Recent Scaffolding Safety Guidelines

Posted on August 24, 2022 in News

Recent Scaffolding Safety Guidelines

Numerous laws strictly regulate scaffolding systems. The vast majority of these regulations come from OSHA, but some are set forth by state governments to help fill in compliance gaps.

New laws are often passed, and regulations may change over time. As such, it’s essential to be up to date on scaffolding safety guidelines, which cover everything from the construction and design of a scaffold to who provides training for employees working at height.

OSHA Safety Guide for Scaffolding

Important Recent Scaffolding Safety Guidelines

There are several important scaffolding design guidelines and safety rules that pertain to working on a scaffold:

  • Guardrails and/or fall arrest systems are mandatory when working over 10 feet up.
  • Guardrails should be between 38” and 45” high.
  • Scaffold platforms must be fully decked or planked.
  • A supported scaffolding height-to-base ratio of over 4:1 must be kept secure with guying, tying, bracing, etc.
  • Scaffolds should be able to hold up to four times their maximum load.
  • Inspections must be performed before each work shift.
  • Employers must train all employees working at height on proper safety rules.
  • Do not violate clearances from electrical power lines as allowed in 1926.451(f)(6)  In Virginia, the minimum clearance is 10 Feet from power lines.
  • Do not bridge two scaffolds with walkways unless designed by a qualified person.
  • Do not use the scaffold unless the proper falling object protection for the users and workers below has been provided.
  • Do not use scaffolds during storms, lightning, or high winds.
  • Do not work on ice or snow-covered platforms.
  • Do not use a scaffold if it is not plumb, square, and rigid.
  • Do not alter the scaffold. A trained crew may only perform scaffold alteration under the supervision of a competent person.

These scaffolding safety guidelines, which come directly from OSHA standards, are explored in greater depth in the sections below.

Construction & Design Requirements

Scaffolding Safety RequirementsScaffolding systems need to be designed and built a certain way to be deemed safe. Different regulations apply to different types of scaffolding systems—such as supported scaffolds versus suspension platforms—but the general premise is the same: make sure the structure is secure and safe to use.

Guardrails, Midrails, and Cross Bracing

On supported scaffolds, OSHA requires guardrails to be installed at heights over 10 feet in most circumstances. Guardrails must be between 38 inches and 45 inches in height, with the midrails being installed at about half that height.

When used to support the top rail for the guardrail, cross bracing should reach the required height of between 38 and 45 inches. The top rails on guardrails must not be built from steel or plastic banding. It should be sturdy enough to stop a fall.

Platforms

Planking installed on a scaffold must be able to support at least four times its intended load, plus its own weight, without failure. It shouldn’t deflect more than 1/60 of its length between supports. Working platforms should be built from solid wood or fabricated planks. 

Do not overload the scaffold platform with more than its intended loading capacity nor extend working maximum heights by climbing guardrails or using boxes or ladders on the platform.  

Scaffolding Support and Restraints

When the height to base ratio for scaffolding is more than 4:1, guying, ties, or other restraints are required to keep it from tipping over. Restraints should be installed every 20 vertical feet for widths less than three feet or 26 feet for widths over three feet. Horizontal braces should be installed at each end and no more than 30 feet from one end.

Scaffolding Safety RequirementsScaffolding Capacity

A scaffold needs to support up to four times the intended load to be placed upon it. Weights placed upon the scaffold must never exceed the intended load or maximum capacity, whichever is lower.

Maintenance & Upkeep

Given the risks associated with working on scaffolds, it’s important to keep them well maintained at all times. Be sure to wash them down after each job and perform an inspection for broken or damaged components.

Inspection Frequency

Central to maintenance and the safe use of scaffolding are frequent inspections. An inspection must be performed by a qualified person at the start of every shift and after any incident that may impact the structural integrity of the scaffold. For instance, if the scaffold is moved or damaged, it should be inspected to ensure it is safe to use.

Qualified Person

A qualified person is defined as someone who has received the training and education needed to perform specific tasks. Typically, this means they have either received a degree or certification or have otherwise proved their ability to solve related problems by extensive knowledge or experience. A qualified person must perform inspections on scaffolds.

Four Most Common Scaffolding Safety Failures

There are four common scaffolding safety failures that you should be aware of:

  • Overloading a scaffold.
  • Contractor removing scaffold support members or altering the scaffold. 
  • Bad housekeeping—leaving extra debris, which can lead to slips, trips, and falls.
  • Unstable Base/Footing: Mudsills and Baseplates are not adequately secured or tightened.

Personal Safety Requirements For The Safe Use Of Scaffolding

construction worker on platform wearing fall arrest equipmentIndividuals working at height are just as responsible for their safety as their employers. That said, there are some items that employers must provide for their employees to ensure their safety.

Fall arrest systems

Anyone working at over 10 feet in height must have either a fall arrest system or guardrails, and one or two-point suspension scaffolds require both per OSHA regulations. 

Personal fall protection systems include harnesses, belts, snap hooks, lifelines, D-rings, and anchorage points. State laws may require additional personal protective equipment (PPE). It is typically the employer’s responsibility to provide that equipment.

Falling object protection

Employees must wear hard hats while on the worksite to protect them from falling objects, such as tools, debris, etc. In addition, OSHA standards require the installation of toeboards, screens, nets, or barricades to catch falling items.

Training

A qualified person must train employees on the hazards associated with working at height and the procedures used to mitigate those risks. A competent person must also train those who assemble, move, repair, maintain, inspect, or operate scaffolds.

Retraining is required whenever the employer feels an employee lacks the proficiency or knowledge to work safely or in instances where no training has taken place after changes to the worksite.

Complying With Scaffolding Safety Guidelines

Of course, this is just a sampling of many scaffolding safety guidelines. More rules apply to specific types of scaffolds (such as suspension systems or aerial lifts), access requirements for employees who are dismantling or erecting a scaffold, and access methods, to name but a few.

Maintaining compliance with these standards is often a matter of industry expertise. Contractors specializing in scaffolding design and erection tend to be current on these laws and regulations. Click below to learn more about scaffolding safety, design, and engineering, specifically for wind loads and gusting.

Engineering Scaffolding for Wind Loads and Gusting

Memberships & Associations

Customer Testimonials

el lugar luce muy bonito, la atención muy amable
Muy bueno
Andi Lopez
Andi Lopez
17:30 20 Mar 19
Fantastic company
David Bucciarelli
David Bucciarelli
14:26 29 Sep 18
i love the work they did at DC
Matthew Aleman
Matthew Aleman
17:48 27 Jan 18
Great company and innovative scaffolds!
Jose Pietri
Jose Pietri
18:58 10 Nov 17
The best service and competitive pricing!
Diana DuVall
Diana DuVall
21:01 09 Nov 17
I work here
Tony Bullock
Tony Bullock
15:23 09 Jul 17
Scaffolding Solutions... All I can say is "WOW". I was impressed with the professionalism, courtesy and efficiency of the complete experience.
Timmy Willoughby
Timmy Willoughby
14:06 04 May 17
js_loader