were usually at it till one, even had time to fix the blinds in the roof apex!


Right that's Light Console over and out for a month of training, see you back end of March!

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It's not a question of preference for a tower or a ladder, really.

The appropriate means of access should be chosen.

That decision may be taken on spec., but for any frequently carried out tasks, a written procedure should be used that specifies the method (risk assessment and then method statement) e.g. "Focussing front of house bars - use the Tallescope with outriggers."

From that point on, no-one should be using a ladder for that work.

The new Regs will require this even more than the in the various existing regs it will replace or augment.


A scaffold used in a traditional way (left in situ for a period, for example, outdoors for all trades to use) does have to be signed off at completion, on modification and once every 7 days, with a record kept for inspection, etc. etc..

This may be a tube and fitting type of scaffold, it may be a more modern tower system or modular scaffold.


Sounds like the advice was well intentioned but not checked for application?

(Incidentally, why not sign it off as complete and correctly built prior to use? It's a valuable safeguard, as is getting two or three people through a PASMA course)

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I didn't mean that I would choose a ladder over a scaffold because I don't like scaffold, and I only mean the really portable, lightweight mobile access stuff. I just never feel comfortable on them, at any height, yet in other tasks and situations I have no worries at all (cherry pickers, roof voids, grids, truss, ladders, rooftops, professionally erected scaffold etc)

I have never seen an incident involving one of these things, I just find them dangerous.

As Chris says, the appropiate means of access should always be chosen and used, and, if this is a scaffold tower, then I will use it, but not unless I am happy with it, because, as I say above, all too often are these towers badly built or badly misused.

In fact I would use one but not enjoy it.

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  • 2 weeks later...

A poorly set up ladder is more likely to precipitate a fall than a poorly set up tower.

Ladder accidents account for a huge number of injuries every year, something over 30% of all reported fall injuries. Scaffolding accounts for less than half that.


The point at issue was, if I remember, should a tower be 'signed off'?

Before you use a tower, if you built it or not, you should check it is stable and properly constructed (i.e. in line with the manufacturer's instructions).

If you can't do that because you don't know what the instructions say, you shouldn't use it, since how do you know what to check?

It is not down to "common sense", however.


Two levels of guard-rail at any platform, toeboards when you are using any tools or materials on any platform and a continuous, even bracing pattern are almost always the rule.

Horizontal braces on the bottom lift as close to the wheels as possible, platforms across entire width unless you guard-rail a 'half width' platform.

Never climb the outside of a tower, check all 'interlock' clips are present and brake the wheels before climbing.

Check the load per platform and load on the overall tower.

Can you remember all that, and more, every time, and prove you checked?

Use a sign off sheet, then...


Several Tallescope accidents have happened the same way, people didn't know what to check before use or climbing them. Poor information!

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I hope this hasn't been mentioned before (I can't find a mention so here goes...)


On page 42 of the Feb edition of LS&I, INSTANT Planet are hosting "a series of free 'best practice' working at height seminars across the UK, specifically for users of Access Towers".




I have nothing to do with this company, and their website doesn't tell you where the seminars are...but I shall certainly be giving them a ring. It looks quite good (for free).


Best Wishes,


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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 1 month later...

DSA Said


"On page 42 of the Feb edition of LS&I, INSTANT Planet are hosting "a series of free 'best practice' working at height seminars across the UK, specifically for users of Access Towers".




As a result of his post I went along to the first of these. It was very good. They focussed on the Working at Height Regs brought in in April and were very practical. Of course there was a sales pitch but it was not high pressure or intrusive. 15 minutes out of a very useful morning. Their stuff looks good quality.


Largely construction based but some theatre stuff. Interesting and worthwhile for me.

(I have nothing to do with Instant Planet either)

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