Know the rules of scaffolding safety and how to keep you and your employees safe.
Did you know that:
- It is estimated that more than 2 million construction workers frequently work on scaffolds.
- OSHA estimates that protecting these workers from scaffold-related accidents would prevent 4,500 injuries and 50 deaths every year.
- Improved safety performance can also translate into $90 million saved in lost workdays.
Have you identified the hazards? Scaffold safety training should begin with identification of the hazards. Common hazards include:
- Falls from elevation, due to lack of fall protection.
- Collapse of the scaffold, caused by instability or overloading.
- Being struck by falling tools, work materials, or debris.
- Electrocution, principally due to proximity of the scaffold to overhead power lines.
Is your training in line with OSHA requirements? OSHA says that each employee who works on a scaffold must be trained by a “qualified” person (i.e., someone who is knowledgeable about scaffold safety) to recognize hazards associated with the type of scaffold being used and understand the procedures necessary to control or minimize those hazards. Training should include:
- The nature of any electrical hazards, fall hazards, and falling object hazards in the work area.
- Correct procedures for dealing with hazards and for using personal fall arrest systems and falling object protection systems.
- The proper use of scaffolds and the proper handling of materials on scaffolds.
- Maximum intended load and the load-carrying capacities of scaffolds used.
In addition to these topics, employees who are involved in erecting, disassembling, moving, operating, repairing, maintaining, or inspecting scaffolds must be trained in:
- Correct procedures for erecting, disassembling, moving, etc., the type of scaffold in question.
- Design criteria, maximum intended load-carrying capacity, and intended use of the scaffold.
And under OSHA regulations, retraining is required whenever:
- Changes at the work site create hazards about which employees have not been previously trained.
- Changes in the types of scaffolds, fall protection, falling object protection, or other equipment create new hazards.
- Inadequacies in employee performance indicate that workers have not retained the essential safety information they were taught initially.
Do they or don’t they? To make sure employees are safe when working on scaffolds, teach them these life-saving tips:
- Make sure a competent person has inspected the scaffold before you go up.
- Wear a hard hat whether you work on or under a scaffold.
- Be sure to wear sturdy shoes with nonslip soles as well.
- Use a personal fall arrest system whenever required.
- Watch out for co-workers on the scaffold as well as people below.
- Always use common sense when working on any scaffold, and move around slowly and carefully.
- Ask a supervisor if you’re not sure if a scaffold or working conditions are safe.
- Take chances.
- Overload a scaffold.
- Keep debris or unnecessary materials on a scaffold where someone could trip over them or accidentally knock them off the platform.
- Hit a scaffold with anything heavy—a truck, a forklift, a load of lumber, etc.
- Leave materials and equipment on the platform at the end of the day.
- Use an outdoor scaffold in stormy or windy weather or if it’s covered with ice or snow.
OSHA E-Tool at https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/etools/scaffolding/suspended/index.html covers several types of scaffolds and gives general requirements of each type and some non-mandatory guidelines that help with each type.
See also the safety scaffold checklist that you can use to help prevent scaffold accidents.