Scaffolding Safety in Construction

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What is Scaffolding Safety?

There are three things to remember to ensure scaffolding safety: 1) The scaffold must be built under the supervision of a competent person; 2) Workers must be trained by a qualified person before they use the scaffold; and 3) The scaffold and its components should be checked by a competent person and properly tagged before the start of the shift to ensure its integrity and safety.

Around 65% of the construction industry work on scaffolds and experience 4,500 injuries and 60 fatalities annually in the United States alone. To prevent these staggering statistics from recurring better safety inspections, training and controls are needed.

This article covers who are competent and qualified persons, the basic Do’s and Don’ts of scaffolding safety, usage of scaffold tags, and also includes free scaffold safety checklists to help you implement safety in your workplace using iAuditor—the world’s #1 inspection app.

Competent and Qualified Person

According to OSHA, a competent person is “one who is capable of identifying existing and predictable hazards in the surroundings or working conditions, which are unsanitary, hazardous to employees, and who has authorization to take prompt corrective measures to eliminate them.” This is typically someone who holds a scaffolding high-risk work license.

While a qualified person is one who “has successfully demonstrated his/her ability to solve or resolve problems related to the subject matter, the work, or the project.” A qualified person has the right background such as education or degree in designing safe scaffolding, for example this could be someone from the scaffold manufacturer or trained scaffold engineer.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics cites that 72% of scaffold injuries were due to scaffold planking or support giving way, slips, or falling objects. With regular inspections performed by a competent person, adequate scaffold safety training provided by a qualified person, and compliance with local regulatory standards, these dangers can be controlled.

Basic Scaffolding Safety Do’s and Don’ts

Here’s a simple guide you can follow to control the hazards when working on a scaffold:

DO’s:

  1. Inspect the scaffold using a checklist or mobile inspection app before the work shift and ensure it is safe and in proper working order.
  2. Provide proper training.
  3. Have a toolbox talk before beginning work.
  4. Wear appropriate PPE.
  5. Always check inspection tags.
  6. Know the weight capacity of the scaffold.
  7. Have a handhold above the scaffold platform.
  8. Level the scaffold after each move. Do not extend adjusting leg screws more than 12 inches.
  9. Use your safety belts and lanyards when working on scaffolding at a height of 10 feet or more above ground level. Attach the lanyard to a secure member of the scaffold.
  10. Safely use the ladder when climbing the cross braces for access to the scaffold.
  11. Keep both feet on the decking.
  12. Stay off scaffold during loading or unloading.
  13. Ensure planking is overlapping or secured from movement.
  14. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions when erecting the scaffold, under the direct supervision of a competent person.
  15. Be mindful of coworkers working above and below you at all times, as well as others working on the scaffold.
  16. Use the debris chutes or lower things by hoist or by hand.
  17. Chock the wheels of the rolling scaffold, using the wheel blocks, and also lock the wheels by using your foot to depress the wheel-lock, before using the scaffold.
  18. Always use netting to catch anything that falls.

DON’Ts:

  1. Leave anything on the scaffold at the end of your shift.
  2. Overload the scaffold.
  3. Use unstable objects such as barrels, boxes, loose brick or concrete blocks to support scaffolds, increase your work height or planks.
  4. Work on platforms or scaffolds unless they are fully planked.
  5. Use a scaffold unless guardrails and all flooring are in place.
  6. Stand on ties, guardrails, or extensions.
  7. Use the scaffold if it appears damaged in any way, has been tampered with, or if there are components missing such as planking, guardrails, toeboards, debris nets or protective canopies.
  8. Walk on scaffold planking covered in ice, snow or mud.
  9. Avoid using a scaffold during adverse weather such as heavy rain, sleet, ice snow or strong winds.
  10. Climb on any portion of the scaffold frame not intended for climbing.
  11. Never climb with any materials or tools in your hand, they should be hoisted up to the scaffold separately.
  12. Jump from, to, or between scaffolding.
  13. Lean out or overreach outside the guardrails.
  14. Rock the scaffold.
  15. Throw anything “overboard” unless a spotter is available.
  16. Move a mobile scaffold if anyone is on it.

Guidelines in Tagging Scaffolds

Scaffold tags are used to protect the lives of your workers. It identifies if a scaffold is safe or unsafe for use. Follow the guidelines below when tagging scaffolds.

  1. Inspection and tagging of the scaffold are to be performed by a competent person experienced in the erection of scaffold.
  2. A unique scaffold identification tag number must be clearly identified on all tags for tracking purposes.
  3. All scaffolds shall be inspected after the erection per regulatory requirements.
  4. All scaffold identification tags wlil be of a solid green, yellow, or red color with black lettering.
  5. Front information displayed and completed for each tag.
  6. It is common practice to use the following color schemes: Green, Yellow, Red
    • Green – tags will be hung on scaffolds that have been inspected and are safe for use. A green “SAFE FOR USE” tag(s), and should be attached to the scaffold at each access point after the initial inspection is complete.
      green tag
    • Yellow – “CAUTION” tag(s), will replace all green “Safe Scaffold” tag(s) whenever the scaffold has been modified to meet work requirements, and as a result, could present a hazard to the user. This tag indicates special requirements for safe use.
      yellow tag
      NOTE: Use of the “yellow tag” status is not intended to override the green tag system. All efforts should be made to return the scaffold to a “Green Tag” status as soon as possible.
    • Red – “DANGER – UNSAFE FOR USE” tag(s), will be used during erection or dismantling when the scaffold is left unattended and replace all green “Safe for Use ” tag(s) or yellow “Caution / Hazard “ tag(s) in the event a scaffold has been deemed unfit for use.
      red tag