Worker Safety in High Places
Every year, OSHA releases its annual list of the most frequently cited safety violations. In the past three years, from 2009-2011, the violations most often reported include misuse of scaffolding, and fall protection and hazard communication violations.1 According to the United States Department of Labor, in 2008, there were 88 reported fatalities due to employees working with scaffolding and related equipment.2
Scaffolding is a temporary structure used to construct and repair buildings. Often made up of metal pipes and tubing, scaffolding provides workers easy access to parts of a building that would otherwise be restricted. Employees that work on scaffolds are many feet above the ground, so the potential for accidents is always there.
Hazards Related to Scaffold Use
Common Causes of Scaffolding Injuries
- Improper use of scaffold—using scaffold for other inappropriate tasks
- Improper installation—if a scaffold is improperly installed, the scaffold may collapse
- Jumping on scaffold—jumping or hopping on a scaffold may cause the scaffold to give and collapse
- Â Defective components used to erect scaffold—if built with faulty or defective materials, a scaffold may collapse
- Unskilled construction of scaffold—by someone who is untrained to erect scaffolds
- No supervision
- Wrong Components/Mixing Parts—If built with materials not specifically designed by manufacturer for scaffolding device may fail
- Excess Weight—When manufacturer weight limits are not followed employees put themselves at risk.
- Slippery Surfaces/Bad Weather—High wind, rain and slippery surfaces can lead to falls from scaffolding.4
- Inspect controls and components before use
- Select work locations with firm and level surfaces away from hazards that can cause the lift to be unstable, e.g., drop-offs or holes, slopes, bumps or ground obstructions, or debris
- Select work locations that are clear of electrical power sources, e.g., power lines, transformers – by at least 10 feet and other overhead hazards, e.g., other utilities, branches, overhangs, etc .
- Operate lifts only during weather conditions that are safe for use, e.g., not in high winds, rain, snow, sleet, etc.
- Move the lift to/from a work location safely, with the lift lowered, unless following safe practices allowed by the manufacturer
- Set the breaks and stabilize the lift before raising it
- Ensure that the lift is not overloaded
- Work safely from the lift, e.g., do not remove guardrails or stand on them for extra height
- Report problems and malfunctions
- Train workers on, and make sure workers follow, established safe work practices and manufacturers' recommendations for operating lifts safely
- Allow only trained workers to use lifts, and make sure those workers show they can use a lift properly
- Make sure the lift has a guardrail system that protects workers from falling and
- Test, inspect, and maintain lifts according to the manufacturer's recommendations6