Why is Scaffold Safety Training Important?
Scaffold safety training is mandatory and saves lives. Scaffold safety is one of the top safety concerns in the construction industry. In 2020 there were 52 fatalities involving working on scaffolding, and 4,500 workplace injuries. In addition, scaffolding is among top 10 most frequently cited OSHA regulation violations. It is estimated that 65 percent, or 2.3 million construction workers frequently work on scaffolding.
What is a Scaffold?
A scaffold is a temporary elevated work platform, and its supporting structure, used for supporting employees, or materials, or both. Scaffolds are divided into two main categories:
- Supported scaffolds, which consist of one or more platforms supported by rigid, load-bearing members, such as poles, legs, frames, outriggers, etc.
- Suspended scaffolds, which are one or more platforms suspended by ropes, or other non-rigid, overhead support.
Other types of equipment, principally scissor lifts and mobile scaffolding, can be regarded as other types of supported scaffolds.
Scaffold Safety Hazards
Scaffold safety hazards are numerous, but typically are around one of the following:
- Falls. Falls are a leading cause of injuries and fatalities in the construction industry. Working at heights requires proper Personal Protective Equipment and controls. PPE includes fall arrest systems and other fall prevention devices, while hazard controls include guardrails, safety netting and other scaffold safety elements.
- Overloading. There are different types of scaffolds, based on the load that they support: light duty scaffold, with maximum load of 25psf, medium duty scaffolds supporting loads of up to 50psf, and heavy duty scaffold supporting loading of up to 75psf. Scaffolds required to support 75psf or more, are called Extra Heavy Duty scaffolds, and are not very common.
- Scaffold collapse. Scaffold collapse can happen for a number of reasons: extreme wind or other environmental factors, insufficient loading capacity, poor scaffold foundations, inadequate bracing, or simply improperly erected scaffolds.
- Bad planks: Planks used in scaffolding must be of an OSHA approved grade, and must be specially designed and manufactured to be used on a scaffold. Defective, rotten, or otherwise inadequate scaffold planks should be removed and replaced immediately.
- Electrical. Scaffolds should not be erected close to energized power lines, and should be at least 10ft away from any power line. The minimum distance increases for higher voltage.
- Egress and Access. Scaffold egress and access must be either by ladders, stair towers, ramps or walkways, or direct access from the building. No access via climbing the bracing or other scaffold elements is allowed.
- Fire. Scaffolds are typically erected out of metal tubes, but they could also be made out of wood. With the exception of the planking, the following scaffolds shall be constructed of noncombustible materials:
- Exterior scaffolds exceeding 75 feet in height.
- Interior scaffolds exceeding 21 feet in height.
- All scaffolds used in the alteration, repair, or partial demolition of buildings in Occupancy Groups I-1 to I-4.
- Weather. When wind exceeds 30 miles per hour, the use and operation of scaffolds located on the roof of a building, exterior to a building or structure, on a working deck, or in an area with an unenclosed perimeter is not permitted. The manufacturer or designer of the scaffold may recommend work to stop at a lower wind speed.
Scaffold Safety Training
All employees working on a scaffold must be trained. Lack of proper training in scaffold and fall protection are one of top 10 OSHA violations and citations. To provide required skills and a safe work environment, not to mention to avoid significant fines, employers should provide their employees with scaffold safety training.
In New York City, the Department of buildings has introduced the “Scaffold Card” – a 4-hour mandatory training for every worker on a construction site that uses a scaffold, as mandated by Local Law 52 (2005). The 4-Hour Supported Scaffold User & Refresher training is valid for and must be repeated every 4 years.
PDH STAR also provides the 4-Hour OSHA Scaffold Online Training, applicable and acceptable in the rest of the US.