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When set up properly and used safely, scaffolding can provide a stable and secure work area that's just as safe as working on the ground. Absent of proper training and qualified managers, however, these structures can be responsible for major physical injuries and even death. If you work on or around scaffolding, these tips will help you both avoid and prevent serious harm.
Never Rush to Start the Job
Scaffolding should be thoroughly inspected at the start and end of each workday. Before being cleared for use, scaffolding should be checked to ensure:
- It's on level ground
- No overhead obstructions, including wires
- Properly anchored
- Capable of supporting more than four times the anticipated load
- Positioned such that each leg is plumb (vertical)
All bracing systems should be engaged and secured via the installed locking mechanisms. Moreover, all guardrails, planks, decks, and other surfaces and safety components should be fully intact and correctly assembled.
No worker should be allowed to work on, under, or around scaffolding until a sufficient amount of equipment-specific safety training has been received. While construction sites present many workplace dangers, falls in particular cause hundreds of deaths annually (Source: www.dandalaw.com).
Training should cover the weight limits or load-bearing capacity of the structure, along with best practices for on and off-boarding. Each employee should be well-versed in the requirements for personal protective equipment (PPE), and on the best strategies for avoiding falls.
Calculate the Total Weight of Loads
One of the most common causes of scaffolding accidents is a failure to calculate the total weight of the anticipated load correctly. While it's often easy to tally the weight of construction materials and equipment, the additional weight of each employee and their PPE should be accounted for as well.
The best safety practice is to ensure that only one-fourth of the system's load-bearing capacity is being onboarded at any given time.
Encourage Employee Feedback
Every member of the team should feel comfortable speaking out about any perceived safety issues. When employees notice loose, wobbly, or damaged areas, they should have a clear point of contact for ensuring that these issues are quickly inspected or resolved.
Wear a Safety Harness for Heights
A safety harness is an absolutely essential form of PPE for anyone working at a significant height. Whether this gear is supplied by employers or employees are required to secure it for themselves, harnesses should be high in quality, undamaged, and capable of supporting the individuals wearing them.
Safety harnesses that have been used in former fall events should not be reused due to potential loss of integrity.
Report Impact Events Right Away
If someone taps scaffolding with a vehicle or forklift, a stop-work order should be issued right immediately. Even seemingly minor incidents can have a major impact on the stability of these systems. Inspections that follow an impact event should always be performed and cleared by an appropriately qualified individual.
Working on scaffolding does not have to be dangerous or nerve-wracking. Properly installing, inspecting, and maintaining this equipment can greatly limit the risk of physical injury. Along with diligent damage reporting, proper training, and work environments that allow employees to freely offer feedback, businesses can keep their job sites safe and accident-free.
When companies fail to train their team members properly, provide management capable of issuing emergency stop-work orders, or fail to install any portion of these systems, the resulting accidents or injuries may qualify the injured parties for workers’ compensation. If you’ve been injured while working around scaffolding, ask your lawyer for more information.