Sometimes a stepladder is sufficient for working off the ground, but if a project finds you working at a greater height over a wider area, scaffolding is a more effective solution. You should also be aware that working with scaffolding brings with it a new set of issues to be addressed, including accident prevention, added OSHA compliance, and even safety training. Use this brief guide — and safety consulting — from Safety International to keep your workers safer at any height.
Potential Scaffold Risks
Generally speaking, working on a scaffold provides a more stable work surface than a jury-rigged system of ladders. But there’s still a risk of falls, the chance of electric shock if you’re working near power lines, or the possibility of falling tools and debris injuring workers or passers-by. In a worst-case scenario, the scaffolding itself could also collapse. These possibilities underscore the importance of scaffold safety.
Keeping Scaffolding Safer
Keeping scaffolding safe will, in turn, keep workers, pedestrians, and the structure on which you’re working safer. It’s deceptively simple; simple enough, in fact, that it’s easy to simply assume we’re doing everything right and end up missing something important. Here are three simple steps to scaffold safety.
Proper Assembly and Disassembly
Start by assessing foot and vehicle traffic in the area. You’ll want to set up at a time of day that will cause minimal disruption, but you’ll also want to ensure that you’re minimizing the chance of injury to passers-by. The structure of the scaffold must be secured against accidental bumps and jostling, and provisions made for fall protection.
Another important and often-overlooked step is to minimize the number of items stored on the scaffold. Only those tools and materials that are needed at any given time should be present, with others delivered to workers on an as-needed basis.
Your work isn’t done simply because the scaffolding is erected. Before a single worker gets down to business, inspect the structure thoroughly. This isn’t optional, nor should it be viewed as a waste of time. It’s an OSHA requirement that a competent person — someone capable of identifying and addressing hazardous conditions — inspect the scaffolding daily. Those inspections must be documented, as must any defects found and the steps taken to correct them.
This fills a few functions. On one hand, you’re protecting workers and pedestrians. You’re also staying compliant with OSHA regulations. You’ll minimize your chance of something going wrong. And in the event that an accident or structural failure occurs despite your best efforts, you will be able to show that you’ve done your due diligence.
Personal protective equipment is a must on the job site. Proper footwear, gloves, hardhats and safety glasses should be worn at a bare minimum. If your workers will be operating more than ten feet above street level, you must also provide them with fall protection. Other forms of protection will vary depending on the nature of the job, and could include filtration masks, respirators, steel-toed boots, or other forms of PPE. Part of the aforementioned safety inspection should also include a realistic assessment of work hazards so you can ensure your workers are fully protected.
If we were to boil this down to a bullet-pointed checklist, it would look like this:
- Ensure proper assembly
- Inspect before, during, and after use
- Wear appropriate PPE
- Keep inspection reports up-to-date
- Get help with OSHA regulations and compliance as well as ISNETworld compliance, and safety training
Regarding that last point, we suggest contacting Safety International for a workplace safety consultation. We assist with all phases of worksite safety, including worker training, safety plans, inspections, and much more.