Security when using scaffolding is very important. After all, you’re working high above the ground and that can mean some serious risks. Every contractor has the responsibility to ensure that their workers are following safety protocols.
If you’re not sure what exactly should be done to protect people with scaffolding, besides the usual safety equipment, then this article will give you a better idea of what to do.
These are measures you need to take to ensure your people are secure and safe, no matter where they’re working. It’s also worth doing spot checks from time to time, to ensure that everyone is following the rules. It’s easy to brush the safety procedures off, but when something goes wrong, you’ll all be very glad that the procedures were followed.
Roughly two-thirds of construction workers use scaffolding frequently. Thousands of workers are injured annually while working on scaffolding, so it is very important to push those safety procedures. Make sure your employees know how to handle themselves safely on a scaffolding and you can avoid the most fundamental safety pitfalls.
Safety on Scaffolding
These are some of the security measures you should be taking to prevent injuries while working with scaffolding.
Use Safety Equipment
This is rather basic, but it bears repeating. Steel toed boots and hard hats are essential on any job site. The boots should be non-slip to prevent skidding while on the scaffolding. Since the wooden platforms can get slippery when damp, it’s essential to have the right footwear in order to work safely on the raised platforms.
Consider a Harness
Recently, in Edmonton, Canada, a man made the news for falling from a swinging scaffolding. He dangled precariously above the ground for several minutes after his scaffolding hit the building and jarred him loose. Fortunately, the man was wearing a safety harness and was able to be rescued.
Harnesses seem cumbersome as you have to unclip and reclip as you move around, but they can also save your life. Evaluate when you feel a harness is warranted for a job and keep them on hand so employees can use them as needed.
While you should have professional inspections regularly, it’s a good idea for workers to do a quick check of the scaffolding each morning before they start to work. They’ll look for loose screws, bolts and boards as they move up the scaffolding and have these problems fixed before they get any worse.
You also need to inspect the scaffolds if there is an accident, they’re moved or taken down and reassembled, or if there is a new addition to them. These inspections could end up saving lives.
Check the Weight
Before loading up a scaffolding platform, it’s important to check the load rating. If you overload a scaffolding and it breaks, you not only risk the people who are on the platform, you also risk those lower down or on the ground. They will be in the path of anything falling from above and that could result in severe injury.
Weight limits do depend on the scaffold, so never assume that any scaffold is safe until you have double checked the limits. Then, and only then, should you permit anyone on the scaffold.
Don’t Alter the Structure
It takes numerous engineers to come up with the final design for scaffolds and they are all designed to be as safe and secure as possible. However, when you change things about the structure, you are potentially offsetting the careful engineering that went into the scaffolding. If you change it, you can’t guarantee that it will still be safe.
If you do need changes to your scaffolding, it is best to have someone who is an expert to make adjustments. Talk to the company that issued and set up the scaffolds to have them adjust anything you need changed. This is the safest option.
Watch for Hazards
Most people know to watch out for electrical wires when setting up a scaffolding, but it’s always a good idea to keep an eye out for any potential hazards. For example:
Storms: Depending on how high the scaffold is and what material it is made from, storms can cause an issue. At the very least, rain and snow can make platforms extra slick, while lightning also poses a danger for taller scaffolds or metal ones. During a storm, it may be best to remove any workers from higher levels.
Falls: The most common way to be injured on a scaffold is to fall off it. Even a fall from a relatively low height can cause serious damage, particularly if there is debris or rubble below. While a harness is one option to prevent this type of injury, you can and should include guard rails on the scaffolds to keep people safe. These are mandatory on anything over 3 metres or so, but it doesn’t hurt to include them on every level to prevent injury.
Electrical wires: Power lines, cables, and even appliances, should be treated as potential hazards. You need to be very careful, particularly since most scaffolds are metal and will conduct electricity very easily.
Ropes: Look out for laundry lines and ropes or other types of cables that may not pose an electrical threat, but could still cause injury. Running into a rope can also throw a worker off balance and they could fall.
Debris: Items left on the platforms of the scaffolding can be very dangerous. Tools, debris, and building materials can all be kicked or tripped over and pose a very serious threat to the security of your workers. Anything extra should be properly stored or moved down to the ground level as soon as possible to keep them out of the way.
You have to take definitive steps toward safety and once you are certain that your workers know what they’re doing and are safe, you can relax just a little.
Teaching Safety Protocols to Workers
You’ll need to be sure that all your workers are aware of the rules and protocols. The simplest way to do this is to call a meeting. You can instruct the people who have been with you the longest, even if they feel they already know it all. Then have them spread the knowledge.
Ideally, you will ensure that every worker has heard about what is expected of them. It’s worth repeating several times, since many people require hearing it that many times before they will take something seriously. This is particularly true when it comes to older workers who have already become set in their ways.
You can make things simpler on everyone if you assign inspectors to check every so often that everyone is following the rules and staying safe. This can be something that will have your workers complaining, but consider the alternative. You could be planning funerals and dealing with the loss of wages and a job.
Another good idea is to have a routine to start each day and to end each day. This becomes a habit and allows people to start working without having to think too hard about safety.
A good example of a morning routine would be:
- Arrive and put on safety equipment.
- Lock scaffold wheels, if applicable.
- Inspect the ground around the scaffolding to ensure it hasn’t changed overnight. Rain can affect how soft the soil is and cause sinking, which would throw the entire structure off.
- Inspect the scaffolding as you climb.
For heading home, have your workers do the following:
- Remove debris and tools on the way down.
- Inspect the scaffolding while moving down.
- Close any gates or locks that are attached to the scaffolds.
These are simple things to do, but they can make all the difference in how safe your workers are.
Another good idea is to teach workers to respect the tags. You can easily use stickers or tape to mark the scaffolds with red for “do not climb” when the scaffold is being erected or there is a storm warning. Green means the structure has been inspected and deemed safe. Yellow should indicate that workers may use the scaffolding, but to exercise caution. Once learned, this system is very effective in preparing your means.
Scaffolding safety is very important and should be considered a part of your preparation for all workers who will have access to the scaffolds.
Are you in the market for high quality scaffolding services? Contact DH Scaffolding today to learn how we can help you.