Working as a Scaffolder
Robert Timms is an apprentice scaffolder, working for a scaffolding company in East London. He decided to enter the work because he wanted to learn a trade where he Would be able to work outdoors.
What is your job?
I work as part of a team of scaffolders. At the moment, I am a labourer scaffolder and I'm training to be a chargehand and fixer (these are scaffolders who are fully trained and experienced enough to erect all kinds of scaffolding).
What does your work involve?
I travel to various sites in and around London, helping to erect or dismantle scaffolding. At around 6.30am, I get to the yard where I'm based and load the lorry. I leave the yard by 7.00am and I'm back at the yard at around 4.00pm, after the day's work.
At the beginning of the day on site, I find out from the foreman scaffolder what I need to do. I then carry out scaffolding work for tradespeople such as roofers and bricklayers, so that they can reach the different part of the building that they're working on. I use a variety of tools including a tape measure, spirit level and spanners, which I carry on a tool belt.
The work is quite challenging for me at the moment because I'm learning the job. One of the hardest aspects is working on strange shaped buildings!
Is being a scaffolder hazardous?
It can be if you don't work safely! I always wear a safety harness when working at height because accidents can and do happen, and a safety harness can save your life. The harness clips onto the scaffolding and prevents the risk of a long fall. I also wear a hard hat to protect my head and a high-visibility vest so that I can be seen.
Do you have to be physically fit for this work?
Yes, you have to be very fit because you carry a huge amount of weight throughout the day and if you're not used to it, you're likely to wake up with a lot of aches and pains.
What training have you been given?
I am following the Construction Industry Scaffolders Record Scheme (CISRS). So far, I have passed tests in health and safety and in building mobile towers. I have also recently completed a four-day training course on the erection and dismantling of system scaffolding. In a few months' time, I start training for the Basic Scaffolders Record Card (Part 1), and once I've passed that, I hope to get Part 2 within a year. The card will show that I'm able to carry out scaffolding work correctly and to safety standards.
Why did you become a scaffolder?
I found that there were a large number of different scaffolding companies around, but there weren't many black people doing the job of scaffolder. I saw it as an opportunity and a challenge to get a job in this area.
What are the best parts of your job?
At the moment it's cold, but I still enjoy being outside because there are always so many things going on, both on and off site. I also like working as part of a team. I get along well with my colleagues and they are willing to teach me all about the job when we're on site. The only thing I don't really like is having to get up so early!
How would you like to progress?
I would like to get all the qualifications and experience I can, and then be able to start up my own scaffolding company.
Robert's route to working as a scaffolder
- Following the Construction Industry Scaffolders Record Scheme (CISRS).
Robert's scaffolding tips
- Only enter this work if you are reliable and safety-conscious, as there are other people depending on you.
- Keep as fit as you can before becoming a scaffolder so that you can cope with all the heavy lifting.
Scaffolding related jobs
- Construction operative
- Construction supervisor/manager
- Demolition operative
- Steel erector/fabricator
Salary of a scaffolder
- Trainee scaffolders usually earn about £12,500.
- With an NVQ level 2, scaffolders can earn around £14,500.
- Qualified scaffolders usually receive about £25,000.
- Some employers pay much more, and there may also be bonuses and overtime pay, plus expenses for travelling and accommodation costs.
Steps to become a scaffolder
- Formal qualifications are not essential for this work, but some GCSEs/S grades (A-D/1-4) can be useful, including maths, English, science subjects, and design and technology.
- All trainees follow the Construction Industry Scaffolders Record Scheme (CISRS), which leads to a Basic Scaffolders' Record Card and an NVQ/SVQ level 2. Further training and experience leads to an Advanced Scaffolders' Record Card and an NVQ/SVQ level 3.
- An Apprenticeship in scaffolding is also available, which includes training for the Basic Scaffolders' Record Card and an NVQ/SVQ level 2.
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