Scaffold Safety

Scaffolds - such as suspended systems from buildings, supported systems from the ground, and aerial systems on mobile equipment - are common to many construction projects and allow workers to do their jobs at elevated heights. But, those who work on scaffolding systems are at risk for falls or falling objects that could cause serious or even fatal injuries and employers can be cited and fined. However, when workers have received proper training and education in scaffold systems, fall protection equipment, and proper scaffold work practices, they can work safely and feel safe at elevated heights.

A OSHA defined “competent person” should inspect the scaffolding before each use to see that all components are in good condition and that it’s plumb, level and in firm contact with a stable surface. To avoid electrocution hazards, power lines should be at least 10 feet away from the scaffold. However, clearance may depend on the voltage of the line.

To prevent falls, a OSHA defined “qualified person” should study the load, bracing, and safety code requirements for each job site. Properly designed scaffolding systems have work levels that are decked with regulation-sized planks and have appropriate worker access. Depending on the height of the scaffold, fall protection can include safety harnesses and guardrails. Toeboards shall be provided wherever workers are required to work or pass under the scaffolds.

Before a scaffold job begins, all workers should receive training on that particular scaffolding system and on any required personal fall protection equipment including its inspection, use, and replacement. Workers should practice safe behaviors on scaffolding at all times.

They should only climb the scaffolding from designated areas on the structure or on properly installed ladders. Good climbing techniques should be practiced including facing the rungs when climbing up or down; using tool belts or approved hoists to carry materials up to the jobsite and thus allow the use of both hands; and establishing solid footing and balance before climbing the structure. Scaffold must be erected and dismantled according to design standards, engineered specifications, or manufacturer’s instructions.

Site supervisors should raise scaffold safety awareness and support safe work practices.

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