Scaffolding, when done correctly, is a great help on a building site or outside a building being refinished. This latticework of supports and foundation boards helps workers reach high places and get their job done without more precarious options. However, scaffolding also has its dark side and there are a number of risks and safety issues that should be known.
One of the biggest reasons to wear a hard hat in a construction zone is due to falling materials. When it comes to scaffolding, even simple debris becomes more dangerous. Imagine a hammer slipping and hitting someone on the head from four stores up . . . it’s far more dangerous than if it slips from a few feet above the person. Guardrails can help prevent this and workers should always be aware of their surroundings to avoid falling objects.
Another potential issue is a worker falling from a height. Even a few feet can be hazardous, but very high falls can be particularly dangerous. Broken bones and concussions are often the result of this type of fall, though death may also occur.
To prevent falls, workers should be properly anchored with a fall arrest system. Guardrails are also essential, particularly on taller structures.
Since electrical lines tend to run along at roughly a second story level, they pose a hazard to workers who are building scaffolding near them. Touching the metal poles to the lines can cause electrocution. It’s recommended that you stay at least 10 feet away from any 50 kV or less lines. After that, you should back up at least 4 inches extra for every kV over 50.
Poorly Positioned Planks
How the planks are positioned on the scaffolding is important. Any boards that overhang the edge too much can flip if a worker steps on them. If they’re given too little overhang, they can shift and drop out of place. To ensure safety, the planks should be positioned for maximum stability.
A poorly constructed guardrail needs to be fixed. Anything that is loose could give way if someone leans on it or even bumps it. This is how many falls occur and it is a very dangerous issue. If you are ever tempted to leave a loose rail, thinking you’ll remember not to lean, don’t.
If the planks you use aren’t properly looked after and treated, they can become bug eaten or worn. The more stress on them, the more likely they are to break under the weight of a worker. Watch for old planks and remove them before they get too bad. A worker falling through a rotten plank is a very bad thing.
Most of these issues are completely preventable. With the proper care and attention, your construction site can remain secure and accident free.
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