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Temporary Works in Construction: Vital for Safety and Efficiency

Temporary works in construction are all those provisional structures and temporary works, independent of the building and not part of the completed work

Temporary works in construction are all those structures and temporary works independent of the building structure, created to ensure the safety of those working on the construction site and of people unrelated to the site in case of accidental involvement in the construction site’s times and spaces. They are not part of the completed work as they will be removed beforehand.

Addressing safety in construction sites requires a thorough understanding of temporary works, such as scaffolding, along with detailed knowledge of current regulations.

Temporary works: meaning

Temporary works refer to all auxiliary arrangements for the execution of construction works (construction, assembly, repair, maintenance, demolition) characterized by discontinuity, as they are intended to be removed as soon as the need for which they were created ceases.
They represent a secondary order of works and equipment around the building under construction or renovation, whose presence and use are not only necessary for the project’s realization but also to ensure the safety of workers.

Therefore, they are of fundamental importance, to be carefully considered from every point of view: design, construction, conservation. For this reason, their inclusion in safety plans is a crucial matter, as temporary works constitute one of the most significant aspects in evaluating the safety measures to be included in the plan itself.

What are temporary works

Temporary works are distinguished based on their intended purposes into:

  • service works: used for the safe stationing and transit of people, objects, tools, materials, and lifting equipment during work;
  • safety works: complement the complex structure of temporary works and are essential to prevent falls from height of people and materials on service works;
  • support works: ensure the stability of parts of the work that are not yet self-supporting.

This is a more formal than substantial distinction, as there are frequent cases where the same arrangement serves more than one function simultaneously (such as scaffolding).

Service temporary works

The main service temporary works include:

  • scaffolding;
  • gangways;
  • footbridges;
  • covers for openings and hatches.


Among temporary works, the most commonly used structure, tailored to specific cases and needs, is the fixed scaffolding, made of wood or metal. The use of wooden scaffolding is now almost entirely abandoned. There are different types of scaffolding allowed by regulations:

  • tube and fitting;
  • prefabricated frame;
  • multidirectional.

Gangways and footbridges

Gangways and footbridges are used to connect different areas of the construction site at varying levels or separated by voids.

  • width ≥ 0.60 m when intended only for the passage of workers;
  • if also used for material transport, 1.20 m;
  • their slope must not exceed 50%;
  • boards must have transverse strips fixed at a distance no greater than a man’s step load.

Covers for openings and hatches

Openings left in floors or work platforms must be surrounded by standard guardrails and toeboards or covered with securely fixed boards of resistance not lower than that of the platform’s walking surface. Openings in walls facing voids or spaces deeper than 0.50 m must have standard guardrails and toeboards or be properly barricaded to prevent people from falling.

Safety temporary works

The main safety temporary works include:

  • platforms above work areas;
  • fall arrest nets;
  • edge protection systems.

Platforms above work areas

When concretes and mortars are mixed or other continuous operations are carried out near scaffolding or material loading and lifting areas, a sturdy platform must be built overhead at a height not exceeding 3 meters from the ground to protect against falling materials (canopy).

Edge protection systems

The edge protection system consists of boards fixed at inclined flags to protect people in transit or at rest from falling materials or small equipment from above. The following requirements must be met:

  • the maximum distance between a guardrail and any platform must not exceed 12 m;
  • the minimum distance between the top of the guardrail and the platform must be 1.10 m;
  • if made with boards, they must have a minimum thickness of 4 cm.

Fall arrest nets

Fall arrest safety nets are collective protection devices against falls from height for workers, also used to contain objects and debris.

Support temporary works

Support works correspond to a structural intervention as they counteract the overturning action of the ground. They include gravity support works (walls, gabions) and reinforced concrete works (cantilever walls, buttress walls, and spurs); reinforced earth; sheet piles and diaphragm walls; support structures for excavations and trenches.

Temporary works: scaffolding

Detailed information is provided on the elements that make up scaffolding, such as the elements at the base of the uprights (base plates) and safety ledgers. The lower end of the upright must be supported by a base plate of adequate dimensions, accompanied by load distribution elements transmitted to the uprights.

Other indications for the base plate include:

  • in case of departure on inclined planes, there is an issue of the base plate’s flat support; some authorization manuals provide, for this purpose, a type of adjustable base plate;
  • all manuals indicate a wooden board of at least 5 cm thickness as a load distribution element; therefore, plastic yellow sub-base plates, not being authorized, would not be allowed.

Earthing, anchoring, and guardrails

Special attention is also given to the selection and positioning of anchors, guardrails, and ground bonding (earthing).


Anchors should be installed at least every two scaffold levels and every two platforms. The strength of the anchors varies depending on the type of anchor used and the support type.

Regular guardrails

Platforms and service bridges, gangways, and footbridges placed at a height greater than 2 m must be equipped on all sides facing the void with a sturdy guardrail consisting of one or more rails parallel to the planking, with the upper edge placed no less than 1 m from the walking surface and a toeboard at least 20 cm high, flush and adherent to the planking.
Rails and toeboards must not leave a gap greater than 60 cm (vertically). Both rails and toeboards must be applied from the inside of the uprights.

Scaffolding earthing

Scaffolding earthing involves directing induced electrical currents from lightning strikes directly into the ground. This practice aims to prevent the scaffolding structure from accumulating dangerous electrical charge that could be transferred to anyone coming into contact with it.