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Take extra care when working with scaffolding

Employees who work on and around scaffolding face several different hazards. These hazards include falls from heights, scaffold collapse, being struck by falling tools, and electrocution from power lines. Workers need to use the right safety products when doing jobs on scaffolds or even walking near them. All employees should be outfitted with hard hats, and workers on scaffolding with a minimum distance of 10 feet to the next level below should be equipped with fall protection, such as harnesses and lanyards.

There are two basic types of scaffolding, including supported scaffolding that consist of rigid, load-bearing framework, and the suspended variety that includes ropes or other non-rigid overhead support. Manlifts and personnel hoists are sometimes thought of as vehicles or machinery, but can also be thought of as another type of supported scaffold.

Only a qualified person with a recognized degree, certificate, or professional standing, or an individual with extensive knowledge, training, and experience should erect scaffolding. The qualified person will determine the type of scaffold necessary, the maximum load, and that the scaffolding has a good foundation. Concrete blocks, bricks, or debris should never be used to prop or tilt a section of scaffolding. During building or use, no one should ever climb on the scaffolding frame, and based on the type of scaffold, only ladders or stairwells should be used to access or exit scaffolding.

In addition to daily inspections of scaffolding, workers should receive training on the proper use of scaffolding and how to handle materials on scaffolding. Training should also include recognizing electrical, fall, and falling object hazards in the work area, and procedures to control and minimize them. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) provides some guidelines for the distance that scaffolding must be from power lines:

• Insulated wires that carry less than 300 volts of electricity must kept at least 3 feet from scaffolding
• Insulated lines carrying between 300 volts and 50 kilovolts need to be at least 10 feet from scaffolding and if over 50 kilovolts, 0.4 inches needs to be added for every kilovolt over 50
• Uninsulated lines with less than 50 kilovolts should be 10 feet from all wires and if over 50 kilovolts, an additional 0.4 inches must be added for every kilovolt over 50

In addition to daily inspections of scaffolding, workers should receive training on the proper use of scaffolding and how to handle materials on scaffolding. Training should also include recognizing electrical, fall, and falling object hazards in the work area, and procedures to control and minimize them.