General Scaffold Safety Do’s and Don’ts
Scaffolds are widely used as temporary platforms in new construction, routine maintenance, and general industry work. OSHA estimates that about 65% of all construction workers perform work on scaffolds every year.
When you think about the variety of applications scaffolds are used for, would you ever question the safety or durability of them? Sure hope your answer is yes!
Although scaffolds are regularly used, they contribute to an estimated 9,000 injuries and 79 fatalities annually, per OSHA. Scaffold citations continue to soar to the Top 10 OSHA list.
No matter how safe or sturdy a scaffold may look, it can only support the weight capacity specified by the manufacturer.
OSHA has very specific standards outlined in 29 CFR 1926.451 General Requirements for Scaffolding to protect workers. They require each scaffold or scaffolding component to be capable of supporting, without failure, its own weight and at least four times the maximum intended load.
All scaffolds must be rated by the manufacturer to withstand the maximum load capacity. They determine the rating by the frame and cross-bracing design of the scaffold and its plank requirements.
Before a worker can consider walking on a scaffold, they must be properly trained by a qualified person. Training includes identification of electrocution, falls, and fall object hazards. A competent person has to inspect the scaffold before the work shift to ensure it’s safe for use.
Here's a comprehensive list of the do’s and don’ts when using a scaffold, as noted per OSHA.
- Do be mindful of coworkers working above and below
- Do stay off scaffold during loading or unloading
- Do replace guardrails after loading or unloading
- Do use 3-point climbing
- Do exit mobile scaffolds before moving
- Do always wear full protection to avoid accidents
- Do follow OSHA standards for scaffold safety, including personal fall arrest system requirements.
- Don’t allow debris or materials to collect on scaffold
- Don’t’ overreach outside the guardrails
- Don’t stand on ties, guardrails, or extensions
- Don’t overload the scaffold. Proper training includes being informed about the max intended load of the scaffold you’re working on, as well as its load-carrying capacities
- Don’t use a scaffold if it appears to be damaged in any way
- Don’t climb on any portion of the scaffold frame not intended for climbing
- Don’t walk on scaffold planking covered in mud, water, snow, or ice
Regardless of the structural design of the scaffold, workers must be trained to recognize terms associated with capacity limits when working on scaffolds.
How can you visually protect workers?
- Use scaffold inspection tags to provide a detailed list of the safety requirements and for whom it’s constructed for
- Post weight limit signs and labels
- Use lockouts when a scaffold isn’t ready to be used
- Restrict access with barricades if the scaffold is unsafe and needs to be taken apart
In addition to these scaffold safety do’s and don’ts, using a guardrail on a scaffold is very critical in preventing falls. Nearly ¾ of the reported scaffold accidents are caused by improper guarding, per OSHA.
Guardrails are not required, however:
- When the front end of all platforms are less than 14 inches (36 centimeters) from the face of the work
- When outriggers scaffolds are 3 inches (8 centimeters) or less from the front edge
- When employees are plastering and lathing 18 inches (46 centimeters) or less from the edge.
Never assume the scaffold is safe. Always follow OSHA safety requirements and ensure a competent person inspects the integrity of the scaffold.