Scaffolding Safety: Meeting OSHA Guidelines and More

Scaffolding on job sites attracts attention, whether it be from the public passing by or from the OSHA inspectors who inspect job sites. Knowing the most important aspects of the OSHA guidelines, ensuring your staff maintain proper certifications, and doing your due diligence on a daily basis can mean a clean record on scaffolding violations and, more importantly, a safe job site.

Four Things to Know about Scaffolding and OSHA Guidelines

Competent Person – OSHA requires a ‘competent person’ to perform various tasks on a job site. Per OSHA, this is defined as "one who is capable of identifying existing and predictable hazards in the surroundings or working conditions, which are . . . hazardous to employees, and who has the authorization to take prompt corrective measures to eliminate them."

These trained staff members are invaluable to your job site. They must routinely inspect scaffolding. They are responsible for the safety of the scaffolds and their guidance and input should be heeded.

Weight Capacity – OSHA statues (1926.451(a)(1) to be exact) require your scaffold to be structurally sound. They must also be designed in a way to support their own weight plus 4x the maximum intended load. The scaffold should maintain this weight support without any displacement or settling on the ground it stands.

Materials – OSHA has several guidelines about the materials involved with scaffolding. Scaffolds should never be placed on unsteady objects, like loose bricks, boxes or barrels. They must also be equipped with toeboards, midrails, and guardrails. All brackets, braces, screw legs, trusses, and ladders should be examined routinely by a competent person. They should also be checking that your platforms are tightly planked and the materials used are plank grade. Be sure to examine rigging materials and protect them from heat sources.

Access – OSHA is specific about the way your scaffolding should be accessed. Stairwells or ladders should be used on all levels of the scaffolding. Access via unsteady objects is not acceptable. Also, check that electrical lines do not interfere with access, they should be at least 10 feet away at all times.

Training, Who Needs It and How Often?

Your staff of competent persons has a lot to review on a regular basis. Keeping them up-to-date on their training is very important. Retraining may be required if [1926.454(c)]

  • The worksite presents a new challenge where they need more information
  • The scaffolds, fall protection, falling object protection, or other equipment is unfamiliar
  • There are inadequacies in an affected employee’s work that indicates they don’t know enough

Basically, if your competent person hasn’t encountered something before, feels uncomfortable with their knowledge on a subject, or simply needs an update, you need to provide it so they will remain a ‘competent person.’

Check and Check Again

A ‘competent person’ should check scaffoldings before each shift [1926.451(f)(3)]. They should also inspect the scaffolding if there has been an event that could possibly affect the structural integrity of the scaffold itself. All components should be checked and all rigging on suspension scaffolds must be inspected as well.

At the end of each shift, materials should be cleared from the scaffold. OSHA does not permit the storing of construction materials on the scaffolds for longer than ‘one shift’. Materials should never be stored overnight.

Confidence in your materials and in the structural integrity of the design of those materials should never come into question. At ABLE, we pride ourselves in offering high-quality scaffolding materials. We also take pride in our staff and their ability to design a structurally secure setup of scaffolding for your job site. Your ‘competent person’ shouldn’t have to worry about these things, we’ve already taken care of it for you. Let them focus on the day-to-day issues that may arise instead by utilizing our expertise from the start. Call us today to learn more.

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