If it is used correctly, scaffolding can be a helpful way for workers to reach high up places and perform important tasks. However, if it is not used correctly it can be incredibly dangerous. It is crucial that all managers and supervisors are aware of how to construct a safe working platform and provide fall protection.
The hazards of working on a scaffold include falling from the elevation because of a lack of fall protection and the collapse of the scaffold – due to an unstable structure or an overloading of weight. Also, another risk is the danger of being struck by falling tools, debris and work materials. Also, sometimes scaffolding is dangerously close to overhead power lines which can result in electrocution.
If the scaffolding at the building site is unsafe, workers have the right to refuse to use it. No workers should ever have to work on scaffolding that is unsafe or perform their work without the appropriate health and safety equipment. The employer has the responsibility of ensuring that any work tasks performed on it is done in the safest way possible.
Scaffolding Should Always Be Inspected
Before use, a survey of the work area should always be performed in order to check for hazards. This means looking for hazards such as debris, high tension wires, ditches, unguarded openings, and much more. Also, you should look very closely at the scaffolding and check for any damage or alterations. If the scaffolding must be taken apart or moved, it should be inspected again before being used to make sure that nothing has become damaged or defective.
Also, before you use scaffolding it is important to know its load capacity. The platform must be strong enough to hold the desired weight, otherwise you run the risk of having it collapse. Never try to fit more workers onto the scaffold platform than it can safely handle and be careful not to overload it with equipment and materials either.
Scaffolding Safety Tips
What can you do to make your scaffolding safe? Here are some tips that you can keep in mind in order to protect the health and well-being of your employees:
- The very first step is to learn how to conduct a risk assessment and to identify hazards. What are the possible dangers involved in the work that you are doing and how can you prevent them?
- Slow down. It is rushing and cutting corners that usually results in accidents and injuries, so never sacrifice speed for safety. Instead, invest in tools and techniques that will make your employees more efficient without compromising their safety.
- Avoid the risk of slips, trips and falls by keeping your workplace clean and organised. This will make moving around on the scaffold a lot safer for your workers.
- Always make sure that everyone using the scaffolding is properly trained. Also, there should be a policy in place in your workplace for a lifesaving procedure if necessary.
- Make sure that you take the time for the prep work, such as making sure that the base is level and adjusted, the legs are plumb and all of the braces are in place.
- Also, make sure that the scaffold is adequately braced and secured to the building itself.
- The design of the scaffold should always include guardrails, at least on the three sides of the scaffold that face away from the building. If your scaffold doesn’t have guardrails, they should be installed immediately.
- Employees should always wear the appropriate fall protection equipment. This will include non-slip footwear, head protection and fall protection – such as a safety harness that is attached to a solid structure.
- A scaffold should always be perfectly level. If not level it will make it easier for workers to lose their balance and fall off, causing serious accidents and injuries.
- Always lock the wheels of portable scaffolding when it is in use. Also, scaffolding should be placed on stable ground.
- Employees should always remove their tools or debris on the scaffold platforms and keep these working areas clear at all times.
- It is important to never mix frames, scaffolding and components that come from different manufacturers.
- Don’t move it around when it is in use or occupied, it is not safe for workers to ride on mobile scaffold platforms.
- If there is a strong wind or a storm, avoid working on and save the work for another day without adverse weather conditions.
- Never try to increase the height by placing ladders or other materials on top of it. This is a very dangerous thing to do and is likely to result in a fall.
- Once you have performed the initial risk assessment, continue to survey the site and identify any new hazards that you might find.
- Remember, health and safety procedures concerning heights should always be enforced. As the work continues, workers will become more comfortable on the job, which can cause them to neglect safety. Always supervise their behaviours and ensure that they are staying safe at all times.
These are a few of the most important tips that employers and employees should keep in mind when working with scaffolding. Remember, all it takes is one little slip or fall for an employee to become seriously injured or even lose their life.
Scaffolding Safety Training is Critical
It is absolutely essential for any supervisors and workers who are dealing with scaffolding to have the right safety training. Without the appropriate health and safety training, unsafe practices will be followed and serious injury or even death can occur. Employers should ensure that their training is up to date and that all workers using scaffolding have the right qualifications. If you have a site manager or supervisor make sure they are trained in the safe use of scaffolding – the CITB accredited SMSTS course covers scaffolding as part of the five day course syllabus.