Scaffolding Safety Among Top Ten OSHA Violations

Scaffolding Safety Among Top Ten OSHA Violations

According the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, 65 percent of construction workers – about 2.3 million – work frequently on scaffolding. And although scaffolds are used to provide a stable platform for elevated work, scaffolding still makes OSHA’s top ten list of safety violations each year.

Why this is so is not clear. Some accidents can be prevented through training and regulation, but workers may ignore what they’ve learned. Workers still fall from scaffolding almost every day. Many injured workers point to planking or support giving way, or to slipping, or being struck by falling objects. Others note the environments that scaffolds work in are filled with potential dangers, such as falling materials, big holes in the ground, electrical hazards and traffic obstacles. These types of situations need to have scaffolding tags and highly visible safety messages to alert workers and pedestrians to potentially treacherous conditions.

Scaffolding systems

Scaffolding is basically one of three types:
* Self support, which has supports from poles or frames.  Examples include mobile or rolling scaffolding.
* Suspension.  The platforms look similar to self-supporting scaffolds because they consist of a platform with supports. Supports are from overhead structures and suspend in the air with ropes and pulleys.
* Specialty.  A roof-supported scaffold that has triangular- shaped supports and fastens to the roof.

A scaffolding system consists of a modular system of metal tubes or pipes with end frames, toe boards and cross braces, plus base plates and a guardrail system. The distance between frames is determined by the length of the cross braces and other specifications. In the U.S., tubes are either steel or aluminum that come in various lengths at a standard diameter. Boards/planks of seasoned wood with difference thicknesses provide a working surface. Aluminum planks are also used. The board ends are protected by metal plates called hoop irons or nail plates. Timber or steel decking is used to laminate boards. Different types of couplers hold the tubes together.

Key safety considerations

• The use of extension ladders, planks and ladder jacks as scaffolding alternatives.
• Ensure scaffold planks are not cracked or damaged.
• See that proper gaps exist between the planks, and that guardrails are in place and completely functional.
• Make sure the scaffolding rests on ground that is level and solid.
• Test safety harnesses, rigging and other safety accessories.
• Remember some workers may not feel comfortable working from a scaffold or a ladder.
• Scaffold workers should not work during high winds, storms or if snow falls.

Safety training

Working competently and safely with scaffolding involves safety training. Such training should cover:
• Competent person regulations of OSELA75
• Building and dismantling several types of frame.
• Tube and coupler scaffolds.
• How to determine the size needed; how to draft scaffold drawings.
• How to calculate the scaffold material required.
• How to calculate the weights in the scaffold planks, bearers, couplers and posts.

New scaffolding features developed

Manufacturers in the U.S. believe OSHA needs to recognize new and potentially safer types of scaffolding. Some suggest that foreign scaffold manufacturers have lower standards and offer less traceability of materials used for scaffold construction. U.S. manufacturers, however, tout safety features they have developed for different types of scaffolding, such as:
• Swing tubes wrapped in yellow and black reflective tape that allow for access and for the protection of a guardrail during the job.
• Mud sills used under screw jack base plates to level sloping ground.
• Outriggers that add stability for free standing or rolling scaffolds.
• Guy wires, caster locks, deck wind locks for bad weather conditions.
• Caps for the ends of tube and clamp scaffold to avoid cuts and abrasions.
• Netting to keep tools and equipment in place.

Safety – a multi-level approach

As you can see, there’s a lot involved is scaffolding safety. Because of this, scaffolding safety requires a multi-level approach, starting with greater awareness of the dangers of scaffolding, and including increased access to scaffold safety training, continued manufacturing innovation, and OSHA keeping its eye on scaffold use.

Most immediately, tags and labels that support safety messages can be a good first step toward putting safety foremost in people’s minds.

The OSHA scaffolding regulations

Those working with or near a scaffold should know the answers to these questions and others, based on OSHA 29 CFR 1926.451:

* Is the scaffold constructed to maintain a safety factor of four times the anticipated load?
* Has a qualified person designed the scaffold?
* Is the platform at least 18 inches wide?
* Are open sides of the scaffold less than 14 in. from the face of the work?
* Has a competent person evaluated the scaffold?
* If using components of different manufacturers, do these components fit securely together, and has a competent person determined their safety for use?
* Does the scaffold adhere to the 4-to-l base to height ratio requirement?
* Are scaffolds placed on adequate, firm footings?
* Can the footings hold four times the intended load without settling?
* Is the scaffold plumb and braced to avert swaying or displacement?
* Has a ladder been provided or safe access to all scaffold platforms?
* If damaged, have the affected part or parts been repaired, replaced or removed as required?
* Do all scaffolds have proper clearances from power lines?
* Are scaffolds checked for missing planks on platforms, proper access and properly tied off to buildings?
* Are frame scaffolds the best choice for the particular job?
* Are all employees involved with or near the scaffold wearing hard hats?
* Are footings sound and rigid?
* Are wheels/casters locked?

Scaffolding safety resources

* ANSI/ASSE A10.S-2011, Scaffolding Safety Requirements
www.asse.org/cartpage.php?link=standards

* O SHA7S Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health
www.osha.gov/doc/accsh

* OSHAs 77A Guide to Scaffold Use in the Construction Industry”
www.osha.gov/Publications/osha3150.pdf

* OSHAs Scaffolding eTool
www.osha.gov/SLTC/etools/scaffolding

* Scaffold and Access Industry Association
www.saiaonline.org

* Scaffolding, Shoring and Forming Institute
www.ssfi.org