Keeping Your Scaffolding Under Control During a Turnaround

Keeping Your Scaffolding Under Control During a Turnaround

Contributing Authors:  Charles Maier and Gordon Lawrence

During any maintenance work or turnarounds, there will be a need to reach inaccessible areas of the process plant, either for inspection or maintenance repair work. This can include pipework that is at height, the interior of large vessels, inaccessible areas on high columns, or a host of other locations. The usual method of access is to build scaffolding.

However, as every Turnaround Manager knows, scaffolding costs money, and furthermore, the amount of scaffolding on the site can proliferate at an alarming rate for anyone who is worried about the cost, or even about having enough space to move without tripping over a scaffold pole and the related safety concerns during start up of units or around operating equipment.

However, there are steps that can be taken to keep scaffolding under control. By using the steps outlined below, I and my colleagues have been able to reduce the volume of scaffolding on a turnaround typically by around 30%, but occasionally we have even achieved 50% reductions.

Step 1 – Avoid Duplication

Consider whether you are building scaffolding for the use of everyone, or is each contractor or project building their own scaffold? Although we no longer see it very often in Europe or North America, in some parts of the world the lack of integration between projects and turnaround, or the lack of integration of contracts leads to situations where different groups are competing to erect scaffold for their own use, only to then remove it before other groups can use it to access the same area.

Step 2 – Consider Alternatives

This is where the greater saving is made. We typically set up a process whereby each scaffolding access request is assessed on whether it could equally well be achieved by one of the following options:

  • No scaffold required
  • Ladders (step, extension)
  • Moveable steps of different sizes (3′ to 15′)
  • Cherry pickers and extended arm hydraulic platforms
  • Rolling (Scissor) platforms
  • Rope access and suspended platforms
  • Drones or Robotic Crawlers
  • Scaffold – system scaffold
  • Scaffold – tube and clamp
  • Permanent platform for repeatable work


The options are all listed and described in a “play book” for easy reference. Each request is required to go through the “play book” tool, to be assessed.

Step 3 – Assign Responsibilities and Accountabilities

As with any new initiative, it’s important to ensure everyone understands it and to ensure that someone is responsible for making it happen. We typically assign an “Access Coordinator”. This individual is typically an experienced scaffold supervisor. Their role is to assess the work to be done (using the “play book” in Step 2) and then decide what access is to be used based on cost and schedule. This access coordinator works hand in hand with planners, supervisors, and contractors to ensure the right access is provided, at the lowest total cost for all project, turnaround and maintenance work.

Step 4 – Additional Checks and Balances

Even after setting up the Access Coordinator and the “Play Book”, it’s also useful to keep an eye on a few other issues:

Is your scaffolding contract based on Lump sum bidding, unit rates or on time and materials? Are you combining these methods on site? Do you have controls in place to ensure consistency and assured application?

Is the scaffolding paid for on a straight volume rental basis, or is the price built into their workforce rate? Rental gives more incentive to leave scaffold up. Built in rates gives incentives to bring it down when no longer needed.

Is there a method to check whether scaffold is still needed and if not, why is it still there? We typically set a deadline of say, 90 days, after which there is a standard process for questioning why it’s still up and who is paying for it.

Who makes decisions on whether scaffold is still needed? Anecdotally, field personnel are sometimes hesitant to agree to have scaffold removed, because “it might be needed later”. But it may be cheaper to dismantle it now and rebuild it later when it’s needed again.

Is anyone monitoring the backlog of scaffold awaiting removal? Do you need to hire or reassign crews to dismantle it faster?

Are there crews specifically assigned to scaffold removal? (So that they don’t get side-tracked into building another scaffold elsewhere)


Using these methods, we have been able to significantly reduce scaffold costs at various sites. Becht has a wide spectrum of experience in effective execution of maintenance and turnarounds. For more information, please click below:

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About The Author

Frank Engli has over 30 years of experience in project, maintenance, health, safety, security, environmental (HSSE), and turnaround management in the petroleum refining industry. His experience includes: Reorganized the Project, Maintenance, and Turnaround department to meet budget and safely execute work Implemented a major maintenance management and improve project management which was able to successfully execute pitstops, infrastructure upgrades, capital projects and tank maintenance budgets of 100 M$ plus per year. Led the reorganization of the execution departments. resulting in reduced safety incidents Significantly improved the cost and duration of turnarounds and day to day maintenance by extending unit run lengths and reducing duration Have reduced over all execution annual cost Built a caring and collaborative safety culture by working with contractors and building trades using a tripartite approach. Improved safety performance from a TRFC of >1 to >0.17. Planned and executed turnarounds in 2013, 2015, and 2016 of 130M$, 230M$ and 230M$ using over 2500 contract employees. Reduced budget for 2016 Turnaround from 250 M$ to 167 M$ through work scope reduction and further unit decoupling.

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Keeping Your Scaffolding Under Control During a Turnaround

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