Scaffolding Safety—Do’s and Don’ts

Words:

Words: David Ivey, New Product Development Manager at Malta Dynamics 
Photos: matspersson0

Scaffolds are widely used at a variety of masonry jobsites, as well as broadly in the construction industry. OSHA estimates that 65% of all construction workers will work on scaffolding at least once each year. Scaffold violations ranked third on the Top 10 most frequently cited OSHA standards reported in FY 2018, and OSHA statistics indicate that scaffolds contribute to thousands of injuries and dozens of fatalities every year. 

Here are some important do’s and don’ts related to working on scaffolding that you can use to keep yourself and your fellow workers safe: 

Do’s 

  • DO get trained before working on scaffolding. Each worker must be trained by a qualified person prior to working on scaffolding. The training includes the identification of (and how to avoid) hazards that may arise on jobsites that include scaffolding, such as electrocution, falls, and falling objects. 
  • DO inspect the scaffold before using. A competent person should inspect the scaffold before each shift to verify that all scaffold components are functioning properly and are correctly assembled, checking for any damage, debris, or other unsafe conditions. You may choose to use scaffold inspection tags to provide a detailed list of the safety requirements and intended uses. 
  • DO stay mindful at all times of the workers above and below you. Falling objects are a serious hazard on scaffolds, and falling items can endanger other workers sharing the scaffold. If you notice any hazardous conditions or improper activity, stop and address the hazard immediately and/or alert your supervisor. 
  • DO wear proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) at all times. For scaffold work, hard hats, nonslip shoes or boots, and personal fall protection systems are all appropriate. Always remember to inspect personal fall protection equipment for damage and wear prior to use, and anchor the system to a safe point that won’t allow you to free fall more than six feet.  

Don’ts 

  • DON’T leave any tools, materials or debris on the scaffolding, including at the end of your shift. These objects could create a tripping hazard for the next person to use the scaffold, or could be knocked or blown off the scaffold and strike someone below.  
  • DON’T overload the scaffolding. All scaffolds are rated by the manufacturer to withstand a maximum load capacity based on the frame and design of the scaffolding and its components. No matter how sturdy a scaffold seems, never exceed the weight capacity limit specified by the manufacturer.  
  • DON’T use if the scaffolding appears damaged, incorrectly assembled, tampered with, or has parts missing. 
  • DON’T use if the scaffolding is covered with ice, snow, mud, wet leaves or other debris that could create a slipping hazard, or during strong winds or storms.  
  • DON’T climb on any part of the scaffolding that is not intended for climbing, or stand on the guardrails, ties, or extensions.  
  • DON’T use a ladder or other object to gain additional height on top of a scaffold. 
  • DON’T move mobile scaffolding or load/unload scaffolding while it is in use or occupied. 

In a Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) study, 72% of workers injured in scaffold accidents attributed the accident either to the planking or support giving way, or to the employee slipping or being struck by a falling object. Thankfully, all of these can be avoided by adhering to OSHA regulations and following the suggestions outlined here.  

About the Author: David Ivey is a Fall Protection Engineer for Malta Dynamics, where he oversees the engineering and installation of all custom fall protection systems. For more information or with questions about OSHA compliance of fall protection systems, contact divey@maltadynamics.com.  

 

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