What is Scaffolding Safety?
Scaffolding safety is a set of pre-emptive actions in building, inspecting, using, and tagging scaffolds. To ensure scaffolding safety, the scaffold must be built under the supervision of a competent person, and workers must be trained by a qualified person before they use the scaffold. The scaffold and its components should also be checked by a competent person and properly tagged before the start of the shift to ensure its integrity and safety.
Why is Scaffolding Safety Important?
Around 65% of the construction industry work on scaffolds and experience 4,500 injuries and 60 fatalities annually in the United States alone. Scaffolding safety is important because it can help prevent workplace incidents from recurring. With baseline scaffold requirements to keep workers safe such as better inspections, training, and controls, frontline teams can ensure scaffolding safety and be proactive about building a safety culture from the ground up.
OSHA Scaffolding Safety: Who is a 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.
Scaffolding Safety Requirements: Basic Do’s and Don’ts
Here’s a simple guide you can follow to control the hazards when working on a scaffold:
Scaffolding Safety Do’s:
- Inspect the scaffold using a checklist or mobile inspection app before the work shift and ensure it is safe and in proper working order.
- Provide proper training.
- Have a toolbox talk before beginning work.
- Wear appropriate PPE.
- Always check inspection tags.
- Know the weight capacity of the scaffold.
- Have a handhold above the scaffold platform.
- Level the scaffold after each move. Do not extend adjusting leg screws more than 12 inches.
- 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.
- Safely use the ladder when climbing the cross braces for access to the scaffold.
- Keep both feet on the decking.
- Stay off scaffold during loading or unloading.
- Ensure planking is overlapping or secured from movement.
- Follow the manufacturer’s instructions when erecting the scaffold, under the direct supervision of a competent person.
- Be mindful of co-workers working above and below you at all times, as well as others working on the scaffold.
- Use the debris chutes or lower things by hoist or by hand.
- 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.
- Always use netting to catch anything that falls.
Scaffolding Safety Don’ts:
- Leave anything on the scaffold at the end of your shift.
- Overload the scaffold.
- Use unstable objects such as barrels, boxes, loose brick or concrete blocks to support scaffolds, increase your work height or planks.
- Work on platforms or scaffolds unless they are fully planked.
- Use a scaffold unless guardrails and all flooring are in place.
- Stand on ties, guardrails, or extensions.
- 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.
- Walk on scaffold planking covered in ice, snow or mud.
- Avoid using a scaffold during adverse weather such as heavy rain, sleet, ice snow or strong winds.
- Climb on any portion of the scaffold frame not intended for climbing.
- Never climb with any materials or tools in your hand, they should be hoisted up to the scaffold separately.
- Jump from, to, or between scaffolding.
- Lean out or overreach outside the guardrails.
- Rock the scaffold.
- Throw anything “overboard” unless a spotter is available.
- Move a mobile scaffold if anyone is on it.
Scaffolding Tagging Guidelines
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.
- Inspection and tagging of the scaffold are to be performed by a competent person experienced in the erection of scaffold.
- A unique scaffold identification tag number must be clearly identified on all tags for tracking purposes.
- All scaffolds shall be inspected after the erection per regulatory requirements.
- All scaffold identification tags will be of a solid green, yellow, or red color with black lettering.
- Front information displayed and completed for each tag.
Scaffold Tag System and Meaning
It is common practice to use a scaffold tag system with the following color schemes: Green, Yellow, Red.
Green Scaffold Tags
Meaning: 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.
Yellow Scaffold Tags
Meaning: “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.
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 Scaffold Tags
Meaning: “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.