Don’t Overlook Scaffold Safety

Filed in Safety by on November 1, 2016 4 Comments

Scaffolds are used so often on job sites, it’s easy to forget how dangerous they can be. Serious injuries can happen when workers fall or when tools and equipment drop from scaffolds, so it’s incredibly important to practice these basic safety tips:


Put Scaffolds on Solid Footing

Scaffolds have to be erected on ground that won’t sink or move, and able to support, without failure, four times the maximum intended load.

If the ground isn’t solid — if it’s muddy or sandy — use mudsills, such as wood planks, to make the footing stable and prevent sinking.  In addition, you must use the adjustable feet and base plates that came with the scaffold to uniformly distribute the scaffold load over a larger area.  Remember that the wood should only be used to stop sinking and not as cribbing when the ground is uneven.

Additionally, masonry blocks and bricks cannot be used for support, according to Occupational Safety & Health Administration standards.

Use Guardrails and Toeboards

Guardrails and toeboards help keep people, tools and equipment from falling off a scaffold. Guardrails have to be on all scaffolds more than 10 feet above the ground and can be made using two-by-fours or metal. Guardrails need to be about 42 inches high with a midrail at about 21 inches, just like the guardrails inside the house. The guardrail has to go around all open sides and ends. A guardrail needs to be placed in front of the scaffold as well, unless the worker is close enough to work without falling through.

Toeboards on the perimeter of the scaffolding have to be at least 3-1/2 inches tall or as high as material on the scaffold to prevent the material from falling off.


Pay Attention to the Planking Too

Use scaffold-grade planking, which is very strong and free from cracks and knots. When installing the planking, make sure it extends between six and 12 inches beyond the end of the scaffold. Also, make sure the planks overlap themselves by at least 12 inches or are secured in place. If using pre-made platforms as planking, make sure they are secured and stay put.

Do Not Use Scaffolds as Ladders

Climbing the scaffold supports may seem like the easiest and most convenient route, but that’s not their intended use. Remember, they are engineered to support four times their weight so workers can work reliably safe on them. To get there, use a good ladder. It’s the safest way.

Keep on the Lookout for Damage

Anytime a part of the scaffold is damaged, including braces, brackets, screw legs, ladders or planking, make sure it gets replaced or repaired. And keep an eye out for sinking footings.

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Comments (4)

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  1. We had some contractors come and re-anchor a new landing to an outdoor 2nd flight of stairs: their scaffolding was impressive, given all the pounding, drilling, sawing, and soldering they were up to. But safety’s too often ignored at work sites, especially in high-volume areas, these days.

  2. Completely agree with Nick – safety is far too often overlooked when it comes to working at height these days. The post is a pretty comprehensive guide on safety though, great work. One thing we might add, however, is to ensure that at least one of the professionals working on the tower are fully trained and able to oversee the safety aspects of the construction and use of the tower.

  3. Ellie Davis says:

    Thank you for pointing out that you need to make sure your scaffolding is secure on the ground. Making sure your workers are properly trained on scaffolding seems very important. Hopefully, any company using this looks into finding the best training possible.

  4. Greg says:

    This is so important and is often overlooked, scaffolding safety is important for those working on it as well as for those on the ground. I feel safe pass training does not stress this enough and recommends a safety course specifically for this type of awareness.

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