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Scaffolding Safety

Scaffolding Safety

Introduction

Every year nearly 100 fatalities and 10,000 injuries occur world over on scaffolds despite numerous safety regulations aimed to prevent such incidents. If you work on scaffolding, you must be able to recognize the hazards associated with the type of scaffold you are using, and know what to do when you recognize something that just isn’t safe. There are a number of different scaffold types, having different rules and regulations surrounding their assembly, fall protection requirements, & inspection procedures.
An estimated 2.3 million construction workers, or 65% of the construction industry, work on scaffolds frequently. Protecting these workers from scaffold-related accidents would prevent 4,500 injuries & 75 deaths every year, at a savings for employers of $90 million in workdays not lost. In a recent BLS study, seventy-two percent of workers injured in scaffold accidents attributed the accident either to the planking or support giving way, or to the employee slipping or being struck by a falling object. All of these can be controlled by compliance with Building and Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Condition of Service) Act, 1996 and Central Rules, 1998.

Definition:

scaffold is a temporary structure specifically erected to support access or working platforms. Scaffolds are commonly used in construction work so that workers have a safe, stable platform on which to work when work cannot be done at ground level or on a finished floor.
Scaffolds, once properly erected, are a control measure to prevent the risk of persons and objects falling when working at height.
Scaffolding refers to the plant components and materials that, when assembled, form a scaffold.
Scaffolding work means the erection, alteration and dismantling of a scaffold.
Scaffolding work that involves scaffold from which a person or object could fall more than four meters is classified as ‘high risk work’ under the WHS Regulations for which a license is required.

Risk with scaffolds :

Some examples of the hazards associated with work involving the erection, use, maintenance, alteration and dismantling of scaffolds include:
  • scaffolding collapse (before, during and after placement of the scaffold)
  • manual tasks.
  • work near overhead electric lines
  • mobile plant and other workplace traffic
  • mixing components from different scaffold systems (for example, do not mix aluminum tubing with steel tubing)
  • falls from heights
  • falling objects

Assessing the risks

When assessing risks relating to scaffolds you should consider things such as:
  • the type of scaffold to be used
  • the height of the scaffold to be erected
  • the scheduling of the scaffolding work
  • the layout of the workplace, including proximity to public areas
  • the surface on which the scaffold will be erected (ground conditions, the structural integrity of the surface to support the scaffold and its load)
  • the number of people involved
  • plant and equipment that will be used on or near the scaffold
  • the skill and competencies required to erect, use, maintain, alter and dismantle the scaffold
  • what exposures might occur, such as noise or ultraviolet (UV) radiation
  • local weather conditions, particularly wind forces.

Controlling the risks

The ways of controlling risks are ranked from the highest level of protection and reliability to the lowest. This ranking is known as the hierarchy of control measures. The duty holder must always aim to eliminate a hazard first. If this is not reasonably practicable, the risk must be minimized by using one or more of the following:
  • Substitution – for example:
  • use mechanical aids such as cranes, hoists, pallet jacks or trolleys to move equipment and materials wherever possible instead of manual lifting.
  • use scaffold systems which are made of lighter weight materials and use modern technologies, for example, modular systems which have shorter standard lengths or systems that are made of aluminum rather than steel or timber
  • Isolation – for exampleuse concrete barriers to separate pedestrians and powered mobile plant to reduce the risk of collision.
  • Engineering controls – for exampleprovide a catch platform to prevent falling objects hitting workers or other persons below the work area.
If risk remains it must be minimized by implementing administrative controls, so far as is reasonably practicable. For example store scaffolding components as close as practical to the work area in order to minimize the distance over which loads are manually moved. Clear access ways should also be ensured so that materials and equipment can be easily accessed.
 Any remaining risk must be minimized with suitable personal protective equipment (PPE), such as providing workers with hard hats, hearing protectors and high visibility vests.

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