The Value of the Work Platform

Words: Uma Basso

Words: Uma Basso
Photo: LightFieldStudios

Want to improve safety and efficiency on the jobsite? If your next project involves excessive height or is hard to reach, a work platform may be the right option. Work platforms are designed to help workers, such as masons, contractors, and work crews to overcome on-the-job dangers. Work platforms are durable, easy to assemble, and can be maneuvered when space is limited.

In addition to their safety contributions, work platforms can improve a job's overall efficiency. Platforms give workers easy access to the tools and jobsite materials, which cuts down running back and forth to get what they need for the job. Plus, a properly equipped work platform can provide some extras, such as electricity and water. 

When used correctly, work platforms can impact efficiency and promote worker safety. 

Why Use a Work Platform?

There are many reasons to use a work platform on the job. If a project needs to be done at a high elevation, a platform typically has a stable base and guard rails to prevent a fall. This makes the platform safer for workers to use than a ladder. 

The large platform keeps tools, equipment, and materials close by. This saves workers time often wasted climbing up and down the platform to gather materials needed for the job.

Common Work Platforms

Work platforms vary in size and function. Some of the most common platforms include;

  • An aerial platform gives workers access to places that may be difficult to get to. These platforms are typically used to reach and work at heights safely. Although an aerial platform can hold a limited amount of weight, some can be outfitted for heavier loads. The platform typically has a fair amount of room, giving the mason enough space for tools and materials. Scissor lifts, bucket trucks, and cherry pickers are common aerial platforms you see on the job site. 
  • It's common to see scaffolding on the job site. These temporary structures provide elevated support for workers on the job site to reach high or difficult to reach places. They are designed to share to load across the platform and can be used by multiple members of a work crew simultaneously.
  • A permanent work platform remains relatively fixed in place. This may be used for jobs where platform moves are infrequent.

Choose the Right Work Platform

When deciding what type of work platform works best with your project, it's helpful to consider the work you are doing and how long it takes to do it.

Type of work –

When you choose a work platform, a mason should keep in mind the resources necessary to get the job done. For jobs that require heavy materials, you need to select a platform that can withstand its weight. If multiple members of a work crew will be using the platform simultaneously, be sure to pick one that is long enough and is durable enough to carry the weight of many people. If your masonry jobs need water or electricity, some platforms have these available. 

Masonry work on a building that has direct sunlight may benefit from a work platform that has a shade. Or, when the weather may be poor, a platform may be enclosed to keep out rain or snow while you work.

Quick jobs –

Scaffolding is suited for quick jobs. It is also a good option if you need a work platform that can be moved as work is completed on the job. 

Scaffolding is easy to assemble, yet it maintains its durable design and flexibility. They may sport a large platform, giving workers enough room to hold materials and tools. When adjusted properly, a scaffold lets a mason get close to the job they are laying without stretching or bending.

Tight spots –

Masons may benefit from using mast-climbing work platforms. With their smaller base, a mast climber is ideal for jobs where space is limited. These types of platforms can typically bear a heavier load than a traditional scaffold. They may be freestanding or attached to a building.

Mast-climbing platforms are power-driven and easily adjustable to accommodate different heights. Proper placement of the work platform keeps workers from straining, which, in turn, reduces the chance of back or shoulder injury.

Longer jobs -

If the job is expected to take longer or if movability isn't necessary, a permanent solution may be a better fit. Since these structures aren't being moved frequently, there may be less chance of accidents happening if it is reassembled on uneven or unstable ground or was not put together correctly.

Versatility –

Masons should also consider future needs when choosing a work platform. What may be sufficient for the job you do today may not work well with future jobs. Chick Hatton, Access Specialist at Franco Products, recommends choosing a platform that can be used for large and small areas. Hatton also suggests a platform with an interchangeable base and parts. This allows for more flexibility in how the platform is used and may limit the need to buy another platform to suit a different job.

Before you invest in a work platform, be sure to consider how you plan to use it now and in the future.

Necessary Precautions

The utility of a work platform requires masons and contractors to take necessary precautions before their use. When they are not evaluated and adequately checked to ensure safety, workers can get hurt. They may lose their balance and fall. Or, if the platform is unstable or puts together incorrectly, it can collapse. 

Other best practices to promote safety include;

Proper training – Jobsite personnel responsible for assembling, taking down, and moving work platforms need to be appropriately trained. They also need to be qualified to conduct inspections daily. Kevin O'Shea, the Director of Safety and Training at Hydro Mobile, stresses that "operators must be trained" and "users must understand how to work safely on the platform." Failure to take these next steps can lead to a work injury. 

Supervision – When a work platform is assembled, qualified personnel should oversee the process.

  • They should ensure that the walkways are even, with no overlapping planks or gaps in boards or flooring that could cause someone to trip.
  • The platform does not extend too far beyond the support. This helps to prevent the platform from tipping over.
  • Guardrails are correctly installed when required.
  • Proper safety measures are taken to prevent materials from being kicked off or falling from the work platform. This may include using toeboards to reduce the risk of materials falling. Supervisors should also ensure that the area below the work platform is adequately marked to keep people below from getting hit by falling debris.
  • Ladders and stairs should be checked for proper footing and positioning to prevent people from falling.
  • Ensure no hanging power lines or cables around the work platform could pose a safety risk.

Daily inspections – These inspections are vital to ensuring worker safety. A good practice is to inspect the work platform at the start and end of the day. Inspections should be conducted by qualified people who have the appropriate training and skill level. 

If the inspection reveals a problem, they should be fixed immediately before the platform is used again. 

The Bottom Line

A work platform can improve the efficiency of the mason, plus reduce the risk of injury. To choose a platform that works best for you, consider the needs of your current and future jobs. Choose a platform that is versatile enough to fit the needs of your job yet remain safe for your work crew to use.

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