Working on scaffolds is one of the major safety risks present on construction sites. A recent article in Safety & Health Magazine points out the major hazards and makes suggestions for how to avoid them, which we will summarize below.
Hazards of working on scaffolds include falls, struck-bys, wind, and electrical hazards from being in proximity to power lines. These hazards can be mitigated by engaging in the following best practices:
- Inspect the scaffold before use. Before use, a scaffold should be inspected by someone who is able to identify hazards to make sure that:
- access on and off the scaffold meets OSHA requirements,
- all work areas are fully planked and decked,
- all guardrails are installed or alternative fall protection is provided, and that
- the scaffold is guyed and tied to the building correctly.
- Use fall protection and guardrails. Some workers think if the scaffold isn't far off the ground that they can't get hurt, but falls from as few as 6 feet can cause serious injury or death.
- Avoid and prevent falling objects. Use toe boards around the scaffold to prevent objects from rolling off and striking someone below. Keep a clean workplace so the hazard of tripping or knocking something off the scaffold is reduced.
- Utilize wind screens on higher scaffolds. If the area is subject to winds of over 25mph, install a wind screen to prevent objects from being tossed around. Absent a wind screen, a personal fall protection system can be used to address the risk from high winds.
- Keep a 10ft clearance between power lines and anything on the scaffold.
- Know the load limit of the scaffold and stay within it. This includes the weight of the workers and of the materials being used on the scaffold.