Last edited 19 Jul 2016

Scabbling in construction

Traditionally, the term ‘scabbling’ or ‘scappling’ referred to the use of axes or hammers to shape a stone. It now generally refers to the process of removing a thin layer from the surface of concrete or sometimes masonry.

This can be necessary in order to:

  • Roughen surfaces to give better grip.
  • Create decorative effects.
  • Prepare surfaces for repairs, grouting, painting, sealing or coating.
  • Remove adhesives, coatings, markings or surface contamination.
  • Level surfaces.
  • Reduce levels.

The term can also be used to refer to other process in which the surface of a material is removed, such as the removal of steel scale deposits and the removal of road markings.

Typically, scabbling is carried out with pneumatic devices that pound the surface with pointed rods. However, rotary devices that ‘flail’ the surface may also be used, and more recently, water Jet techniques using high-pressure water.

Scabbling concrete or other construction materials can produce high levels of silica-containing dust. Silica dust (known as Respirable Crystalline Silica (RCS)) can be inhaled and can lead to silicosis, a lung disease that causes permanent disablement and early death. As a consequence, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) categorise scabbling as high risk. Effective control is necessary, involving assessment, prevention and controls such as on-tool extraction and Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE).

For more information see HSE Construction dust: Scabbling or grinding.

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