Working at height for a long time can be a challenge in any trade, and many decorators use a work platform or trestle to provide a large working area to stand on, with easy access to the wall surface and no need to keep moving a stepladder or a small hop up every few minutes. For plasterers, there is a much bigger requirement to be at the wall-face for long periods of time, usually two or three times over for all the preparation and coats of plaster on each wall. Plastering ceilings is also much easier with stilts, as you can get close to the ceiling without having to keep moving work platforms and can move around very easily with no fear of slipping off a tall trestle.
It is this need to be close to the wall but still mobile, to gather more plaster to work with, that led to the development of plasterers’ stilts. These allow you to work safely at height and still move around, give you easy access to the mix when needed. Better still, there is no need to be moving a trestle or work platform at all, and the stilts will take up less room in the van, being a lot easier to pack in to tight spaces than a trestle. There is also the added bonus of seasonal work as a circus performer, if the plastering work dries up!
Putz manufacture a great line of stilts, which have been tried and tested by plasterers for many years with excellent results. There are cheaper models out there, but they don’t have the same build quality or comfort as the Putz Profi-Line, and can cause back problems due to exacerbating poor posture. The Profi-Line are available in three sizes, relating to the height available from the stilts rather than shoe size – all the Putz Profi-Line plasterers’ stilts can be worn by any shoe size.
The medium height stilts offer five height adjustments between 38 and 58 cm and weigh 5.8 kilos each, while the large ones give heights between 45 and 75 cm through 7 steps at a weight of 6.2 kilos each. The extra-large plasterers’ stilts go from 60 cm to 1 metre, in 9 increments and weigh in at 7 kilos each. The choice of model depends entirely on the amount of extra height you need – very tall people may find that they can achieve a good range of heights with the medium size stilts while shorter people may need the extra large. All the Putz Profi-Line stilts have rubber non-slip feet and fasten round the foot and calf for excellent stability. They are also spring loaded, to make them comfortable to walk in, so you are not dragging around that extra weight and it feels like walking naturally. Priced between £165 and £215 they are not cheap, but are great value compared to the more expensive models.
It can take a while to get used to working in and walking on stilts, but the benefit of not having to set up trestles and reducing the fall risk outweighs the short teething period you’ll need to get used to wearing stilts. Just remember to watch out for heavy light fittings and doorways when you are on them, as there is obviously a small risk of banging your head on these. Aside from the risk of knocking your head on a door frame plasterers’ stilts are much safer than using trestles and ladders and therefore are a good choice for health and safety or risk assessments.
We’ve always been fans of plasterer’s stilts, ever since we realised how much faster a job can be done. They can provide access to high walls and ceilings without needing to put out scaffolding. However, not everybody is a fan. For example, the Australian government are very sceptical about them.
Nonetheless, we are also aware that they need to be used carefully. There is some construction industry and plastering industry scepticism about how safe they are. It’s been a point of discussion for some years, in some circles. We believe that just as long as you do your homework first and ensure that the work area is suited to stilts, then you should be fine.
Seeing as we sell them, we’ve put together this information on how to use them safely, so that you can keep yourself and your team in good shape.
Please note: This health and safety advice does not and should not replace any guidance provided by the plastering industry or the construction industry. It’s our take on it, and merely intended as additional reading for those who decide to use plasterer’s stilts.
Before wearing the stilts, it’s critical that the work area is viewed so that all risks are identified and assessed. Consider what activity will be undertaken in addition to which tools will be utilised. Also, consider these points:
- Look for changes in the level or slope of the area of work. Perhaps there are guardrails which will impede movement of the stilts. Look for lights, arches, bulkheads or stairwells and become aware of your surroundings and how they could affect movement whilst wearing the stilts.
- Avoid using stilts if the height of the ceiling is more than 3 metres.
- Do not use on stairs or to walk backwards
- Do not use on floors that are not level or cannot support stilt work, such as earthen floors that are yet to be concreted.
- Only use on floors that have been swept and that are dry.
- Floors should also be free of debris such as packaging, dropped nails, tools and hoses.
- Do not use on tables, trestles or other non-floor surfaces
- Any stairwells or voids need to be covered or guarded, so that they can be clearly identified and seen by stilt workers.
Only competent people should use stilts. Those who have had some training or practice in how to use them safely. Plastering stilts can put users at risk of:
- Losing balance and falling to the ground, or even through a window or over handrails
- Tripping over tools, debris or slipping on wet surfaces
- Falling over when accessing an area at a different level or passing through doorways
- Injuries caused by twisting or bending over on the stilts
When it comes to using the stilts, take the following into account:
- A solid platform, of the same height as the stilts, should be installed for stilt workers to mount and dismount their stilts.
- Do not use stepladders for mounting and dismounting plastering stilts. It’s not advised to try stepping up and balancing one stilted leg, whilst fitting the second. In fact, this practice can be very dangerous.
- Any equipment, tools and materials used by the stilt worker should be accessible from a mobile or stationary purpose-built stand, so that no bending over is necessary.
- If a stand isn’t available, then another person should hand what is required, to the stilt worker, so that they do not need to pick up any item that is below the level of their knee. Any waste or debris dropped by the stilt worker should also be cleared away by this additional person.
- The torso of the stilt worker should be vertical at all times.
- Do not jump on the stilts
- Procedures need to be identified of how the stilt worker would evacuate in case of an emergency.
- Stilts need regular maintenance, in line with manufacturer’s recommendations.
Although we have filled you to the brim with safety recommendations and warning regarding use of plastering stilts, it should also be known that they can add a very positive streak to the performance of plasterers. They can enable work to be completed faster than without. However, do be careful out there, plasterers.
Every once in a while you come across a plastering solution that makes all the difference. In this case it’s the Profi-Line range of stilts from PUTZ Tools. These useful items save a lot of time when it comes to both drylining and plastering.
Just as an aside, did you know that over in Australia, it wasn’t until 2006 that stilts were allowed to be used on construction sites? Prior to this there were considered too dangerous and rated as being something that had a zero tolerance classification. That approval was only given in 2006 because guidelines were issued at that time on how to use them safely and how to avoid accidents.
Now that we are another decade down the line, plasterers all over the UK and even in Oz are using stilts to help them with their plastering work.
As you are aware, Plasterers1StopShop like to stand behind any products that we offer and it’s the same with the Profi-Line Stilts.
These handy tools are from Installoo and are known for being high quality and easy to use. The wearer can move around in them pretty much the same way as they would be able to on their own two feet. They have wide feet on the bottom that give you that security that you need when you’re required to carry heavy items.
The Profi-Line stilts have been designed with ergonomic suspension that goes all out to absorb your weight, and it’s succeeds admirably. No matter what size your feet are, the Pro Line stilts will have a size for you as they are available in M, L and XL. You’ll discover how using them saves time and trouble. You won’t have to keep hoiking the ladder all over the room nor will you need to set up any type of scaffolding board with these.
However, safety should always be at the fore on the construction site, so here are some tips to avoid accidents:
- Check out your work area for slopes, railings, ceiling features and stairwells. Windows are also something to be watched for in addition to inbuilt furniture. Generally check the layout of the room and what may affect your free movement, in particular when you are at another height.
- Don’t try to start work on the stilts until the area is ‘plaster ready’. You’ll need to ensure that the floor has been swept, and that you’ll be able to move around freely without trip hazards making your work dangerous. Check for small items such as nails and screws.
- Ideally you’ll have somebody helping you out with the removal of any debris or waste materials that you drop as you work.
- Something that is very important is to understand how you will be able to evacuate the building if there is an emergency whilst you are wearing the stilts.
- If you bend whilst wearing the stilts, you could put yourself at risk of danger, so it’s recommended that you keep your torso as vertical as possible.
- Don’t wear the stilts for periods of time greater than two hours. If you’re required to, then try to get 30 minutes in of non-stilt work before you go up on them again. If you feel tired, take a break and don’t wear stilts for more than six hours a day in total.
- It’s recommended that you only use hand held tools (without leads) whilst wearing the stilts. For example tools such as:
- Cordless screw gun
- Sanding block
- Nobody should use the stilts without having undergone proper training on how to use them.
- Stilts must be sourced from a reputable and recognised industry supplier who provides instructions as to how to use them.
- Those who are learning how to use them must recognise how the foot and ankle movement differs when wearing stilts.
In summary, we recommend the use of plastering stilts for those who want to get things done with less trouble. You can find out more about the Profi-Line plastering stilts.