Fall prevention is one of the biggest buzz words of construction safety. Fall prevention spread through so many different areas of construction, including scaffolding use and safety.
1. Erecting the Scaffolding: safety begins with properly erecting the scaffold. Scaffold platforms must be designed by an OSHA qualified professional familiar with load capacity and support structures. The footings should be rigid and stable. Don’t use bricks, barrels, boxes, or other objects to support your scaffold because these materials could shift or move. OSHA requires that ladder jack scaffolds and roof bracket scaffolds be at least 12 inches wide.
The planks of the scaffold should be strong enough to hold four times the load that’s actually on them. If a scaffold is designed to support one person, don’t let two people work on it at the same time. The wire or rope that supports the scaffold must be able to support six times the designated load for the scaffolding.
2. Keep your workplace organized: avoid slip, trip, and fall hazards by keeping the worksite organized. When working with scaffolding, keeping tools organized can reduce the risk of tools falling from scaffolding. It can also make moving around on the scaffolding safer for workers.
3. Identify Hazards: this should be done before work starts and while work is being done. Identify possible hazards and solutions prior to the start of work. Working near power lines? Keep scaffolding far enough away to prevent electrocution risks. Will the scaffolding need to be moved during the project? Form a game plan before each erection.
4. Prepare and inspect before a project: Prior to any job, it’s important to take time to ensure scaffolding and equipment are in sound working order, and that the location where scaffolding is to be used does not pose any hazards, such as overhead lines or obstructions, or uneven surfaces that may require additional bracing, anchors, and proper adjustment. Check guardrails, planks, and decks to ensure they’re installed properly, and be sure all braces are in place with secured locking mechanisms.
5. Ensure workers are adequately trained: Any worker who’ll be using scaffolding should be adequately trained on their design and operation. Proper training can go a long way in avoiding preventable accidents, so be sure workers have an understanding of how to safely get on and off scaffolding, avoid hazards like falls, work within load-bearing capacity, and correctly assemble and disassemble structures.
6. Be consistent with regular maintenance: Keeping scaffolding safe requires a commitment to regular maintenance and inspection. Even if equipment appeared fine and in working order on a previous project, it should always be thoroughly inspected to ensure it can be used safely. Be sure to check for any materials or obstructions that should be removed, signs of excessive wear, warping, or rust on components like braces and frames, and signs of weakness in any trusses, beams, welds, or other parts of suspended platforms. Having a competent and qualified worker familiar with safety requirements and scaffolding design perform these checks is wise, as is having policies to report anything that looks unusual or unsafe.
7. Don’t overload: scaffold manufacturers load capacity should be enforced. Overloading it with equipment and materials should be avoided otherwise it will collapse.