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Safety First on Scaffolds

Building sites produce a high accident and fatality rate that is nearly ten times that of all other industries. Accidents involving scaffolding are a large portion of these injuries and can often result in serious injury.

To protect workers, contractors should check ground conditions for support of the scaffold, proximity of power lines, overhead obstructions, wind conditions, and the need for overhead protection. Only trained persons should oversee the erection of the scaffold and inspect the structure for defective parts. Daily inspections should be done before each use to ensure safety.

Wooden planks lie at the heart of most residential scaffold accidents and plank failure can be the cause of most of these injuries. Inspect the scaffold and make sure that scaffold planks are being used. Planks can be considered dangerous if they are not stamped “Scaffold Grade.” This grade indicates OSHA’s recognition as an acceptable plank. Once the planks are approved and in place, a daily inspection should continue. Wooden planks should be stored indoors. Stacking planks outdoors and wrapping them in plastic provides an environment for fungi to grow and weakens the wood.

Falls while getting on a scaffold are also a major concern. If possible, a fixed ladder should provide access to the top of the scaffold. Ladders used for this purpose must rise to 42 inches above where the worker stands. This allows adequate space to step off the ladder onto the staging area. The scaffold bracing should never be used to climb on the scaffold.

Scaffold failures and accidents are common but most can be avoided. Employers must emphasize safety, inspect the scaffold daily, and immediately repair problems.

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