There are many hazards that come with working on scaffolds. The danger of falling is the most common.
OSHA has very specific guidelines for the construction of scaffolding and precautions that need to be taken when using scaffolding. There are eleven key provisions included in OSHA’s scaffolding standard.
The following key highlights of the standard have been taken from OSHA’s A Guide to Scaffold Use in the Construction Industry:
• Fall protection or fall arrest systems—Each employee more than 10 feet above a lower level shall be protected from falls by guardrails or a fall arrest system, except those on single-point and two-point adjustable suspension scaffolds. Each employee on a single-point and two-point adjustable suspended scaffold shall be protected by both a personal fall arrest system and a guardrail. 1926.451(g)(1)
• Guardrail height—The height of the toprail for scaffolds manufactured and placed in service after January 1, 2000 must be between 38 inches (0.9 meters) and 45 inches (1.2 meters). The height of the toprail for scaffolds manufactured and placed in service before January 1, 2000 can be between 36 inches (0.9 meters) and 45 inches (1.2 meters). 1926.451(g)(4)(ii)
• Crossbracing—When the crosspoint of crossbracing is used as a toprail, it must be between 38 inches (0.97 m) and 48 inches (1.3 meters) above the work platform. 1926.451(g)(4)(xv)
•Midrails— Midrails must be installed approxi-mately halfway between the toprail and the platform surface. When a crosspoint of crossbracing is used as a midrail, it must be between 20 inches (0.5 meters) and 30 inches (0.8 m) above the work platform.1926.451(g)(4)
• Footings—Support scaffold footings shall be level and capable of supporting the loaded scaffold. The legs, poles, frames, and uprights shall bear on base plates and mud sills. 1926.451(c)(2)
• Platforms—Supported scaffold platforms shall be fully planked or decked. 1926.451(b)
• Guying ties, and braces—Supported scaffolds with a height-to-base of more than 4:1 shall be restained [sic] from tipping by guying, tying, bracing, or the equivalent. 1926.451(c)(1)
• Capacity—Scaffolds and scaffold compponents [sic] must support at least 4 times the maximum intended load. Suspension scaffold rigging must [support] at least 6 times the intended load. 1926.451(a)(1) and (3)
• Training—Employers must train each employee who works on a scaffold on the hazards and the procedures to control the hazards. 1926.454
• Inspections—Before each work shift and after any occurrence that could affect the structural integrity, a competent person must inspect the scaffold and scaffold components for visible defects. 1926.451(f)(3)
• Erecting and Dismantling—When erecting and dismantling supported scaffolds, a competent person must determine the feasibility of providing a safe means of access and fall protection for these operations. 1926.451(e)(9) & (g)(2)
Best Practices for Scaffold User Safety
• Don’t allow tools, materials, or debris to collect on scaffold.
• Never, never throw or drop tools, materials, or equipment.
• Make sure connections are in place and completely tight.
• Do not stand on ties.
• Do not stand on guardrails or plank extensions.
• Do not overreach outside of the guardrails.
Plumb, Level, Square
Before you access scaffolding to do work, you can do a visual plumb, level, square check just to double check that the scaffolding has been constructed safely and is holding its structural integrity. When scaffolding is erected it should be plumb, level, and square. You can visually check the plumb line by seeing if vertical members are perpendicular to the horizon (90 degree angle). To check the square of the scaffolding, look to see if the horizontal and vertical members from right angles where they connect (90 degree angles). Check to see if the scaffolding is level by visually assessing if the horizontal members are parallel to the horizon.
But There’s More To Scaffold Safety Than Meets The Eye…
These are only a few of the basic safety elements workers should know when working on scaffolding. Employers must train their workers who will be using scaffolding on electrical hazards, fall hazards, falling objects, fall protection and falling object protection, proper use of scaffold, proper handling of materials, and maximum intended load and capacity of scaffolds used.