Focus on scaffolding assembly in France

Unlike international standards, the distance between scaffolding and structure must not exceed 20 cm in France.

While in most European countries it is customary to leave a distance of 30 cm between scaffolding and structure during outdoor works, Article R. 4323-78 of the French Labour Code sets up a distance of 20 cm.

Thus, although most standards concerning safety at work have been harmonised throughout the European Union following Directive 89/391/EEC of 12 June 1989, France has decided to retain this stricter standard, which must also be understood together with Article R. 4323-58 of the Labour Code. This norm states that workplans must guarantee the health and safety of employees and allow for ergonomic workstations.

These provisions can cause difficulties in certain tasks, such as the installation of external isolation, which regularly reaches a thickness of 20 cm.Compliance with these regulations for scaffolding is controlled by the local DREETS (Regional Directorates for the Economy, Employment, Labor and Solidarity, the former DIRECCTE), whose interpretation of the standards can be more or less restrictive depending on the area where the construction site takes place.

If the work you have to perform in France, e.g. as a subcontractor, requires special scaffold requirements for your employees, do not forget to inform the general contractor of these requirements in good time and in the long term before starting work. In most cases, it should be possible to find a solution here, e.g. to require the installation of a adjustable-height console for the scaffold, which are not installed as a matter of course in France. In order to prevent discussions with DREETS, it is also advisable to draw up a technical data sheet that sets out all the requirements for the scaffold in terms of work ergonomics and work safety by way of example. If, despite this, the construction site is stopped, it may also be advisable in individual cases to initiate summary proceedings before the competent administrative court. A decision is issued here within a few days. The responsible DREETS often interpret the 20 cm rule too narrowly.

Thanks to their experience, Ad fontes can support you in dealing with the DREETS in order to work out a solution that is workable for all parties.