Scaffolding: Working at Heights
The key issue to safety when working on scaffolding boils down to whether or not the scaffold is safe to work on. This means working on scaffolding that has been erected by trained professionals under the supervision of a competent person and that the scaffold has been properly inspected before use. It is also important that each construction worker is equipped with proper protective equipment and has been thoroughly trained on safe work practices when working on scaffolding.
Scaffolding is a temporary structure used on indoor and outdoor work sites as walking or working surface for work crews to assist in maintenance, construction, and repair. When constructed and used properly, scaffolds provide a safe platform to complete work at heights and areas that would be otherwise difficult to reach.
Common hazards associated with scaffolds are:
Falls from elevation, due to lack of fall protection
Collapse of the scaffold, caused by instability or overloading
Being struck by falling tools or debris, due to lack of proper guardrails
Electrocution, due to the proximity of the scaffold to overhead power lines
Unsecured planking, that may cause slips or falls
Untrained personnel, or lack of a competent person on site when scaffolding is in use
While working at heights of 10 feet or more on scaffolding, employees must wear personal fall protection, such as a body harness, and/or ensure a guardrail is in place. Personal fall protection shall:
✓ be inspected prior to use
✓ not be attached to a guardrail system
✓ not be attached to hoisting equipment unless the system prevents the employee from walking off the work surface
In addition to ensuring there is proper fall protection, here are more safety tips that should be followed when working on scaffolding to prevent falls:
Employees shall not climb cross braces or end frames, unless end frames are designed to be climbed.
An access ladder, stair tower or equivalent safe access shall be provided for all scaffolding.
Do not use ladders or makeshift devices on top of scaffolds to increase height.
Employees are prohibited from working on scaffolds covered with snow, ice, or other slippery materials, except to remove these substances.
Do not jump on planks or platforms.
Do not work on scaffolds during high winds.
Do not load a scaffold in excess of its rated working load.
Do not move any scaffold while employees are on them.
Do not mix scaffold components or force pieces to fit together when building the scaffold. This can severely compromise the strength of the scaffolding system.\
Lock casters and wheels when scaffold is in place.
More important reminders when working on or near scaffolding on the job site:
All employees who erect, handle use, inspect, clean or dismantle scaffolding must be trained by a competent person. All users must be trained to spot and report hazards.
Scaffolds and all components shall be inspected by a competent person before each work shift, after changing weather conditions, or after prolonged work interruptions.
Use only the safe means of access on any scaffolding. Immediately repair replace any portion of the scaffolding that is found to be damaged.
Scaffold planks should extend over end supports not less than 6-inches or more than 18-inches.
Do not let loose materials, tools or debris accumulate on any scaffold.
Areas below scaffold work should be barricaded unless a protective canopy is installed.
Be aware of overhead power lines in your work area. Most overhead power lines are not insulated and a safe distance will need to be maintained between the power line and the scaffolding.