The rules of scaffolding safety may be simple, but in matters of safety, simplicity is never something to be taken for granted. Steer clear of safety complications with our guide to the basics of safe scaffold usage.
One of the most tragic things about workplace and equipment-related injuries is how often they could have been prevented. According to the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration, about 50 to 60 people die each year by falling from a scaffold. OSHA statistics also show that about 20% of all scaffold accidents happen as a result of electrocutions; 10% are falls, and 10% are caused by falling objects.
A scaffold accident can occur for a variety of reasons: poor assembly, overweight loads, proximity to power lines, inadequate fall protection, etc. Following these basic scaffolding safety tips will help you to avoid some of the most common causes of scaffold-related injuries.
A metal scaffold near power lines is a bad combination unless you've provided sufficient distance for safety. The OSHA minimum distance from insulated energized power lines is three feet if less than 300 volts, and 10 feet if 300 volts or more, including an additional 0.4 inches for every 1 kv over 50 kv. If power lines are uninsulated, the minimum working distance should be at least 10 feet.
OSHA guidelines state that if a scaffold is more than 10 feet above a level, fall protection of some kind must be put in place. In addition, scaffolds that are more than two feet above or below a level must have a ladder, ramp, or hoist for access. There are two basic types of scaffold fall protection: guardrail systems and personal fall arrest systems, e.g. harnesses.
Falling object injuries are obviously more likely to occur in situations where multiple people are at work on various levels, including the roof, the scaffold, and the ground. To protect yourself or your employees from falling hand tools, debris, and other objects, the installation of a debris net, canopy, or barricade is recommended. A minimum 3.5-inch toe board should also be used to prevent objects from falling off the scaffold.
Being caught in or between scaffold components is one of the four leading scaffold hazards. Scaffold planks and platforms should be placed no more than one inch apart. Ties, guys, or bracing should be used as protection against toppling, particularly in cases of wind hazard or if the scaffold height exceeds four times its base width.
Inspect your job site before scaffold erection to ensure safe placement. Inspect the scaffold and wood deck before use for damage or deterioration.