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Construction Spiderman

The January edition of The Red Bulletin has an article about men who build bamboo construction scaffolding in Hong Kong.  The article talks about the “whys and how” of using bamboo scaffolding to build structures that reach over 250 meters or 820 feet into the sky.  The spidermen who do this work are known as “Taap Pang,” Cantonese for bamboo scaffolder.

The advantages of bamboo scaffolding include the fact that they are light weight, recyclable, and found in most Asian climes.  The poles are selected for their size and strength, and are held in place with long plastic ties.  The spidermen are very skilled and in demand in Hong Kong and other major cities where scaffolding is needed.

There is a growing shortage of skilled spidermen.  Even though there are around 4,000 active spidermen, only 50-60 candidates have entered the craft in the last year.  The training is extensive and candidates are taught the art of the selection and erection of the poles to create the spider web for the construction crews.

The following short video shows some of these amazing “taap pang” at work.


Anonymous's picture

Jim, those guys are amazing, but I am thrilled we don't let scaffolders work that way here. There seems to be nothing to stop their falls for 30 or more feet, at least. While they are wearing harnesses, they don't appear to be using their lanyards to tie off. I hope there are precautions in place to protect these guys, and that we just can't see them on the film.

It would be fascinating to compare their injury rates to the famed Skywalkers of the Empire State Building.

Administrator's picture

If you look at the pictures we posted, there is no fall protection. Most of the larger projects do have netting to prevent injuries from dropped items and falls like we do here. The training for the new candidates at the scaffolding schools in Hong Kong stresses safety and being tied off.

There are subs building scaffolding who don’t tie off, don’t wear hard hats, don’t have any fall protection just like many of their counterparts in Hong Kong or Dubai or even the US.

As to the Skywalkers on the Empire State building, those Native Americans were unbelievable. I remember a picture of them sitting on an I-beam 80 stories in the air eating lunch while looking out over New York City. As I recall, they were not tied off. Also they were the only ones who would work at those heights. I suppose that it is the same in Asia where few will work on tall buildings and the amazing thing about them to me is that they are doing it on bamboo scaffolding.

I, too, wonder how the accident and fall rates compare. Will let you know if I can find any stats. Thanks for your comments.

Jim Kollaer

Anonymous's picture

Yes, of course, adjustments would have to be made to adhere to U. S. standards. I thought I saw a protective "floor" below where those men were working. Maybe not. Thanks.

Anonymous's picture

Bamboo is an excellent material to use for scaffolding due to it's strenth and flexibility, and light weight. Maybe we in the U. S. should try it? And it's a renewable resource.

Administrator's picture

Interesting point. First, the bamboo is good for a couple of years and has to be recycled. One source states that they have some difficulty finding places to recycle the bamboo when it is ready.

As to the US usage, code issues would likely prevent it. We don't have the large number of bamboo forests like they do in Asia, but maybe we can start a dialog on the issue.

Jim Kollaer

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