5 Dos and Don’ts of Scaffolding Safety
Avoid scaffolding accidents with these 5 dos and don’ts
More than two million construction staff work on scaffolds. Of those, an estimated 5,000 are injured and upwards of 60 are killed annually. Most of these accidents are avoidable. As much as you may think you know all about scaffolds because you’ve been working on them for years, more often than not, it’s those who get too comfortable with the beast that are the most shocked when they get hurt.
Proper training and constant vigilance are essential to ensure scaffolding safety. There are several hazards you need to avoid. These include:
- Falling from heights
- Scaffolding collapse
- Falling tools and debris
- Electrocution by overhead lines
Make sure a qualified person checks the foundation that the scaffold is anchored to and adequately braces the structure. You want to work with peace of mind, so ensure that the individual makes the necessary checks of the ground around the structure and ensures that all nuts and bolts are regularly tightened.
Assume the foundation is secure all the time. Heavy work on scaffolds can cause wear and tear.
Head & Foot Protection
Always wear a hard hat. It’s not great to think that tools or construction debris might fall on you from heights, but the nature of the business means that somewhere along the line someone may knock something off a higher floor. Stay safe and ensure your head is covered in the correct hard hat at all times, only to be removed when you’re in an office, car, or off site.
Use site-approved shoes to protect your feet. These have non-slip soles, which will keep you safe on the scaffolding and prevent you from slipping on any wet patches.
Take a quick climb up a scaffold to grab something you left behind. You never know when something could fall from above, or you could slip on a wet patch. It’s just not worth risking.
Wear a full body harness or fall arrest system when you are on a scaffolding. Make sure that a shock absorbing lifeline or lanyard is connected to anchors. These are designed to keep you safe from slipping and falling. Use them, they’re there for a reason. As much as you may be extremely adept at navigating your way across a scaffolding matrix, you could miss a bar, misstep or a simple slip of the hand could cause you to fall. Stay harnessed and always move slowly and carefully. Better safe than sorry.
Assume going up one storey is not a big deal and that you don’t need a harness or body system. Never work on a scaffold without fall protection.
Respect the load capacity of a scaffold. The structure needs to be strong enough to handle a specific maximum amount. Only allow the maximum amount of materials and staff on a scaffold and no more. This is one of the top preventable reasons for scaffold accidents.
Overload a scaffold or rest anything on it as this adds to the loaded requisite. As much as you may think a few extra kilograms won’t make a difference, you’d be surprised to know that it’s often the difference between safety and an unnecessary accident.
Follow all safety guidelines relating to electricity lines. Electrocutions occur in a matter of seconds, which is why national safety guidelines regarding overhead power lines must be strictly adhered to. Supervisors are required to ensure that scaffolds are not moved within the minimum clearance of working or exposed energy lines. Always ensure you have a fellow team member on hand to observe the clearance and that it remains safe.
Try to get a bit closer to the lines. Of the scaffolding deaths that occur annually, nearly 30% are due to electrocutions. Never move the structure without consulting the necessary authorities and don’t ignore the safety protocol for these particular jobs.
If you’re uncomfortable with the scaffold structure or anything pertaining to your safety, you are obligated to speak to your supervisor and voice your concerns. Never go up a scaffold if you think/know it’s unsafe.
Stay safe and keep your team mates safe by always adhering to the strict construction site rules and processes.