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October 30, 2006
Scaffold Safety Do's and Don'ts

A lot of workers get hurt—and some get killed—every year in scaffold accidents. But the good news is, almost all scaffold accidents can be prevented by proper training.

Have you identified the hazards? Scaffold safety training should begin with identification of the hazards. Common hazards include:

  • Falls from elevation, due to lack of fall protection
  • Collapse of the scaffold, caused by instability or overloading
  • Being struck by falling tools, work materials, or debris
  • Electrocution, principally due to proximity of the scaffold to overhead power lines
Why It Matters...
  • It is estimated that more than 2 million construction workers frequently work on scaffolds.
  • OSHA estimates that protecting these workers from scaffold-related accidents would prevent 4,500 injuries and 50 deaths every year.
  • Improved safety performance can also translate into $90 million saved in lost workdays.

Is your training in line with OSHA requirements? OSHA says that each employee who works on a scaffold must be trained by a "qualified" person (i.e., someone who is knowledgeable about scaffold safety) to recognize hazards associated with the type of scaffold being used and understands the procedures necessary to control or minimize those hazards. Training should include:

  • Nature of any electrical hazards, fall hazards, and falling object hazards in the work area
  • Correct procedures for dealing with hazards and for using personal fall arrest systems and falling object protection systems
  • Proper use of scaffolds, and the proper handling of materials on scaffolds
  • Maximum intended load and the load-carrying capacities of scaffolds used

In addition to these topics, employees who are involved in erecting, disassembling, moving, operating, repairing, maintaining, or inspecting scaffolds must be trained in:

  • Correct procedures for erecting, disassembling, moving, etc., the type of scaffold in question
  • Design criteria, maximum intended load-carrying capacity, and intended use of the scaffold

And under OSHA regulations, retraining is required whenever:

  • Changes at the worksite create hazards about which employees have not been previously trained.
  • Changes in the types of scaffolds, fall protection, falling object protection, or other equipment that create new hazards.
  • Inadequacies in employee performance indicate that workers have not retained the essential safety information they were taught initially.

Do they or don't they? To make sure employees are safe when working on scaffolds, teach them these life-saving tips:

DO

  • Make sure a competent person has inspected the scaffold before you go up.
  • Wear a hard hat whether you work on or under a scaffold.
  • Be sure to wear sturdy shoes with nonslip soles as well.
  • Use a personal fall arrest system whenever required.
  • Watch out for co-workers on the scaffold as well as people below.
  • Always use common sense when working on any scaffold, and move around slowly and carefully.
  • Ask a supervisor if you're not sure if a scaffold or working conditions are safe.

DON'T

  • Take chances.
  • Overload a scaffold.
  • Keep debris or unnecessary materials on a scaffold where someone could trip over them or accidentally knock them off the platform.
  • Hit a scaffold with anything heavy—a truck, a forklift, a load of lumber, etc.
  • Leave materials and equipment on the platform at the end of the day.
  • Use an outdoor scaffold in stormy or windy weather, or if it's covered with ice or snow.
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