What is a scaffold?
A scaffold is an elevated platform that provides stable access to areas of a building or structure that are unreachable from the ground.
In construction, scaffolds are temporary equipment. They’re built to help contractors complete specific tasks and are torn down once those tasks are completed.
Types of construction scaffolding
There are two main types of scaffolds used in construction. These are:
Supported scaffolds, which are supported by load-bearing frames, poles, or legs on the ground
Suspended scaffolds, which are suspended from above by ropes or other support systems
Generally, the same safety procedures apply to each type of scaffold.
Why is scaffold safety important in construction?
Scaffold safety is important because falls are a leading cause of injury on construction sites.
In 2020, falls led to over a third of deaths in the industry, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics. Whenever contractors are working on or with scaffolding, they must follow recommended scaffold safety procedures to protect themselves and their colleagues from slips, tips, falls, and other accidents.
What are the main scaffold hazards?
The most common scaffold hazards and safety violations are:
The more you know about each type of scaffold hazard, the better you can mitigate risks.
Scaffolds need to be built and installed correctly or they may malfunction during use.
Any employee that uses scaffolding should receive the proper training to do so. All employees need to understand and observe scaffold safety rules.
Each scaffold will have a weight limit that should not be exceeded. If the scaffold is overburdened, it may collapse.
The scaffold may be accidentally damaged as work is completed, causing physical hazards or structural issues like cracks in the work platform.
This risk of falls increases if the work platform of a scaffold isn’t equipped with sufficient guardrails.
Carelessly stored tools and materials can easily be tripped over or knocked off the work platform, risking injury to anyone on or below scaffolding.
When using powered tools on a scaffold, improper use or placement of wiring frequently leads to electrical burns and electrocution.
Scaffold safety rules
Following scaffold safety guidelines and closely monitoring the worksite reduces risks and protects employees working from any height.
1. Don’t exceed the weight limit.
Before work begins constructing a scaffold, a safety manager or other trained professional should carefully calculate the weight the scaffold will need to support to complete all planned tasks.
Be sure to factor in the weight of all the workers who will be using the scaffold and any equipment they will be using while on it.
2. Keep the work area clear and clean.
When working on a scaffold, it is especially important to keep the workspace clear of slip, trip, and fall hazards.
Properly store all equipment and materials that are being used on the work platform and clean up any accidental spills or other messes immediately.
3. Use the designated access method.
Workers must access the scaffolding in the correct, designated manner to avoid falls. They must not climb the scaffolding and should use a properly installed ladder or other approved method to access the work platform.
4. Use a scaffold inspection checklist.
It’s important to closely monitor the installation of scaffolding and inspect all scaffolds for damage or construction errors before project-related work begins. Then, as tasks are being completed, you must continuously monitor progress to identify and correct potential hazards or violations.
A scaffold safety checklist helps safety managers, supervisors, and anyone working in the field be sure they don’t miss critical points. They can follow the checklist to inspect the scaffold and provide feedback to those installing or working on it.