Grounding Rolling Scaffolding

With the arrival of the first shutdown season of the year and the growing list of new construction occurring in the oil patch, we thought that it was worth highlighting an often overlooked source of static discharge danger during these projects: rolling scaffolding. As many of our customers will already be aware, whenever you are working in a hazardous location (i.e. one where flammable gases, dusts or grains are present in the air), workers need to be very cautious about static electricity and the static discharge (i.e. sparks) that can result from an accumulation of static electricity. By now we hope that everyone has safely grounded any equipment that is handling flammable materials and any associated metal structures that are near the hazardous location. We have been hearing feedback from the field that scaffolding is being overlooked and that workers may be confused on how to ground rolling scaffolding. One of the major oil companies has already identified the issue of rolling scaffolding and implemented our plan to ground these structures to avoid static discharge events.

The problem that arises from using rolling scaffolding in these projects comes from their wheels. Rolling scaffolding gets its ability to "roll" from the rubber wheels on the base of the structure. These rubber wheels also serve the unintended (and unwanted) function of insulating the scaffolding from ground. This insulation works much like the rubber tires on a car. What can then happen is that static electricity could build up on the rolling scaffolding structure and not be able to dissipate to ground. Typical grounding clamps and cables will work to dissipate this static electricity but are often clumsy to reposition when the scaffolding needs to be moved to work at another location.

The solution that we have been recommending to customers is to use one of our retractable grounding reels such as the 700-50R (50') or 200-20R (20') equipped with a pipe clamp on the end. This allows the reel to be set up in a location where it has a good connection to ground and the clamp can be reeled out as the scaffolding is moved. You now have a continuous path for the static electricity to drain to ground that does not need to be removed and re-attached when the scaffolding is moved. Just make sure that you purchase a reel that has enough cable to accommodate the full range of motion of the scaffolding. To further ensure safety of the workers, ask to have the reel equipped with high visibility yellow or orange PVC or Hytrel coated cable.

This solution has worked so well with one major oil company that worked with one of our distributors that they now have mandated this practice throughout all of their sites whenever rolling scaffolding is being used. To learn more about how you can properly ground your rolling scaffolding, please reach out to us.

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