According to the data revealed by the Health and Safety Executive, falls from height during construction works is one of the biggest workplace fatalities. Surprisingly, the proportion of fatal accidents is skewed towards small projects.
Over 60% of all deaths from height work involve falls from scaffolding or roofs. Therefore, it’s important that construction companies pay high attention to safety when using scaffolding to lower the risk for their employees and members of the public. Not to mention the fact that claims from these accidents can be significant, leading to large losses.
Whether you’re working on a construction site, plant or warehouse, it’s important that you know all state, local and federal regulations, codes and other standards covering the use of scaffolds. The truth is, scaffold standards may vary depending on which state you are. Moreover, scaffolds are also different. However, the hazard that comes with this equipment is equal for all states and industries.
OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) rules that every person who works on a scaffold has to be properly trained by a competent person.
The training should be about:
- Proper use of scaffolds and how to handle materials while working on them
- Nature of risks related to scaffolds such us electrocution and falls
- How to deal with different hazards, including falling object protection and personal fall arrest systems
Don’t overload the scaffold
Weight supported by a scaffold can either break or make accidents. That is why you should not exceed the recommended load rating of any scaffold. You should take special care when fully or partially enclosing scaffolds. This is necessary because different weather conditions such as strong wind increase the load supported by the scaffold. Always make sure that ties that attach your scaffold to a building are secure.
Scaffolding can be erected in areas where the ground can support at least the four times the intended load. Otherwise, you should use adjustable baseplates and feet to properly distribute the load over a wide surface area. You can also use wooden planks to prevent sinking. According to OSHA, masonry bricks and blocks cannot be used for support.
Toeboards and guardrails
Toeboards and guardrails prevent building materials and equipment from falling off the scaffolding as well as keep workers safe when using it. Any scaffolding taller than 10 feet should have guardrails which can be made from metal lumber. Toeboards should be at least 3,5 inches tall to prevent tools and materials from falling off.
Inspecting the scaffold
It is the hirer’s responsibility to ensure their scaffolding has been inspected in these cases:
- Before first use
- Following installation
- After each seven days of use
- Following circumstances that can possibly jeopardize the safety of the installation such as harsh weather conditions
All scaffold inspections should be done by a specialist whose combination of experience, training, and knowledge is appropriate for the certain type of the scaffold. An individual can have knowledge in inspecting scaffolds or his training can be assessed under the CIRSR. A non-professional scaffolder who has attended a reliable inspection course (a site manager, for example) could also be deemed competent enough to perform a basic inspection of a scaffold structure.
The inspection report should mention any matters that could make work on a scaffold risky and compromise safety as well as inform about defects and suspicions. Corrective actions should be taken before anyone starts using the scaffold.
Use quality lumber for planking
Using the proper quality and grade of lumber for planking is one of the key security measures one can take. Planking should be free from knots and cracks and made of high-quality materials. As a rule of thumb, planking should extend approximately 8 inches beyond the scaffolding and be overlapped by 10 inches. Sometimes you also need to use scaffolding platforms. When working with these, ensure they are properly secured to the scaffold according to the instructions of a manufacturer.
It’s recommended to avoid using scaffolding as a ladder. It’s better to have a good ladder to move equipment and people up and down your scaffolding.
Don’t forget to inspect your scaffold for wear and damage. Remember that it is you who are responsible for the safety of people working on your site.