Improper scaffolding is the third highest reason for an OSHA violation. Scaffolds have very serious consequences when they are used inappropriately or when they are erected incorrectly. A fall from scaffolds can have devastating consequences.

72% of accidents that involve scaffolds were caused by the planking or support giving way, employee slipping, and being struck by a falling object. When using scaffolds, if employee is higher than 10 feet  above the walking/working surface, they must be protected from falling by using a personal fall arrest system or guardrails.  Fall protection is not required by OSHA until the 10 foot mark with scaffolding only. This is an exception to the traditional 6 foot rule for fall protection in construction. Scaffolding has been gaining popularity as many believe they are safer than ladders. They create a large, even work space for employees to effectively access their working areas.  Scaffolds must be erected on a flat, level surface. Scaffolds must be supported on mud sills and base plates.  Using other methods to balance or to make a scaffold level is out of compliance and is putting those people at risk.

A qualified person is required to design and load scaffolds in accordance to the design. A qualified person is somebody with a certification or experience that has a good understanding of how scaffolds work and how to complete the job safely. A competent person may conduct training, daily inspections of the scaffold for defects, and ensure the safety of people using the scaffolding.  OSHA defines a competent person as somebody with the ability to recognize and identify hazards and has the authority to take corrective measures.

Scaffolds sometimes require support such as guying, tying, and bracing. This is required when a height to base width ratio is greater than 4:1.  Employees are required to wear hardhats on scaffolding to protect them dropped items. Toe boards are required when above 10 feet from the lowest level.  These are great for containing items and tools on the scaffold. There are other options that can be used as well such as screens,  debris nets, or canopy structures. Each platform on scaffolds must be fully decked, and any remaining opening space between the platform and the uprights shall be no greater than 9.5 inches

Scaffolds can be dangerous if improperly erected and neglected. Training and awareness will protect workers from falls and accidental drops of items. Can anyone contribute a time that scaffolding was involved in your work?   Can anyone recall a near miss or accident that could’ve been prevented.