When OSHA revised its scaffolds standard back in 1996, the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) showed that 25% of workers injured in scaffold accidents had not received any scaffold training. Also, 77% of scaffolds were not equipped with guardrails to keep workers safe.
OSHA estimates that informing scaffold workers about the safety precautions while working on scaffolding can save as many as 60 lives and prevent 4,500 accidents every year.
In a recent BLS study, 72% of workers injured in scaffold accidents say the accident was caused by either planking or support giving way, or to the employee slipping or being struck by a falling object.
This module will take a closer look at the general requirements that will help prevent these accidents and others while working on or around scaffolding.
According to OSHA, a competent person means “one who is capable of identifying existing and predictable hazards in the surroundings or working conditions which are unsanitary, hazardous, or dangerous to employees, and who has authorization to take prompt corrective measures to eliminate them.”
A competent person must oversee the scaffold selection, erection, use, movement, alteration, dismantling, maintenance and inspection. Employers will need to make sure only trained and experienced personnel are working on the scaffold. On the other hand, employees will need to be knowledgeable about the type of scaffolding to be used in various work environments, and the proper care and use of fall protection equipment.
Employee training should focus on the proper erection, handling, use, inspection, removal and care of the scaffolds. Training must also include the installation of fall protection, such as guardrails.
Guardrails must be installed on all scaffold platforms in accordance with required standards and at least consist of top rails, midrails and toeboards (if more than 10 feet above the ground or floor).
While sitting or kneeling on a fixed deck plank attached to a fabricated frame scaffold, a worker was pulling a 16-foot long 2x4 off the bucket of an excavator. There were no guardrails at the working level. When the other end of the 2x4 slipped off the bucket, the employee did not let go of his end, and was pulled off the deck. He fell 16 feet to the ground, sustaining facial fractures and other injuries.
Workers on suspended scaffolds must use a fall protection system to protect them against scaffold failure. This system will usually consist of a full body harness, lanyard, rope grab, independent vertical lifeline and an independent lifeline anchorage. Remember, fall protection is only as good as its anchorage. The anchorage points are independent points on structures where lifelines are securely attached. These points must be able to support at least 5,000 pounds per employee.
There are several things an employee can do to protect themselves from the common hazards mentioned in Module 1:
Workers must have safe access to scaffolds and scaffold platforms. They can use ladders or stairways to reach a platform that is more than two feet above or below the access point.
Here are some other examples to access a scaffold safely:
This first video is an example of significant fall hazards while working on a scaffold.
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