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Course 803 - Scaffold Safety Program Management

Safety guides and audits to make your job as a safety professional easier

The Scaffold Safety Program



When scaffolds are not erected or used properly, falls from elevation can occur. About 2.3 million construction workers frequently work on scaffolds. According to OSHA, protecting these workers from scaffold-related accidents would prevent an estimated 4,500 injuries and 50 fatalities each year.

It’s very important everyone working around scaffolds is familiar with scaffold safety requirements. Employees who erect or work on scaffolds should be properly trained. To make sure that happens, develop an effective formal Scaffold Safety Program (SSP).

First, as a short review, let’s cover some scaffold basics.

Scaffold Definition

Scaffold Types
(Click to enlarge)

A scaffold is defined as an elevated, temporary work platform. The three basic types of scaffolds are described below:

  1. Supported scaffolds: Consist of one or more platforms supported by rigid, loadbearing members, such as poles, legs, frames, outriggers, etc.
  2. Suspended scaffolds: Suspended scaffolds are platforms suspended by ropes, or other non-rigid means, from an overhead structure.
  3. Other scaffolds: Principally man lifts, personnel hoists, etc., which are sometimes thought of as vehicles or machinery, but can be regarded as another type of supported scaffold.

Who Uses Scaffolds

Workers on scaffolds can be divided into two groups, erectors/dismantlers and users.

Erectors and dismantlers: Erectors and dismantlers are those workers who are mainly responsible for assembling and disassembling scaffolding. This is done before other work can continue, and/or after work has been completed.

Users: Scaffold users are those whose work requires them, at least some of the time, to be supported by scaffolding. Employers are required to have a qualified person provide training to each employee who uses the scaffold. The training should teach employees to recognize the hazards associated with the type of scaffold being used. They should also understand the procedures to control or minimize those hazards.

Here are a few of the hazards:

  • Falls from elevation, due to lack of fall protection;
  • Collapse of the scaffold, caused by instability or overloading;
  • Being struck by falling tools, work materials, or debris; and
  • Electrocution, principally due to proximity of the scaffold to overhead power lines.

You can learn more about basic scaffold safety by taking OSHAcademy course 604, Scaffold Safety.

Scaffold Safety Program Defined

A Scaffold Safety Program (SSP) may be thought of as a plan of action to accomplish a safety objective related to work with scaffolds. An effective SSP is designed around the processes, procedures, and practices normally assigned to employees and integrates safety-related decisions and precautions into them. Construction contractors must initiate and maintain safety programs as may be necessary to comply with CFR 1926.451, Scaffolds.

Now let’s talk about the critical components to help ensure a successful scaffold safety program.

Safety Culture

The scaffold safety program is never going to be successful unless the company has an effective safety culture. Believe it or not, OSHA actually has a pretty good definition for a safety culture. OSHA defines culture as “a combination of an organization's, attitudes, behaviors, beliefs, values, ways of doing things, and other shared characteristics of a particular group of people."

It's important to understand that, from the employer's point of view, the company's corporate culture is something to be managed. However, if you ask an employee to define culture, he/she will likely tell you it's just "the way things are around here."


The success of your company's scaffold safety program also depends on the willingness of top management to demonstrate a long-term serious commitment to protect every employee from injury and illness on the job.

Managers will invest serious time and money into effective safety management by developing safety policies, programs, plans and procedures. They will also display leadership through effective accountability and recognition of behaviors and results.


For the SSP to be truly successful, employers must understand that the simple expression of tough-caring safety leadership (being tough about safety standards while working with scaffolds because they care about each worker’s safety) a result in enormous benefits. The ability to perceive leadership opportunities improves the company's potential to succeed.

Tough-caring leaders also assume their workers, at all levels of the organization, are good people trying to do the best they can with the skills they have.


Accountability ranks right at the top with management commitment as a critical ingredient in a company's scaffold safety program. When you are held accountable, your performance is measured against specific criteria and consequences (discipline or recognition) are administered appropriate to the level or quality of performance. Employers have a responsibility to provide everything workers need to do the job safely. If employers don’t do that, then justification for discipline is not established.

It’s important to understand employers should make sure adequate physical resources (tools, equipment, machinery, materials, etc.), training, time to do the job, and supervision have been provided before they consider administering discipline for non-compliance while working on a scaffold.

Elements of an Effective SSP

Safe scaffold erection and use should begin by developing a SSP that includes at least the following elements:

  • a written plan
  • policy statement
  • work rules
  • hazard identification and controls

Written Scaffold Safety Plan

It’s important to create a written plan that clearly states policies, rules, responsibilities, etc. This will help reduce confusion, aid in training scaffold safety, and formalize processes.

Click here to download a Sample Scaffold Safety Plan.

Policies and Work Rules

Policies and work rules should concentrate on:

  • sound design
  • selecting the right scaffold for the job
  • assigning personnel
  • instruction and training
  • fall protection
  • rules for proper erection
  • rules for use
  • rules for alteration and dismantling
  • inspections
  • maintenance and storage

Sources of information for policy development and work rules include OSHA and ANSI standards, scaffold trade associations, scaffolding suppliers, and safety and engineering consultation services.

Sound Design

The scaffold should be capable of supporting its own weight and at least four times the maximum intended load to be applied or transmitted to the scaffold and components. Suspension ropes should be capable of supporting six times the maximum intended load. Guardrails should be able to withstand at least 200 pounds of force on the top rail and 100 pounds on the midrail. On complex systems, the services of an engineer may be needed to determine the loads at particular points.

Selecting the Right Scaffold for the Job


You cannot contract away the responsibility for selecting the right scaffold for your job. But if you do contract for scaffolding:

  • Choose a scaffold supplier, rental agency and/or erector who is thoroughly knowledgeable about the equipment needed and its safe use.
  • Obtain the owner’s manual prepared by the scaffolding manufacturer, which states equipment limitations, special warnings, intended use, and maintenance requirements.

Selecting the Right Scaffold for the Job (Continued)

If you are to select your own scaffold, begin by reviewing the written requirements (blueprints, work orders, etc.) to determine where scaffolds should be used and the type of scaffolding needed. Make sure that the scaffolds meet all government and voluntary requirements. Consider that scaffolds are generally rated light, medium and heavy duty.

  • Light duty scaffolds can support a limited number of employees and hand tools.
  • Medium duty scaffolds should be capable of safely holding workers, hand tools and the weight of construction materials being installed.
  • Heavy duty scaffolds are needed when the scaffold should sustain workers, tools and the weight of stored materials.
  • Account for any special features of the building structure in relationship to the scaffold, including distinctive site conditions. Factor these considerations into your policy:
    • experience of erection and working personnel
    • length and kind of work tasks to be performed
    • weight of loads to be supported
    • hazards to people working on and near the scaffolding
    • needed fall protection
    • material hoists
    • rescue equipment (particularly for suspended scaffolds)
    • weather and environmental conditions
    • availability of scaffolding, components, etc.

Hazard Identification and Control

Controlling exposures to worksite hazards while working on scaffolds is the fundamental method of protecting workers. Traditionally, the widely-accepted hierarchy of controls has been used as a means of determining how to implement feasible and effective controls.

ANSI/AIHA Z10-2005 discusses the five control measures below:

  1. Elimination – doing the work at ground level if possible eliminates any fall-from-elevation hazard
  2. Substitution – replacing an old scaffold with a new one
  3. Engineering controls – redesigning the scaffold to provide more protection
  4. Administrative controls – safe practices and rules for safe behavior
  5. Personal protective equipment – harnesses, lifelines, etc.

The idea behind this hierarchy is the control methods at the top of the list are potentially more effective and protective than those at the bottom. Following the hierarchy normally leads to the implementation of inherently safer systems. The risk of illness or injury should be substantially reduced.


Before beginning this quiz, we highly recommend you review the module material. This quiz is designed to allow you to self-check your comprehension of the module content, but only focuses on key concepts and ideas.

Read each question carefully. Select the best answer, even if more than one answer seems possible. When done, click on the "Get Quiz Answers" button. If you do not answer all the questions, you will receive an error message.

Good luck!

1. Which of the following is most likely to occur if scaffolds are NOT erected and used properly?

2. Which of the following is one of the three basic types of scaffolds?

3. The scaffold should be capable of supporting its own weight and _____ to be applied or transmitted to the scaffold and components.

4. Which of the following factors should be considered in selecting scaffolds when considering any special features of the building structure?

5. Which of the following types of scaffolds should be used when only a limited number of employees and hand tools will be used?

Have a great day!

Important! You will receive an "error" message unless all questions are answered.