Scaffolding Safety: A Complete Guide
Safety for Construction companies is a priority. You must create a strong safety culture to ensure your employees are safe on the job site. To make this happen, everyone must follow safety protocols and procedures.
In 2021, fatal falls attributed to the construction industry reached 46.2 percent. Scaffolding falls are the majority of construction-related fatalities in the United States. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) compiles a list of safety hazards.
Scaffolding safety can be one of the most important parts of a construction project. When workers use scaffolding incorrectly, it’s one of the most dangerous pieces of equipment.
You’ve probably seen them from a distance if you’ve never been on a scaffold. Some may have been multiple stories high.
Although scaffolds can appear intimidating, they’re safe when used right. Unfortunately, safety isn’t always a precaution. When someone makes a mistake, it can become scary and dangerous.
Here is a complete guide on the different types of scaffolding and scaffold safety rules.
Importance of Scaffolding Safety
A safety culture in scaffolding is essential. Scaffolding is crucial for the construction of commercial buildings. Access to work sites with multiple levels can be difficult, and scaffolding makes it easier and safer.
There are numerous reasons to invest in high-quality, well-designed scaffolding for commercial projects. Companies should review a scaffold safety manual before constructing the scaffold system.
There are several primary goals for every scaffolding work procedure. Let’s look at the top four.
Scaffolding is one of the only ways to ensure workers can access different building areas safely. High-rise buildings often have limited access, and scaffolding helps workers reach areas they might not be able to reach otherwise.
The different types of scaffolding material include the following:
It’s easy to build scaffolding that doesn’t block road access. Workers can install it around the edges of buildings and allow people to walk on the pavement below.
Work on a secure site provides construction workers with a safe environment to do their work. This enhances the productivity of the project as they are easy to construct. An efficient scaffold has dimensions shaped to fit the building.
Follow the scaffold safety manual for tips on how workers can maneuver around the platform.
Not only does scaffolding let you work higher, but it also gives you great positioning to see what’s happening around you. Scaffolding gives you a better view if you work on a wall, ceiling, outside, or through a window.
Plus, it has a strong structure, so you don’t have to worry about the same risks as using a ladder.
One of the main advantages of scaffolding is safety. We all want to be safe wherever we work. However, working in construction comes with many safety hazards.
Ladders aren’t always strong enough for large-scale construction projects. Nor do they work for dangerous heights.
Scaffolding barriers like netting and fencing protect workers from falls. They also can catch loose debris from higher up in the construction project. This incidental feature helps to maintain a safer working environment.
Major Components of Scaffolding
Knowing what’s inside a scaffolding system is important to ensure it’s safe and stable. Scaffolding systems have different parts that help hold up the structure, spread the weight, and keep workers safe. By understanding the ins and outs of these components, everyone on a work crew can better understand how scaffolding works as well as how it works for construction and building maintenance industries.
Standards are vertical pieces that anchor to the ground. They carry the weight of the scaffolding onto the baseplates. They’re connected with pins and sockets to make the scaffolding taller.
They also help stabilize the scaffolding and support the platforms workers stand on. When using scaffolding, ensure you have the right standards connected and secure.
Also, check the platform you’re working on. The platform must be level and safe before you start.
Most importantly, follow all the safety rules when working on scaffolding to prevent accidents.
A toe-board is a piece of scaffolding that is attached to the standards.
Toe-boards protect workers from falling objects. They also prevent tools and materials from sliding off the platform’s edge.
Toe-boards must have a height of at least 4 inches (as measured from the platform’s top). The toe-boards get fitted to the uprights, so there are no gaps between them.
Use wire ties, screws, or other means of securing the toe-board. These safety features make it difficult to remove the toe-boards.
Ledgers are horizontal supports running parallel to the scaffolding. They provide a firm foundation for the workers to sit and work on. Ledgers also help to distribute the weight of scaffolding evenly.
Scaffolding without ledgers would be unstable and unsafe work conditions.
The two main types of ledgers are inside and outside ledgers. The inside ledgers are only attached to the building from one end. The outside ledgers connect to the building on both ends.
Bracing is one of the most critical parts of the scaffolding system. It ensures the structure is rigid and stable and doesn’t collapse or tip over.
Braces are diagonal pieces that hold the standards and ledger in place and stabilize the scaffolding. You can use many types of braces on scaffolding. Some of the most common types of braces used on scaffolding include the following:
- Cross braces
- Diagonal tubes
- Horizontal members
Choosing the right braces for a project depends on several factors.
For example, suppose the scaffolding has exposure to strong winds or other hazardous conditions. In that case, you may want to consider using diagonal tubes. Horizontal members are often used to support heavy loads.
A scaffolding base plate is a small square metal plate that sits on top of the scaffolding standards. They prevent the standard from sinking into the ground. Base plate types receive their rating based on the ability to support a heavy load.
Base plates have three ratings: Light, medium, and heavy.
Some base plates come in different sizes and thicknesses. It depends on the type of load they intend to support. Other key features include support features. The base plate may have holes, slots, or a lip/flange that sits above the standard to provide extra stability.
Choosing base plates that are suitable for your project is essential. The soil condition you’re working on determines the thickness.
Transoms are tubes that go over ledgers, usually at a 90° angle facing the building. Workers also used them to hold up a working platform. Transoms are vital to scaffolding, as they help keep the structure strong and stable.
Without them, scaffolding wouldn’t be able to hold any weight and would collapse.
Transoms come in aluminum or steel. They come in different lengths.
Transoms are designed to attach ledgers with clamps or bolts and to each other with couplers. They are spaced along the length of the scaffold to give it stability.
Couplers support structures in scaffolding. Couplers are fittings that join transoms together. There are three primary categories for couplers.
The Putlog Coupler – This coupler connects the putlog tube to the ledger tube. It’s constructed of a flat plate with a hole in the center for the putlog tube to fit. A lip is along the edge to hold the ledger tube in place.
Swivel Coupler – The swivel coupler connects two tubes at a 90-degree angle. It consists of a plate with an opening in the center for one tube. Insert a pin through the opening in both plates and a nut and bolt to secure the pin.
Right Angle Coupler – These couplers connect two tubes at a 90-degree angle. A right-angle coupler plate has two holes in it. Each tube has one hole.
The plates of the right-angle coupler connect by a pin that passes through the holes. A nut and a bolt, then tighten the plates.
Boarding, or sole boarding, are wide flat pieces used if you’re putting scaffolding up on a soft surface. The boards are big, flat pieces of timber placed under the base plates to spread the load over a wide area.
The base plates help keep the scaffolding stable and secure so it doesn’t sink in the ground and become unstable.
The boards should consist of strong, durable wood that can handle the weight of your scaffolding. Plus, the loads that come with it.
Assemble them as close as you can to give maximum support. Next, fasten them onto the base plates so they don’t move or shift.
Guardrails are horizontal pieces about waist level that connect the standards to the ledgers. It helps to keep workers safe from falling off the scaffolding.
These guardrails are usually metal or wood and attach to the scaffolding’s uprights. They have a top rail, mid rail, and toe board. There are also edge protection systems that don’t use guardrails.
Types of Scaffolding
There are three main categories when it comes to scaffolding. There are close to 20 types of scaffolding.
Supported scaffolds are platforms that are held in place by fixed pieces of material, like poles, feet, frames, and so on. On the other hand, suspended scaffolds hang from cables, ropes, or other devices that don’t rely on the ground for support.
Other supported scaffolding include lifts, aerial lifts, and similar equipment.
Wood and steel are the two most popular materials. Although steel is more expensive, it is the most recommended material for scaffolding due to its strength and safety.
Here, we’ll look at a few types of scaffolding used in the construction and building maintenance industries. Plus, briefly examine their scaffold safety rules and scaffolding work procedures.
Many different types of aerial lifts are on the market. The basis for the design reflects different situations and job types. Some uses include indoors, others for outdoors. You also have considerations for light work and heavy work.
Companies prefer aerial lifts on short-term projects covering a limited area. They are powered or manually lifted to the desired height from the structure beneath them.
Aerial lifts make renovations and maintenance easier. However, certain construction projects can also utilize aerial lifts for projects that require a quick turnaround.
There are three common categories for aerial lifts. The Boom, Bucket, and Scissor. Common types of aerial lifts include the following:
- Atrium Bucket
- Electric Booms
- Electric Scissor
- Personnel Bucket
- Straight Telescopic Booms
- Towable Booms
An aerial lift does more than safely raise and lower people. It can also carry additional tools or equipment up to the workspace. Once you know what kind of work you must do, you will better know the type of lift to choose.
Test all lift controls daily to ensure they are in good working order. Only authorized personnel may operate aerial lifts.
Aerial lifts require attachment to a pole, structure, or equipment.
Cantilever Scaffolding is perfect for places where the ground isn’t flat enough for a regular scaffolding setup. It’s also known as needle Scaffolding because metal poles, referred to as needles, are used as the base for the scaffolding. Needles stretch out from the walls of the building where you set up the scaffolding.
The design of a cantilevered scaffold should consider factors such as load capacity, worksite conditions, and your intended use. The scaffold requires design features to support the weight of the workers, tools, and materials required for the job. The design should also take into account the environmental conditions, such as rain, wind, or snow, which can all put adverse stress on the scaffold.
Workers are required to receive proper training in the use of cantilevered scaffolding systems. That includes the correct erection and dismantling procedures.
Securely anchor the scaffolding to the building or structure. The anchoring points must have regular inspections to detect signs of damage or wear.
Load capacity is vital. Design and construct the scaffold to support the anticipated load capacity. Ensure workers don’t become overloaded on the scaffold. Also, ensure workers wear appropriate fall protection equipment, such as safety harnesses, when working on cantilevered scaffolding.
It’s crucial to conduct regular inspections for any signs of damage or wear. Address defects immediately.
A mobile scaffold is a supported scaffold set up on wheels or casters. It is easy to move around and is often used when painting, plastering, or installing drywall. Mobile scaffolding is often a safer option than a ladder.
A narrow frame scaffold, called a Baker/Perry style scaffold, has wheels and is often used as a mobile scaffold. It usually has an end frame that is 3 feet wide or less.
It is also necessary for workers on scaffolds to wear hard hats. Risk of accidents to consider when using a mobile scaffold include:
- Fall from an elevated height
- Electric shocks
- Structural failures or collapse
- Falling objects
While mobile scaffolding systems may be smaller than traditional scaffolding, they still require falling object protection. To prevent employees from falling down the scaffold, workers must wear protection on the scaffold or around it. This protection is necessary to prevent injuries from dropped hand tools and debris.
Plus, workers should move heavier objects on mobile scaffolds from the edge of the scaffold and secure them. Rolling scaffold safety requires guardrails or fall protection.
Single & Double Scaffolding
Single Scaffolding is used for smaller jobs and consists of one line of poles attached to wooden boards. It’s perfect for renovation and repair work, like window replacement, roof repair, and brick masonry projects. A single scaffold is also used for light construction work.
The scaffolding runs parallel to the wall of a building using vertical supports known as standards. The ledgers, which are horizontal supports, attach to the standards in an even vertical fashion. The putlogs are holes that the scaffolding passes through for support.
Double scaffolding has metal pipes that connect two rows of poles for a more stable structure than a single scaffolding. It is better suited for large-scale projects. You’ll get a stronger structure that withstands heavy loads and harsh weather conditions.
Also, it’s ideal for new builds, building renovations, bridge constructions, and other large jobs.
When you’re building a scaffold, follow the manufacturer’s instructions. As noted earlier, ensure you have at least 10 feet between the power line and the scaffold to avoid electrical hazards. If the distance is less than 10 feet, turn off the power to the line.
You’ll need someone to oversee the scaffold’s construction, moving, and dismantling. OSHA requires that someone supervises the scaffolding before every shift and when you finish the job. They must regularly check the scaffolding for hazards, defects, or debris.
Suspended scaffolding is suspended or hanging from an above-ground structure. This type of scaffolding is ideal for applications with very high structures. Regular scaffolding would require excessive time, money, and energy to erect.
A suspended scaffold is typically powered and supported by a series of ropes. Here are common types of suspended scaffolding:
- Boatswain’s Chair
The most popular type of suspended scaffold is the swing scaffold. This type of scaffolding is suspended from a structure’s roof by wires and chains. A lever or electronic system is used to raise or lower the. It’s commonly used for painting, window cleaning, and repair jobs.
Suspension scaffolding must provide a stable and secure surface for workers to work on safely. Extreme weather conditions, high loads, or structural damage can affect a scaffold’s stability.
Workers must be able to access their work area safely. Any scaffold over 2 feet above or less than an access point must provide safe access.
A suspension scaffold must be tied (2-point or swing phase) or otherwise secured, as determined by a designated safety expert, to prevent it from swaying. Remember, never use window cleaners’ anchors as a suspension scaffold tie-down.
Work from a scaffold is prohibited during storms and high winds unless the designated person determines it is safe.
Tubular (Steel) Scaffolding
Other names include the following terms, also known as Tubular Scaffolding:
- Steel Scaffolding
- Tube and Clamp
- Tubular and Fitting
- Tube and Coupler
This type of scaffolding is considered among classic systems. Many construction companies use it because of the flexibility it offers.
The biggest difference in modular scaffolding systems is they consist of components that are only designed and suitable for their intended purpose. Tube scaffolding allows for an infinite number of positions of standards. That means it can be completely customized to any situation.
The tubes and fittings are attached using clamps and couplings. Compared to other scaffolding, a tube and clamp system is more time-consuming and labor-intensive.
If you plan to use tubular scaffolding on a building, it’s important to train your workers on safety factors like shape and structure. They should also be aware of the potential dangers of scaffolding, like electric shock, falling from high places, and falling objects.
Workers who erect or dismantle scaffolds are especially vulnerable, as they must be supervised and directed by a competent person.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Workers must wear different kinds of personal protective gear when working on scaffolding. The PPE keeps workers and everyone around them safe, especially if they will be using any special tools.
PPE includes the following:
- High visibility clothing
- Eye & ear protection
- Hard hats
- Steel-toe non-slip work shoes
Safety should always be the top priority from the start, starting with ensuring the scaffolding is set up correctly and under the watchful eye of a supervisor. Employees trained on how to use scaffolding. Employee adhering to work attire protocols.
Scaffolding Safety Isn’t Complicated
Choosing the right scaffolding isn’t hard, and neither is scaffolding safety. Not only do you want to ensure your workers are safe, but you also want to ensure the equipment lasts as long as possible.
With OSHA’s support for GHS, employers must keep an up-to-date SDS library. With Online-SDS, employers access unlimited safety data sheets.
Kelleher, Helmrich, and Associates, Inc. (KHA) are Safety Data Sheet (SDS) Management specialists. We have solutions to enhance workplace safety and empower your workplace.
Contact us today to see how we can help with workplace safety education for your business.