Prevent scaffolding accidents from happening

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Through the years, we have seen some serious accidents with scaffolding all over the world. Severe winds led to collapsed scaffolding in Gibraltar and the United States, thankfully without any casualties. Even worse, there have been a lot of fatal accidents when scaffolding collapsed and workers fell several stories in the United States, Hong Kong, Malaysia and the United Kingdom.

All over the world accidents with scaffolds happen. These accidents can almost always be fitted in four categories; falls from height, collapsing scaffolds, being struck by falling objects and electrocution. As we want everyone to work at height safely so they can return home to their families without incident, we’ve decided to put together a list of tips for working with scaffolds.

Scaffold requirements differ from country to country, and even within countries legislation may vary. Always check the local regulations applicable to your work site when using a scaffold and ensure the safety everyone working on or under the scaffold.

All employees working with or on a scaffold must be trained by someone who is knowledgeable about scaffold safety.

Employees:

  • Must be able to recognize hazards associated with working on a scaffold, such as fall hazards and the danger of falling objects.
  • Must understand the safety procedures to minimize hazards.
  • Must understand how to use of fall protection and prevent objects from falling.
  • Need to be instructed on proper use of scaffolds.
  • Must know the maximum intended load of the scaffold.
  • Must be instructed on the proper handling of materials on scaffolds.

The scaffold needs to be erected by trained professionals under supervision of a competent person.

Installation should always happen in accordance to the manufacturer’s recommended procedures. Do not intermix scaffold components from different manufacturers!

An incomplete scaffold must be clearly blocked off with, for example, a warning notice stating the scaffold shouldn’t be used.

Ensure that the scaffold is level and stable. Begin with solid footing, place scaffold base plates, sills or footers firmly on the ground and lock scaffold wheels (if applicable) when in use.

Once installed, secure the scaffold to the building or ensure it is properly braced to prevent movement. Never move a mobile scaffold when it’s in use.

Install guardrails, midrails and toeboards on scaffolds to protect your employees from fall hazards.

Provide safe access to work platforms via an internal access stairway, a built-in ladder or a fixed ladder. Don’t let workers climb on parts of the frame that aren’t meant for climbing, such as the cross braces.

Make certain that no one uses blocks or ladders on a scaffold to create more working height. If a certain area can’t be reached request that the scaffold be raised.

Scaffolds need to be properly inspected before use and after any incident that could have damaged the stability. Regular inspection is particularly important when a scaffold is in place for a long time.

Check:

  • the base to see if it is level and sound.
  • posts, frames and uprights.
  • metal components for bends, cracks, corrosion, rust etc.
  • to see if planks are close together and properly secured.
  • That guardrails and toe boards are installed safely and securely

If an inspection signals a problem access to the scaffold must be restricted and the scaffold will need to be repaired or replaced.

Don’t erect scaffolds near electrical overhead wires. Try to operate scaffolds away from the power lines (check local legislation to see how far away you should set up your scaffold). If you need to be where power lines are ensure that they are deenergized.

In some situations, employees working on a scaffold should wear fall protection personal protective equipment (PPE), such as a harness and a lanyard. When a fall accident occurs, their fall will be arrested. Always check local legislation to see what PPE is required when working at height on a scaffold.

Additionally workers working on or near a scaffold should wear a hard hat and protective shoes with nonslip soles.

Don’t leave tools or building materials laying around on the scaffold, especially at the end of your workday. Clean up any mess immediately. Ensure that tools or material can’t fall down and that no one can trip over them.

In training employees should have learned about the maximum intended load of the scaffold. Ensure that the scaffold you are using can support 4 times your intended load. And ensure that the scaffold isn’t overloaded with people or materials. Keep an eye on any signs of distress or displacement.

When working at height you should always check weather forecasts. Don’t work on a scaffold if weather circumstances make the surface slippery or when there are strong winds. If a scaffold is erected correctly and secured properly winds may not have a great effect on the materials, but the wind can still cause workers to loose balance.

Don’t sacrifice safety for speed. When you are working on a scaffold you should move around slowly and carefully. Even with protective measures you are still working at height and the risk of a fall is always there. Keep yourself, and your co-workers safe by being careful.

Personal Protective Equipment

Secondly, ensure that all those who have to access the roof are aware of the safety procedures and are equipped with the proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), such as protective boots, safety glasses, a safety helmet and gloves. Additionally, depending on what type of fall protection is necessary to keep workers safe, fall protection PPE needs to be worn. For example, a full body harness with a lanyard so that a worker can attach to a horizontal lifeline system.

Download poster with safety tips

To help employers and employees with scaffold safety we’ve compiled 10 tips on a poster. Print this poster and hang it somewhere everyone can see to keep safety on scaffolding top of mind.

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