Scaffolding safety is a combination of practices and safety procedures that enforces proper and safe use of scaffoldings. It involves a set of preemptive actions in building, inspecting, using, and tagging scaffolds. Compliance with OSHA’s standard rules and requirements for working on scaffoldings can minimize or remove workers’ exposure to hazards such as falls, electrocutions, and falling objects. Around 65% of the construction industry work on scaffolds and experience 4,500 injuries and 60 fatalities annually in the United States alone. Scaffolding safety is important because it can help prevent workplace incidents from recurring. With baseline scaffold requirements to keep workers safe such as better inspections, training, and controls, frontline teams can ensure scaffolding safety and be proactive about building a safety culture from the ground up. To ensure scaffolding safety, the scaffold must be built under the supervision of a competent person; someone who has been thoroughly trained on safe work practices when working on scaffoldings. And workers must be trained by a qualified person before they use the scaffold. The scaffold and its components should also be checked by a competent person and properly tagged before the start of the shift to ensure its integrity and safety.
What are the 3 Types of Scaffolds?
Scaffolds come in 3 different types:
- Supported scaffold – a type of scaffold that is supported by poles, frames, and outriggers, and usually consists of one or more platforms.
- Suspended scaffold – like the supported scaffold, this type also usually consists of one or more platforms but is suspended by overhead support and ropes.
- Other types – these are man lifts, hoists, etc., which are often referred to as machinery and vehicle type of a scaffold
OSHA has compiled all the scaffolding rules and standards to ensure that businesses, especially those in the construction line of work, establish safety protocols and protect their workers from harm. OSHA issued several key provisions that employers need to take note of when using scaffolds. Here are the highlighted rules of OSHA’s scaffolding standard:
- Fall protection – Employees that are more than 10 feet off the ground need to be protected by using fall arrest systems or guardrails, except for employees that are on single-point and two-point adjustable suspension scaffolds. These employees should be protected by using both guardrails and a personal fall arrest system.
- Guardrail height – the height of the scaffolds’ toprail that was manufactured and used in service after January 1, 2000 should fall between 38 inches and 45 meters. Before this date, the scaffolding standard was 36 inches to 45 inches.
- Crossbracing – The crosspoint of crossbracing used as a toprail should be between 38 inches and 48 inches above the work platform.
- Midrails – This has to be installed approximately midway between the toprail and the platform surface. The crosspoint of crossbracing used as midrail should be between 20 inches and 30 inches above the work platform.
- Footings – scaffold footings have to be leveled and have the capacity to support the loaded scaffold. The legs, poles, frames, and other upright components should carry the weight off the base plates and mud sills.
- Platforms – scaffolds that are supported should be fully planked or decked.
- Guying ties and braces – if the height to base is 4:1, there should be support to the scaffolds to prevent tipping by guying, tying, or bracing.
- Capacity – Scaffolding equipment should be able to withstand support 4 times of the maximum intended load.
- Training – Employers are responsible for training each employee on the hazards and the methods to control these hazards.
- Inspections – this needs to be done every start of the shift and after conducting work that could have affected the structural integrity of the scaffolding.
OSHA Scaffolding Safety: Who is a Competent and Qualified Person?
According to OSHA, a competent person is “one who is capable of identifying existing and predictable hazards in the surroundings or working conditions, which are unsanitary, hazardous to employees, and who has authorization to take prompt corrective measures to eliminate them.” This is typically someone who holds a scaffolding high-risk work license. While a qualified person is one who “has successfully demonstrated his/her ability to solve or resolve problems related to the subject matter, the work, or the project.” A qualified person has the right background such as education or degree in designing safe scaffolding, for example, this could be someone from the scaffold manufacturer or trained scaffold engineer. The Bureau of Labor Statistics cites that 72% of scaffold injuries were due to scaffold planking or support giving way, slips, or falling objects. With regular inspections performed by a competent person, adequate scaffold safety training provided by a qualified person, and compliance with local regulatory standards, these dangers can be controlled.
Scaffolding Safety Training
Scaffolding safety training is a collection of practical lessons to help employees develop skills for the safe use of scaffolds at work. Proper training equips workers with the right knowledge to protect themselves and others against injuries and illnesses when dealing with scaffolding. Typical scaffold safety training includes access and usage requirements, capacity, and birdcage scaffolding and ladder beams like in this free online course.
Scaffold tags are used to protect the lives of your workers. It identifies if a scaffold is safe or unsafe for use. Follow the guidelines below when tagging scaffolds.
- Inspection and tagging of the scaffold are to be performed by a competent person experienced in the erection of scaffold.
- A unique scaffold identification tag number must be clearly identified on all tags for tracking purposes.
- All scaffolds shall be inspected after the erection per regulatory requirements.
- All scaffold identification tags will be of a solid green, yellow, or red color with black lettering.
- Front information displayed and completed for each tag.