What does a scaffolder do?

In a nutshell, scaffolders erect and dismantle temporary metal structures around buildings so that other trades can do their job safely. When we think scaffolding, we think of the rigid metal structures on the sides of houses but we’re thinking too small. Scaffolding does not just apply to housing sites, think gigs, festivals, sports events, oil rigs and more. Scaffolding really could take you anywhere and there’s a project to suit everyone.

The day-to-day of a scaffolder can vary greatly according to the specific project but some main duties include: unloading the equipment, putting up the poles and attach them to horizontal tubes, fixing the scaffolding to buildings, laying planks for workers to walk on, carrying out regular inspections and safety procedures and leading/supervising anything from the simple to the complex.

The job consists of heavy lifting and a number of health and safety aspects to get to grips with but there is always a demand and it is a vocational trade that can set you up for life.

There are no set entry requirements to become a scaffolder but you will need a Construction Industry Scaffolders Record Scheme (CISRS) card. You can earn one of these cards by completing a CISRS one day training course before enlisting as an apprentice somewhere.

Undertaking an apprenticeship or trainee programme is best if you are straight out of school; it’s a direct route into the industry. It usually helps if you have 4 or 5 GCSEs including English and Maths at grades A*-C.

While education is important, nothing is more invaluable than experience. Employers appreciate initiative so any experience on a construction site is great for an application to be a scaffolder. Even if you shadow someone or start out as a labourer on a scaffolding site, it’s better than nothing. Who knows, they might even make you a job offer afterwards.

What skills do I need?

The skills needed to be a scaffolder are transferrable from other walks of life so even if you have never set foot on a construction site you probably have more of the skills needed than you think. Here are some important skills you might need:

  • Being ok with heights: given that scaffolding is all to do with working at height, it is important that you do not have an aversion to heights.
  • Practical hands: scaffolding involves a lot of practical work which requires good balance and strength to lift equipment. You might have to transport heavy equipment as well as use other equipment to lift heavy timber and metal poles
  • Teamwork: scaffolders often work in teams of 3 with a chargehand to lay down the timber boards and a fixer and a labourer to put down and construct the scaffolding.
  • Ability to listen to authority: safety is paramount to the scaffolding industry. You must be able to take direct orders and work under supervision if needs be.
  • Understanding of health and safety: the risks associated with scaffolding can be high which is why it is important to recognise the importance of health and safety procedures. You will be involved in adding guard rails and safety nets to keep your fellow workers safe as well as creating a stable base for the scaffolding so that it has good foundations
  • Ability to drive: this one is not a necessity but it may be useful being able to drive as you may have to transport equipment from time to time


Where can scaffolding take me?

The salary of a scaffolder can range from anywhere in-between £12,500 to £23,000 per annum for a beginner. Once you are trained and experienced salary is more likely to be upwards of £33,000 per annum.

Once you get experience there is no stopping where scaffolding can take you; you can work on large, complex problems and you may even want to consider registering with a company or agency responsible for commercial projects.

Who knows? Maybe in the future you’ll be a site supervisor, scaffold designer or business owner. Scaffolding is a great start to a successful future.

Click here to find local scaffolders near you.

Mike Alexander
Hey there, I'm Mike - writer and part time home improvement expert at Refurbb. Since owning and refurbishing my own property in 2018, I've since been developing rental properties, writing about my home improvement endeavours, sharing what I've learned and connecting readers to reputable tradespeople in the UK.

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