The Specifics of Scaffolding Safety

 An estimated 2.3 million construction workers, or 65 percent of the construction industry, work on scaffolds. In a recent Bureau of Labor Statistics study, 72 percent 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. All of these accidents can be controlled by compliance with OSHA standards.

There are as many standards and rules for construction scaffolding as there are types of scaffolding. Most of the OSHA regulations fall under rule 1926.451.

Specifics of scaffolding regulations include:

  • Fall protection or fall arrest systems — Each employee more than 10 feet above a lower level must be protected from falls by guardrails or a fall arrest system, except those on single-point and two-point adjustable suspension scaffolds. Each employee on a single-point and two-point adjustable suspended scaffold must be protected by both a personal fall arrest system and a guardrail.
  • Inspections — Before each work shift and after any occurrence that could affect the structural integrity, a competent person must inspect the scaffold and components for visible defects. In addition, employers must train each employee who works on a scaffold on the hazards and the procedures to control the hazards.
  • Guardrail height — The height of the toprail for scaffolds manufactured and placed in service after January 1, 2000 must be between 38 and 45 inches.
  • Crossbracing — When the crosspoint of crossbracing is used as a toprail, it must be between 38 inches and 48 inches above the work platform.
  • Midrails — Midrails must be installed approximately halfway between the toprail and the platform surface. When a crosspoint of crossbracing is used as a midrail, it must be between 20 inches and 30 inches above the work platform.
  • Footings — Support scaffold footings must be level and capable of supporting the loaded scaffold. The legs, poles, frames, and uprights must bear on base plates and mud sills.
  • Capacity — Scaffolds and scaffold components must support at least 4 times the maximum intended load. Suspension scaffold rigging must at least 6 times the intended load.

Naturally there are specific rules for different types of scaffolds such as Aerial Lifts and Scissor Lifts.  It is also noteworthy that many of these safety measures require the participation of a “competent person,” which OSHA defines as “one who is capable of identifying existing and predictable hazards in the surroundings or working conditions which are unsanitary, hazardous, or dangerous to employees, and who has authorization to take prompt corrective measures to eliminate them.”

For more information on scaffolding and safety measures, contact our offices at Diversified Safety Services.

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