When it comes to safe construction practices, scaffolding safety is a very important topic. When a building is being constructed, scaffolds are needed to facilitate the rising of the beams and support structures. They are either suspended by ropes or posts, and provide a flat area for construction workers to work from. These scaffolds need to be safely designed and implemented to ensure the construction workers safety. A poorly designed scaffold could lead to problems that delay construction, potential injury for workers, and in worst case scenarios, death. About 60 workers lose their lives to improper scaffold safety each year, either because the scaffold was improperly erected, taken down, or braced by supporting structures. There are many things to consider when setting up, taking down, moving, changing, or working on a scaffold to ensure maximum scaffold safety. Without proper scaffolding safety awareness of all of these concerns, it can lead to bad accidents.
Training Tips to Setup Scaffolding Safety
- Make sure any scaffold you utilize was designed by a qualified person with extensive knowledge and experience on scaffold construction.
- A competent scaffold safety expert should supervise whenever a scaffold is assembled.
- Standing scaffolds should be placed on a firm foundation, and should have solid pieces of wood under each leg, extending at least a foot in each direction.
- Upright Scaffolds should be vertical and platform must be level. Bracing is critical to prevent swaying.
- Check tie ins, guardrails and planks are complete when erecting a scaffold.
- Whenever a scaffold is set up, employees must receive scaffold safety training. Likewise, if the scaffold, safety equipment, or work site changes, employees must be retrained.
Scaffolding Safety Equipment
When assembling, disassembling, moving, changing, working from or inspecting scaffolds, it is important to have the proper scaffold safety equipment. First and foremost, all people working on, near, or around scaffolds should have a hard hat, proper boots (steel toed), and gloves. Scaffolds should have toe boards at least 4 inches tall to prevent objects from falling off, which is a safety hazard to those below. Alternatively, they may have debris nets to catch falling objects. Guard rails and fall arrest equipment may also be needed. Supported scaffolds are typically sufficiently safe with one or the other. Suspended scaffold safety requires both. For fall arrest equipment, a harness is highly preferred. A body belt is typically not considered acceptable scaffold fall arrest safety equipment. Concerning the guardrails and toe boards, they should be on all open sides of a scaffold. Guard rails should also be at least 38 inches high.
Scaffolding Safety Tips & Suggestions
- Scaffold loads should always be kept at a minimum.
- At the beginning of each work day, and anytime an event occurs which could possibly compromise the structural integrity of a scaffold, a competent person in the field of scaffold safety should inspect the scaffold for any possible safety risks or predictable hazards.
- A scaffold safety expert should also supervise whenever a scaffold is changed, moved, or disassembled.
- Scaffolds should be erected at least 10 feet from active power lines, or three feet if the lines are carrying less than 300 volts.
- Consider the weather. A scaffold is an unfit working condition if there is ice or snow on its floor. In high winds, a wind screen is needed. In storms, fall-arrest equipment is needed. Any potentially unsafe weather conditions also require approval for work by a scaffold safety expert.
- A scaffold should have a way to get on and off of it, if the level of the scaffold is more than 2 feet away from an accessible level of building.
- A scaffold that is more than 4 times taller than the width of its base should be tied to scaffold supports
- Scaffold platforms and walkways should generally be more than 18 inches wide. If they are not, guard-rails and fall arrest equipment are required.
- Ten foot planks may extend between 6 and 12 inches from end supports, and must be spaced no more than one inch between one another or uprights.
- Wood planks should be unpainted so that cracks are more visible.
- If it is feasible that objects may fall off of a scaffold, people should be restricted from being underneath it.
- Make sure all wheels and castors are in locked position.
- Scaffolds should be able to support 4 times the maximum intended weight.
- Scaffolds should be within 14 inches of the work area.
- Heavy tools should be hoisted, never hand carried.
- Scaffolds should not be moved unless all materials are properly secured, and no workers are present on the scaffold.
OSHA is the official workplace safety government body. While the tips and suggestions above comprise a great deal of scaffold safety practices, it is always good to check with OSHA to ensure that your scaffolds are sufficiently safe. Additionally, scaffold safety guidelines may change over time, so whenever possible, be sure to check OSHA requirements to ensure a safe workplace, and legally protect yourself in the unlikely event of an an accident.