The following scaffolding safety tips are based on recent reports posted online by (1) manufacturers and distributors of scaffolding systems, (2) OSHA and EPA, (3) trade worker groups, and (4) construction companies. See list of credits at the end of the article. Look for “*Bob’s Tip:”
*Bob’s Tip: Wear full protection gear at all times unless OSHA Standard §1926 covers your exception and special on-site circumstance.
SCAFFOLDING SAFETY TIPS – App-Sized List
Tip 1: Slow down every phase of a project requiring use of a scaffolding system.
Tip 2: Do a careful walk-through of work-site before set-up day. Address potential problems.
Tip 3: Do not rush scaffolding installation. Use approved connectors and braces. Make certain all components are put in right places, and fit properly.
Tip 4: *Bob’s Tip: Maximize ground-level prep work. Or, use efficiency-building alternatives.
Tip 5: *Bob’s Tip: Keep scaffolding “work zone” at least 20 feet in diameter.
Tip 6: Keep workplace organized, and walk/standing spaces clear.
Tip 7: *Bob’s Tip: Identify potential hazards, and promptly neutralize.
Tip 8: Get proper training to use scaffolding.
1. Phases of project can include pre-project site inspection, system unloading and set-up, work on scaffolding, system take-down and loading, site clean-up.
2. Potential hazards: anything that can impede worker, tool/equipment positioning, use, mobility.
3. OSHA Standard § 1926.454 requires that at least one person on-site be certified in scaffold installation, operation, use, maintenance, and inspections.
SCAFFOLDING SAFETY TIPS: HAULING, INSTALLATION and USE
* Note: To emphasize a point, I’ve sub-divided some of the tips.
1. Haul scaffolding safely. Stack components as low as possible: planks, braces, bases, then frames. Keep stacks between the well walls.
2. Cover the entire width of scaffolding bay or standing area with planks. When not possible, install another plank higher up to create a “quad-rail.” Always install a diagonal “gooser brace” when working on casters.
3. Install base jacks or casters so entire scaffold doesn’t need to be lifted to slide them in; and both cross braces on same frame. *Bob’s Tip: A must for one-person installers. Move second frame into position and attach cross-braces to bottom. Before installing planks, slide scaffolding 14-inches from the wall.
4. Install guard rail on at least three sides of scaffolding system. *Bob’s Tip: Install on all four sides, if possible. Do not wear safety harness when it could cause you to pull down scaffolding on top of you.
5. Maintain “three-point” contact.** Keep one hand and two feet, or two hands and one foot, touching the scaffolding frame when climbing it. Note: From www.constructionpro.com editor.
6. Build a stable base, whether you’re using casters or base plates. Recommended: 2-in. by 10-inch wood block under each leg, even when working on concrete. Level and plumb scaffold using an adjustable base jack. Never set scaffolding frame on masonry or stacks of wood.
7. Keep tools and supplies in toolboxes, caddies and buckets. Install 2-by-4 board around all four sides, and secure at corners with sturdy wire. *Bob’s Tip: Use carriers around parameter of that base to keep walkway/standing area clear.
8. Use ladder to access platform when wood planks extend over the ends. Run ladder 3-plus feet past edges of planks. Lean on wall, never on the scaffold.
9. Wood planks must measure at least 2 inches thick by 10 feet long. They must extend 6-15 inches over edge of frame. They must be held in place with cleats in good-to-great condition.
10. Use sturdy wood for planking – eg. Douglas fir, Pine, laminated veneer lumber (LVL). Renting scaffolding? Look for safety stamp on each edge of each plank. (See no. 15 below.) Avoid softer pines. Avoid boards that have larger knots, and/or are warped, slick, finished, covered with “globs.”
11. Build a handy workbench by installing planks at a higher level than your walkway planks.
12. Do not mix and match or combine scaffolding styles. Avoid combining scaffolding systems from different manufacturers. NOTE: If you have no choice, please follow advice below.
13. Special tips when you must combine styles and components.
A. *Bob’s Tip: Identify the different scaffolding manufacturers you’re dealing with; jot down information
B. *Bob’s Tip: Quickly list components you have, and components you need to install OSHA-safe system.
C. Measure overall frame, tube diameters inside/outside, cross brace stud spacing and location
D. * Bob’s Tip: Check design of tubing, brace studs, connections. Make certain components are compatible.
E. *Bob’s Tip: Closely examine condition of scaffolding system before and after assembly
14. Scaffolding Inspections – paintshop-owned systems. Make certain inspections are part of periodic equipment maintenance within paintshop. Make sure inspections are carried out by person very experienced in scaffolding construction.
15. Scaffolding Inspections – rental-owned system. Inspect scaffolding BEFORE you allow it to be loaded onto your truck at rental place. Check all piping, connectors, base plates, etc. Check for a safety stamp on each edge of each plank.
16. Scaffolding Installation. Stay clear of power lines – at least 10-feet away, on all sides and top. *Bob’s Tip 1: This includes phone lines and cables, main electrical/ circuitry/ switch boxes, etc. *Bob’s Tip 2: Stay clear of structural sharp edges; embankments, ledges, drop-offs; large obstructions, etc.
17. *Bob’s Top Tip: Wear that hard hat, whether you’re up on that scaffolding, or on the ground. OSHA Standard §1926 Exception: You’re using equipment such as a full-head respirator, and the hat won’t fit, etc.
BOTTOM LINE: All scaffolding systems are inherently unsafe. The level of safety that any given system can provide depends on people and their commitment to scaffolding safety.
1. “5 Safety Tips When Working with Scaffolding,” from Kee Safety Company, By Kimberly Hegeman, March 25, 2013. https://www.forconstructionpros.com, (Also read: “A Guide to Scaffold Use in the Construction Industry.”)
2. “Scaffolding Safety Tips for Handling, Installation and Use,” based on “12 ConstructionPro Scaffolding Safety Tips and Handy Hints,” Construction Pro Tips.com.
Copyright June 12, 2018. Robert D. Hajtovik. All rights reserved.