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Scaffolding Safety Tips that May Save Your Life

An estimated 2.3 million construction workers, or 65 percent of the construction industry, work on scaffolds. But scaffolding hazards continue to rank high on the list of the most frequently cited standards in the construction industry. [Source: US DOL]

TRAINING Working on scaffolding can be very dangerous if the proper safety precautions are not maintained. Safety regulations mandate that all workers involved in scaffolding work receive proper training. This helps keep everyone on and around the scaffolding safe at all times.

DON'T OVERLOAD Follow the safe load capacities as given by the scaffold manufacturer. There is a limit even to what steel can support. Scaffolding and components must support their own weight and 4 times the maximum intended load applied.

DAMAGED PARTS Before setting up your work platforms, you must inspect all of your materials before construction. Make sure none of the parts you use have any defects or damage that could compromise the structural integrity of your scaffolds. Bent or otherwise damaged end frames or braces should not be used. Replace any compromised components immediately.

INSPECTIONS Scaffolding structures need to be constantly maintained and inspected in order to retain their structural integrity and safety. Inspections by the general contractor, contractor, or owner on a periodic and daily basis are needed to ensure the structure remains functional and safe, making sure that boards are all still intact and that all of the components are still in good shape. Scaffolds with a height to base width ratio of more than 4:1 should be tied or braced to the building. Always follow manufacturer recommendations.

WEATHER CHECKS Avoid working on scaffolds in bad weather or high winds. Platforms should be cleared of ice and snow. Use extra caution to prevent falls.

IDENTIFY HAZARDS Hazard awareness will help you avoid danger and easily solve problems.

Common hazards are:

  • Falls from elevation, due to lack of fall protection

  • Collapse of scaffolding, caused by instability or overloading

  • Being struck by falling tools, work materials, or debris

  • Electrocution, principally due to proximity of the scaffold to overhead power lines

EQUIPMENT Any workers who will be on or around scaffolding should be wearing the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) to guard against injury. This includes headgear which will protect against falling objects, high quality gloves which will protect against cuts and abrasions, and non-slip footwear which will grip surfaces better, especially if they happen to be somewhat moist. All of it will help maximize your safety.

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