Scaffolds have a myriad of uses in your construction and maintenance undertakings. They allow projects to be completed with ease on a temporarily elevated work surface that effortlessly supports workers, tools, and supplies.
Scaffolds are a lot safer and more user-friendly than ladders, especially since you don’t have to worry about leaning over dangerous edges, stretching overhead, or missing a ladder rung.
While using scaffolds is pretty safe in practice, any elevated workspace comes with unique risks. In fact, OSHA reports that scaffolding accounts for nearly 4,500 workplace injuries and 50 deaths each year.
To use scaffolds in your next project safely, it’s important to keep the OSHA standards and general good practices in mind as you work.
Tip #1: Educate Yourself On The Types Of Scaffolds
On the surface, scaffolds seem pretty simple, but they’re pretty complex pieces of engineering.
Before starting a project, you’ll want to figure out approximately how much weight you’ll need your scaffold to hold. The maximum capacity separates the light-duty scaffolds from the big boys. Light duty scaffolding typically has a max of 25 pounds per square foot, whereas medium has a max of 50 pounds and heavy-duty has a max of 75.
Next, you’ll also want to take a look at the materials your scaffolding was made from. The majority of scaffolds are made with a modular frame that can be quickly assembled. However, there are more specialized scaffolds as well. For example, heavy construction uses tubular welded frame scaffolds because it is the most protected and heavy-duty. Industrial sites might have a different approach though and prioritize configurable scaffolding that isn’t as sturdy but can navigate obstacles for a customized experience.
Tip #2: Prepare And Train Workers Using Scaffolding
Regardless of the scaffolding you use, you should be mindful of educating anyone who will be using it.
Workers can easily make the mistake of assuming all scaffolding systems work the same way, but each is engineered differently, so they should be trained on these differences. For instance, they should be made aware of the load capacity and how that may affect any of their tasks.
From there, workers should also be trained on moving, operating, and inspecting the scaffolding. Then training can be updated whenever changes are made to the scaffolding structure or the tasks being performed on the structure.
Tip #3: Inspect Scaffolding Often (At Least Daily!)
All scaffolding equipment should be inspected at least daily, but preferably before each use to ensure utmost safety.
This inspection should include looking for any damage or wear and tear, while also taking into consideration what tasks the scaffolding will be used for that day. Look for potential slips and falls on the access to and from the scaffolding and consider any potential hazards.
Throughout the inspection, you should also be mindful of weather conditions that make affect the safety of the scaffolding. If there is any ice, moisture, or snow on the walking surface, it should not be used. You will also want to avoid using the scaffolding in unsafe weather conditions with heavy wind, storms, or snow because it will heavily affect your ability to safely utilize the equipment.
Another big safety concern to consider during the inspection is the possibility of any electrical hazards. Proximity to any power lines or the use of metal tools can make this especially dangerous. To avoid any problems, maintain a minimum distance of 10 feet between the scaffold and any electrical hazards.
To help with the inspection process you can also utilize a tagging system by attaching a green tag when it is safe and ready to use, a yellow tag when it is safe under particular conditions, and a red to warn when it is not safe to use. These will help the inspector and the worker easily communicate and ensure maximum safety.
Tip #4: Develop Rules for Utmost Safety
Even if you’re just working on a solo backyard DIY project, developing a consistent list of rules to follow for while using scaffolding is a good habit to get into. If you’re working with a team, utilize this list throughout training and ensuring all workers are well-versed on the safety do’s and don’ts of scaffolding.
Potential rules and guidelines to consider using:
- Be mindful of anyone working above or below you, use barricades to prevent others from walking under platforms
- Always anchor to a safe point
- Only trained and authorized workers should utilize the scaffolding
- Don’t leave anything unattended on the scaffolding because it can easily be tripped over or blow off
- Follow the maximum capacity for the scaffolding and don’t overload it
- Use fall protection and PPE when work heights are 6 feet or higher
If you’re interested in a scaffolding rental for your next project, Wildcat Tool Rental can hook you up with everything you need including safety equipment. We’re here to answer any questions about safety, maintenance, and scaffolding use you can think up.