Calculating The Safe Load For Scaffolding

Scaffolding makes work easier and safer for the entire construction industry. When operating at heights, scaffolding makes tasks practical, provides easy access for workers, and, most importantly, significantly reduces the chances of worker injuries. However, the use of scaffolding still presents risks, which is why we at ALTA Scaffolding are steadfastly committed to construction safety. We strongly adhere to AS/NZS 1576 and AS/NZS 4576:2020, comply with the all national standards and hold all relevant working licences to carry out our work.


In this guide, we’ll look at one particularly crucial element of scaffolding safety: how to calculate the safe working load (SWL) of scaffolding. Ensuring that the SWL is understood can ultimately mean the difference between physical harm and a job well done.


Why Is It Important To Calculate Safe Working Loads Of Scaffolding? 


Safe Working Load is a term that applies not just to scaffolding but to many construction industries and equipment such as rigging, cranes, winches, and hoists. Across all applications, SWL refers to the safe weight-bearing capacity of the equipment, combining both the equipment itself and the weight of workers and materials. Exceeding such limits can create hazardous workplaces, so SWL should be understood before work begins.


Safe Work Australia instructs that scaffolding should be erected with the most adverse load sizes in mind and that the specific capacity limits be supplied by the scaffold’s designer, manufacturer, or supplier. AS/NZS 1576 specifies that there are three common categories of scaffolding load – light-duty, medium-duty, and heavy-duty. Each is rated for its safe working load of personnel, equipment, debris etc at 225kg, 450kg, and 675kg, respectively. 


Despite these stipulations, in some cases, it may be necessary to calculate the SWL manually.


How To Calculate Safe Working Load Of Scaffolding: 


When considering how to calculate the required safe working load of scaffolding, there are six main variables – dead load, live load, static load, dynamic load, wind load, environmental load

  • Dead load is the weight of a scaffold and its components before it is loaded.
  • Live load is the weight of equipment and workers on the scaffolding (per bay)
  • Static load is load that doesn’t move.
  • Dynamic load is the load/force made by a moving load, on a structure or component.
  • Wind load is the additional load against the scaffold created by the force of wind on a structure
  • Environmental load is the weight of environmental factors such as debris, water, snow and dust that may be on the scaffolding


With all factors considered, scaffolding is erected and certified to a particular load capacity adequate for the project to be carried out safely. It is also paramount that the client and their personnel abide by these load limits to avoid catastrophic failure, leading to possible injury or death.




Safety is always our priority at ALTA Scaffolding. We are licensed, code-compliant, and 100% committed to ensuring that every workplace is free of hazards. It should be noted that the purpose of this guide is to provide an understanding of the methods used to calculate safe working loads, not to encourage unlicensed or amateur scaffolding work. We are specialists in high-rise, commercial and residential scaffolding, and our extensive experience guarantees that we have the knowledge to complete any job safely.

If you’d like to hear more about our scaffolding services or safety protocols, we encourage you to get in contact with our friendly team today.

Joshua Knight

Managing Director at ALTA Scaffolding

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