Staying Safe on Scaffolds

If you work in construction, you’ve likely encountered a scaffold. According to OSHA, an estimated 2.3 million construction workers, or 65 percent of the industry, work on scaffolds. Here in New York City, scaffolds abound, with nearly 8,000 structures comprising 280 miles of scaffolding throughout the city. Unfortunately, scaffolds can be dangerous. Scaffold-related accidents account for about 4,500 injuries and more than 60 deaths each year nationwide, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The good news is that, by simply complying with OSHA standards, many of these scaffold-related accidents can be avoided. 

Get Trained – It’s the Law

Scaffold-related accidents can be caused by many things including falling objects, flooring and plank collapses, and faulty set-up, and injuries can range from slip-and-falls to broken bones to death. In order to effectively prevent scaffold-related accidents, workers need to be properly educated on up-to-code practices prior to beginning a job assignment. New York has multiple scaffold-related safety laws, including Labor Laws 200, 240, and 241. These laws are meant to protect both workers and visitors to the jobsite. If your employer does not provide you a thorough understanding of scaffold-related training, they are violating the law by putting you at an elevated risk.

Know What Type of Training You Must Have

Scaffolds are complex, intricate structures that can take many forms. For instance, scaffolds can be supported or suspended, mobile or stationary, and adjustable or non-adjustable. Any worker who directly uses or works in the vicinity of a scaffold should receive comprehensive training to prevent accidents. OSHA’s checklist of scaffold-related expectations is a good starting point, and provides solutions to common hazards. However, your employer should provide more specific training that is relevant to your job and your worksite.

Inspect Scaffolds Before and After Use

Workers should incorporate a visual inspection of scaffolds into their daily routine – but you must know what to look for. For instance, scaffolds must be placed on solid footing and correctly secured to ensure stability. Unstable objects, such as brick or concrete blocks, should never be used as a support for scaffolding. By conducting a visual inspection, workers should notice these types of issues before they become a larger problem. If you see anything that seems off or unsettling, always play it safe and say something. Even the smallest detail can cause a major accident.

Keep Clean and Stay Organized

Scaffolds have an extremely small surface area, so it’s key to keep them clean, organized, and free of any obstruction. While it may not be explicitly noted on OSHA’s checklist, having a cluttered area can create safety risks and lead to serious injuries. Equipment and tools should be properly organized and stored so that workers don’t trip and fall. Debris, trash, or spills also must be regularly cleaned so as not to add to fall risk.

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