A scaffold is an elevated, temporary work platform that is engineered in a specific manner to support a defined weight load. Ensuring the safety of workers who utilize scaffolds, and avoiding injury to nearby people or property, requires choosing equipment that meets current safety standards, installing it as directed by the manufacturer, and using it for its intended purpose. Any tampering with the construction or weight load can result in injury or death.
The first consideration when practicing scaffolding safety is proper selection. Only use scaffolds that have been tested to the ANSI/SSFI SC 100 standard. When choosing a suspended scaffold, be sure that the hoist complies with ANSI/UL 1323 and that it has been tested and approved by Underwriters Laboratories (UL) or ETL Testing Laboratories. Parapet clamps, cornice hooks and outrigger beams should be tested to the ANSI/SSFI SPS 1.1 standard.
One of the problems associated with scaffold use is collapsing, which can result when the scaffold is overloaded or improperly assembled. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions concerning loading. Evaluate the weight of the workers and materials that the scaffold will support, and determine if the buildings or structures that may be used to support the scaffold are adequate for that weight load.
Another common accident involving scaffolds is overturning or tipping, which can occur if a scaffold is not properly tied. The general rule is that ties must be installed if the scaffold height, as measured to the uppermost platform, is greater than four times the smallest base dimension. Cantilevered platforms, such as side brackets and hoist arms, can exacerbate the problem of overturning and may require that the scaffold be tied at lower points. Additional ties may be necessary if an enclosure is put on the scaffold, because any enclosure, even an open mesh one, increases wind loading, which can cause overturning.
Scaffolds should be equipped with toeboards to avoid injuries to the people and property below from falling tools, materials or debris. The ANSI/ASSE A10.8 standard says that toeboards are required with guardrail systems on all open sides and ends of a scaffold if the structure is in a location where individuals are required to work or pass under it.
The standard goes on to say that when materials are piled higher than the toeboard, the scaffold must be equipped with a safety screen that is strong enough to prevent objects from falling. The screen must be positioned between the toeboard and the toprail and extend along the entire opening.
When a scaffold is in use, don’t allow workers to remove a scaffold component without authorization, because it may cause the structure to become unstable or render safety equipment dysfunctional. You should also never permit workers to alter scaffold components or use them for purposes for which they were not designed.
If a rolling scaffold is being used, wheels or casters must be locked to prevent scaffold movement. In addition, the top platform height, as measured from the rolling surface, must not exceed four times the smallest base dimension. Secure or remove all materials from rolling scaffolds before moving them. Never permit workers to ride a rolling scaffold.
By following established safety standards, and using a common-sense approach, you’ll be able to avoid some of the most common accidents and injuries that can result from scaffold use.