Since 1971, the organization for Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has had a well-defined standard in place regarding scaffold safety, yet scaffold-related accidents resulting in injuries and even fatalities continue to occur on construction sites.
What are the Hazards of Scaffolding?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 72% of workers injured in scaffolding related accidents attributed the accident to having planks give way, to a collapse of some part of the support system, or to slipping on the planks, which was the single most common cause of accidents.
These industry statistics also bore out the fact that nearly 75% of workers involved in accidents were aware of safety requirements for installing and assembling scaffolds, and of having inspected through on-the-job training. Only 25% of affected workers had no training whatsoever about scaffolding or the necessary safety measures.
Because scaffolding accidents continue to happen and to cause severe injuries, it is essential that a thorough inspection of construction site scaffolding be made regularly, and that results be made known to all workers who might make use of the scaffolding. Here is a step-by-step checklist of certain issues to check for on a scaffolding structure to ensure the safety of all personnel on a construction site.
Scaffolding Safety Pre-Check Requirements
Before even getting to the checklist part of scaffold inspection, any company which will work on scaffolds on a construction site should be aware of its responsibility to provide regular safety inspections of the materials and equipment are being used. This includes a system of tagging to identify both safe and unsafe equipment, and training construction workers to be aware of and avoid unsafe conditions around equipment and machinery, and also to be aware of required OSHA regulations that apply to their jobs.
#1. Erection of the Scaffold
Erection of the scaffold/access should be by a competent person under supervision of someone experienced in scaffolding erection. This means that the design of the scaffold should come from a licensed professional engineer who takes care to exceed the safety limits recommended by OSHA. This should also serve to disqualify unsafe scaffolds which might make use of barrels, boxes, blocks or bricks, or have the character of a lean-to or shore scaffold.
#2. Scaffold Integrity
The scaffold must never be overloaded with equipment or other materials. All planks used in the construction of the scaffold must be capable of sustaining the load that will be in placed on them on-site. Scaffolding must be tied off and secure, and braces, uprights, and supports cannot be removed unless suitable replacements are substituted.
#3. Scaffold Access
Access to all scaffold platforms should be safe and unblocked, and any ladders or stairways used to access them must be located so as not to make the scaffold unstable. In the case of using a ladder for access, it must be securely attached to the scaffold and must rise at least 3 feet above the platform.
#4. Materials and Planking
Materials and planking used in the construction of scaffolding should use stress-grade lumber or strong metal such as aluminum. Planking should be at least 2” x 10” scaffold-grade plank, and it should extend no more than 10 feet for light use, 8 feet for medium use, and 6 feet for heavy use. Planks should overhand their supports by a minimum of 6 inches, but less than 12 inches, and poles, legs, and uprights need to plumb and securely braced so that no swaying is possible.
#5. Guardrails and Toeboards
Any scaffolding exceeding the height requirement must have guardrails on any open sides or ends. Scaffolds between 4 feet and 10 feet high with a horizontal dimension of fewer than 45 inches, must also have guardrails on open sides and ends. Guardrail supports must be no more than 8 feet apart and must be 2” 4” and about 42 inches high.
Scaffolds more than 10 feet in height must also have toeboards on all open sides and ends. The toeboards must be at least 4 inches high, and where workers walk underneath the scaffolding, there must be ½ inch wire mesh over the opening between the toeboard and the guardrail.
#6. Working on Scaffolds
Whenever scaffolding is erected on a site, protection must be provided from overhead hazards. Slippery conditions must be cleaned up as quickly as possible, and in the case of steady rain or high winds, no work should be done on scaffolding whatsoever. All parts of scaffolding must be kept free of all tools, materials and other debris which might potentially cause a work hazard.
OSHA requirements also state that fall protection or fall arrest systems must be used for most employees on various types of scaffolds. Any employee performing work on scaffolds “10 feet above a lower level shall be protected from falls by guardrails or a fall arrest system, except those on a single point and two point adjustable suspension scaffolds.” To create a safe work environment, any construction workers on the team on a single-point and two-point adjustable suspend scaffold should be protected by both personal fall arrest systems and guardrails.
Reducing Risks for the Construction Industry
Even with taking all the occupational safety measures, there is no guaranteed way to prevent on-the-job accidents when it comes to your scaffolding. Make sure your organization is protected from all risks with support from Allied Insurance. With a 30-year focus on scaffold insurance, you can count on the Allied Insurance team to deliver bottom-line improvements to your business. Discover how our Solutions Driven approach can help protect you from all sorts of scaffolding risks and call Allied Insurance today.
*Allied does not deem this list as a complete and thorough listing of all scaffold safety issues and solutions, and does not recommend it be primarily relied on . It only highlights some common issues and resolutions. For a thorough overview, please contact Allied’s Risk Engineering Division for further support with your needs.