Falsework and scaffolding can seem superficially similar. Although falsework and scaffolding come in many forms, common variants of both classes of structure use steel tubes joined by fittings. The fundamental difference between falsework and scaffolding lies in the purpose of the structure.
In "The Construction Safety Handbook," authors V.J. Davies and K. Tomasin define falsework "as a temporary structure used to support a permanent structure during its construction and until it becomes self-supporting." Falsework is common in projects where masonry, steel or lumber must be supported in position in order to be joined. This can occur when building a framework of beams or when forming an arch, for example.
Formwork is a type of falsework used with wet concrete. Formwork supports the wet concrete and molds it into the desired form. The term "centring" refers to a type of falsework used for constructing arches, or to any falsework that resembles arch supports.
According to "Formwork and Falsework for Heavy Construction," a scaffold is a temporary structure whose primary purpose is to provide access. Workers might stand on a scaffold to work on hard-to-reach areas. Scaffolds also can hold equipment and building materials, but they do not provide physical support for the construction project itself. In fact, the building under construction may provide partial support to the scaffold, especially when the scaffold must be very tall.