Scaffolding tools

Welcome to the Gilray Plant blog.

I’m Vic Thiemann, Marketing Manager, updating you on latest trends, news and topics of interest. Feel free to comment on what you read, or email me at

When he’s on the job, there can be nothing more important to the scaffolder than his tools. If a spanner fails or a level drops off the scaffold, it will cost time and money to put that right. In some cases, it could be dangerous too. So how does a scaffolder go about choosing his tools?tools-1

Over the years, I’ve served hundreds of scaffolders here at Gilray Plant, some working for others and some running their own business. Either way, choosing the right tools is a vital part of their jobtools-2. But it’s not an easy choice! Take the humble spanner for instance. We have around 30 different spanners on our books, each one capable of doing the same job. Cheap and cheerful for £10 or titanium for lightness and longevity at £60? Hex or bi-hex? Ratchet or not? 19/21 or 21/23? And don’t get me started on handles!

Round, flat, poka or shaped? It may be that cost will be the deciding factor, particularly for the younger scaffolder just starting out, but mostly it boils down to sheer personal That’s not always the case though. Take the spirit level for example. A cheap one may cost as little as £6 whereas a Stabila with earth magnets would set you back £24. Here, though, there is a clear difference. Rare-earth magnets are strong permanent magnets made from alloys of rare earth elements. Developed in the 1970s and ’80s, rare-earth magnets are the strongest type of permanent magnets made, producing significantly stronger magnetitools-4c fields than other types such as the ferrite or alnico magnets you might find in cheaper levels. Obviously, a strong and reliable magnet is essential, so that they don’t fall to the ground while you’re trying to use them, and possibly causing human or material damage. So it may seem to be a huge difference in price, but my bet is that the Stabila would pay for itself in quite a short space of time. I’ve seen many a scaffolder come to the conclusion that cheap works out more expensive over time due to lost or broken tools.

You may think that a spanner is just a spanner, and a level is just a level, but there have been some innovations in the area of these tools recently. On the spanner front, the use of impact spanners has become much more popular. These battery-operated spanners have been around for a long time, of course, but their use by scaffolders is much more recent. The main advantage of using one is clearly speed. tools-5Another is increased efficiency of human effort and reduction of repetitive strain. Materials are also kept in sounder condition due to the torque-stop function, which prevents over-tightening. The main disadvantage is cost (£100 – £500), but again, like a good set of chef’s knives or hair stylists scissors, they pay for themselves over time. But then there is the size and weight of one of these compared with a standard spanner (2Kg versus 450g at least, adding significant weight and bulk to an already loaded toolbelt), so the scaffolder needs to be fit and agile. There have also been some technical issues concerning these spanners, causing the NASC to issue a statement in July 2015. The relevant British/European Standard, EN74, requires a tightening torque of 50 N/Mtr. Most wrenches have a stated torque in excess of that, but the NASC found (after extensive testing) that the actual torques achieved were very variable. As a result, they stated:

“It is therefore recommended that any employer considering authorising the use of impact wrenches carries out testing to establish that the impact wrench which they intend to authorise for use by their employees is capable of applying the correct torque to scaffold fittings on a consistent and recurring basis. Further to completion of an adequate risk assessment by the employer the impact wrench may then be deemed fit for purpose for erection/dismantling and alterations to scaffolding by their employees.”

tools-6What could be new about a spirit level? I hear you ask. Let me introduce you to the ProView Dragonfly Scaffolder’s Level, invented by a guy called Paul A Sparrow. He came up with the idea whilst fitting a Window; without thinking he leaned in to view the bubble on his level and impaled his lower eyelid onto a painted nail sticking out of the wall. Coming so close to what could easily have been a very serious life changing incident he immediately realised that having strategically placed mirrors installed into the level would prevent the user from having to get into such awkward and risky positions in the first place.

Priced at around £40, this level is not cheap, but is it worth it? If any scaffolders reading this have tried it out, why not let us know what you think of it? Indeed, if there are any other weird and wonderful tools being used out there, we’d like to hear about them.

Czech Republic

Welcome to the latest Gilray Plant blog.


I’m Vic Thiemann, Marketing Manager, and I’ll be updating you on latest trends, news and topics of interest. Feel free to comment on what you read, or email me at


We have long lamented the demise of the British steel industry and we’re now used to importing tube and fittings from China and India, two of the world’s major economies. According to the International Monetary Fund, China has the second largest economy  behind the USA and India is number 9. (The UK sits between them at number 5). As such, they get plenty of attention in the media. But I’d like to take a look at another source of material important to our industry – the Czech Republic.


Here at Gilray, scaffold boards have grown to become a very significant percentage of our sales, and most of them come from the Czech Republic. Over the space of about 5 years we have developed strong and beneficial ties with a number of Czech sawmiills who provide us with top quality boards and very reliable service. So I thought it might be interesting to have a look at the country itself and its timber industry in particular.


You might be surprised to discover that the Czech Republic is far from your stereotypically poor Eastern European nation. It has a sophisticated, high-income economy with a per capita GDP rate that is only slightly less than the European Union average. The most stable and prosperous of the post-Communist states, the Czech Republic saw growth of over 6% annually in the three years leading up to the recent global economic crisis in 2008. Growth has been led by both foreign investment  and exports to the European Union, especially Germany. This is remarkable when you consider its turbulent history. It has only existed as a stand-alone country since splitting with Slovakia in 1993 shortly after the “Velvet Revolution” of 1989, which many of you may remember. Czechoslovakia itself was only formed in 1918 following the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and during its lifetime, it was sliced and diced on numerous occasions by Hungary, Germany and the Soviet Union.


Of course we all know that Czechoslovakia became a communist nation after World War II, but it may surprise you to learn that we encouraged that decision by agreeing to let Hitler annexe part of Czechoslovakia in 1938, an act now widely regarded as a failed act of appeasement toward Germany. The agreement was negotiated at a conference in Munich involving the major powers of Europe, but excluding the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia. Czechs still refer to it as the Munich Betrayal! It’s not too surprising that Czech sympathies at the time were with the nation that played the largest part in freeing them from the Nazi yoke – the Soviet Union.


Turning back to the economy, the Czech capital, Prague, is the fifth most visited in Europe, after London, Paris, Istanbul and Rome. This, together with its many other historical and natural treasures has made tourism a significant industry. It also helps that the country subscribes to the Schengen agreement, allowing free movement of people across borders with no passport required. Despite its success, tourism is not amongst the main industries of the Czech Republic. Those are as diverse as automotive parts and vehicle manufacturing, machinery and equipment, metallurgy and metalworking, glass, china, ceramics, brewing, armaments, electronics, footwear, wood, paper products, chemicals, and pharmaceuticals.


So what of the timber industry? According to a Czech government report from 2012,  total timber production for that year was about 20 million cubic meters, of which around 5m cubic meters was exported.

Timber is processed and used in all sectors of the economy, principally in the building industry, but also for furniture, agriculture, auto industry, railways, musical instruments, toys and sporting goods. The wood used in scaffold boards exported to the UK is a softwood known as European whitewood, typically Norway spruce. It is almost white in colour, with a yellowish-brown cast and faintly marked annual rings. The grain is straight, and the texture fine. The wood weighs 480 kg/m3 when dried. It has a straight grain and a rather fine texture. The timber works easily both by hand or machine tools, and is capable of a smooth, clean finish. It takes stain, paint, varnish and glue satisfactorily, and nails and screws well.


The indisputable advantage of the timber processing industry is that it relies almost exclusively on a domestic renewable material – mostly softwood and hardwood roundwood. Sustainability, rather than exploitation and depletion is a key factor in the wood products industry. Over a third of the Czech Republic’s land area is covered by forest, according to the 2015 Eurostat report. This might appear to be high, but the EU average is 42%. For the UK, the figure is only 13%. The same report shows that 76.8% of Czech forest is publicly owned and managed whereas the EU average is 40.3% and for the UK it’s 33.3%.


The vast majority of state owned forests are run by “Forests of the Czech Republic State Enterprise” (known as LCR) and are run with long-term objectives to:

  • preserve the forest and forest land for future generations;
  • enhance competitiveness of forestry;
  • enhance biodiversity in forest ecosystems, their integrity and ecological stability;
  • reinforce the importance of the forest and forestry for rural economic development; and
  • reinforce the importance of education, research, and innovation in forestry.


Czech wood product exports adhere to Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification or PEFC‘s Chain of Custody certification, a mechanism for tracking certified material from the forest to the final product to ensure that the wood, wood fibre or non-wood forest produce contained in the product or product line can be traced back to certified forests. This ensures that claims about products originating in sustainably managed forests are credible and verifiable throughout the whole supply chain.


The acquisition of Chain of Custody certification reinforces the sustainability commitments of businesses. It provides companies with a commercial advantage as it allows them to use the PEFC logo on products, making them the preferred choice, especially for socially responsible consumers.  The alternative is FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) Chain of Custody certification, which verifies that FSC certified material is identified or kept segregated from non-certified or non-controlled material through this chain. In a future blog I’ll walk you through some of the differences and challenges faced by businesses who are looking to achieve certification in order to maintain Chain of Custody, and trying to decide which certification to opt for.


Will Brexit have any effect on our trade with the Czech Republic? Time will tell. But it will be a couple of years before the final curtain on our membership of the EU and until then, it should be business as usual.

It’s a Grade A Scandal

Welcome to the latest Gilray Plant blog.

I’m Vic Thiemann, Marketing Manager, and I’ll be updating you on latest trends, news and topics of interest. Feel free to comment on what you read, or email me at

This is a subject dear to everyone’s heart, and also the bane of many people’s lives – good old ‘Elf and Safety, and in particular, the continuing saga of BS boards vs so-called ‘Grade A’ boards. I know that I’m far from the first person to address this issue, which makes it all the more surprising that it has yet to be resolved. How is it possible that potentially lethal boards are still in widespread use on scaffolding in this country despite a wealth of evidence and publicity proving their unsuitability for ensuring worker safety whilst working at height?

Back in 2013, wood scientist and expert Jim Coulson FIWSc FFB published an article about the rise in faulty boards:

“In a typical year, TFT might get 5 or 6 broken boards delivered to us, for an examination and an opinion on the cause of the boards’ failure.  But in the first 4 months of 2010 alone, we had 10 such boards sent to us, from sites all over the UK: which made me ask myself – “Whatever is going on here?”

All bar one of these broken boards was a “Grade A” board..”

Jim’s recommendation?:

“It could be made compulsory to have every piece of wood graded and marked before it could be used, then there would be no place for Grade A boards, or for the cheaper end of the market that supplies them. Then the Scaffolding Industry would all be on a level playing field.”

The truth is that as long as ‘Grade A’ boards remain an option and are available at a lower price than BS boards, they will continue to be the board of choice for those contractors driven solely by price and the need to be competitive.


Health & safety bulletin Scaffold Board Failure 13th May 2010


Jim Coulson has been advising Gilray since we started making our own boards back in 2010. We sell only machine graded boards made to BS2482:2009. Furthermore, we hold the BS Kitemark for scaffold boards which means that our materials, methods, procedures and staff training are all scrupulously inspected on a twice yearly basis. We have also recently invested in new, British made machinery to double our machine grading and banding capacity. Yes, it does represent a huge investment, but we couldn’t consider doing it any differently. The integrity of our boards is paramount, and we will not cut corners.


Gilray’s state-of-the-art grading and banding facility.
In February 2010, the NASC published a safety alert following the failure of a ‘Grade A’ board which resulted in injury to a bricklayer. He had a lucky escape, but it was a timely warning and closely followed the publication of BS2482:2009. This had been written with a lot of industry collaboration and one of the main findings from all the associated research was that measuring the ‘flatwise modulus of elasticity’ of a board gives a much more accurate prediction of bending strength than any visual method. The ‘flatwise modulus of elasticity’ is what a board grading machine measures, so even though the new standard allows for visual grading, machine grading will always be preferable. Having said that, of course, a properly visually graded board will still afford more comfort than a ‘Grade A’ board, which has, in all probability not been graded at all.

Following their 2010 safety alert, the NASC published a technical report which claimed that only 30% of scaffold boards purchased at that time were bought to BS standards. Try as I might, (and for once Google has let me down), I cannot find an update on this figure. I will continue to try and report back – but if any reader can enlighten me in the meantime, I would be very grateful. My email address is at the top of this article. I suspect that the numbers may well have reversed, with around 70% of scaffold boards being specified as BS2482:2009, but that would still mean that there are a significant number of ‘Grade A’ boards being used.

On a more optimistic note, let me share these figures from the NASC 2014 annual safety report, showing that the incidence of injuries sustained on scaffolding in the UK has fallen by over 90% in the last 40 years.


Despite the continuing lack of industry standardisation with respect to boards, it’s clear that the increased value placed on Health and Safety during this period has saved many people from serious injury, or even worse. Let’s not rest until every worker and member of the public is as safe and protected as they can be. Support and uphold British Standards!

It’s not just a scaffold board!


 Welcome to the Gilray Plant blog.

 I’m Vic Thiemann, Marketing Manager, updating you on latest trends, news and topics of interest. Feel free to comment on what you read, or email me at

In a world where railway sleepers, wheelbarrows, drinking troughs  and milk churns are considered the height of shabby, eco-friendly chic, it comes as no surprise that scaffold boards have joined this re-purposing and recycling trend.

Read more

Tube 008 copy 72 dpi

Tube and fittings or system scaffolding

Welcome to the Gilray Plant blog.

I’m Vic Thiemann, Marketing Manager, updating you on latest trends, news and topics of interest. Feel free to comment on what you read, or email me at

The use of scaffolding systems in some shape or form can be traced back 17,000 years to the Paleolithic cave paintings of Lascaux in France, whose painted ceilings, like those of the Sistine Chapel, were accessed by staging. Over time both similar and unique structures developed around the world, mostly using wood and rope. Read more


MegaGrowth 50

Welcome to the Gilray Plant blog.

I’m Vic Thiemann, Marketing Manager, updating you on latest trends, news and topics of interest. Feel free to comment on what you read, or email me at

What an incredible year it’s been for us. With an impressive 98.8% increase in revenue over 4 years, Gilray Plant made it onto the MegaGrowth 50 awards list, ranking 27th. Compiled by Kent Business magazine (part of the KM Media Group) the MegaGrowth 50 table lists Kent’s fastest-growing privately-owned companies.  To decide on the award winners, it measures growth in revenues over the last four years for companies with a minimum turnover of £1m. Read more