Using scaffolding to work on projects high off the ground is an excellent idea. Scaffolding makes it much easier to maneuver around, plus you can have more tools readily accessible. Moreover, it will save you trips up and down a standard ladder to cover more area.
However, working with scaffolding is a little more involved than just a standard ladder. You should explore some simple training opportunities, then follow a list of scaffolding safety procedures and checklists.
Scaffolding Safety Training
Each year there are nearly 4,000 injuries and over 50 deaths from scaffolding safety related accidents. Training courses for working with scaffolding are not expensive, but extremely important for scaffold workers. They cover scaffolding safety precautions, teaching you how to use scaffolding correctly, how to haul it properly, plus most provide a certification recognized by OHSA.
Understanding basic safety procedure is critical, no matter if you’re using the scaffolding for personal projects, or part of a team at work. When you involve other employees, a training course is imperative. While the height of your scaffolding is something to consider, training courses will cover everything you need to know.
You will first learn how to safely haul scaffolding, the proper way to erect a scaffold, plus how to climb on and off safely. Scaffold safety courses will also help you gain exposure to important scaffolding safety tips and precautions while you work. They also provide the working structure’s risk protection guidelines for dismantling the site, including a scaffold safety inspection checklist.
Scaffolding Safety Procedures
The detail covered by the scaffolding safety training course you need will be dictated by the type of scaffolding you use. Suspended scaffolding such as window washers on skyscrapers takes a more extensive course of study than the normal scaffold user. The following procedures and safety checklist cover supported scaffolding, built from a base on the ground.
Many workers will neglect following good hauling procedures. While this can have consequences if the scaffold accidentally falls off the vehicle hauling it, the biggest hazard is damaging the scaffolding while in transport. Workers may not even notice the damaged piece until it’s too late.
The best hauling procedure is to put all the planks and cross pieces in first. The actual scaffold frame is more rigid, plus it stacks best on top of one another. Lay the scaffold planks out evenly, cross braces next, then finish with the structure frames. Try to avoid propping the scaffold frames up in the air. Haul everything flat and secured to the bed of the vehicle.
#2. Set Up
You can set up a scaffold alone, but it takes some practice and patience. Most scaffold situations will at least have two people doing the setup. Unless you are experienced at solo set up, it’s best to find at least someone to help in this step for the best scaffolding safety.
Place one frame on end and attach the cross braces to it. Have a second person hold the second frame, while each of you aligns the cross braces to that frame. Secure the pins on each cross brace before moving to a second level. Test the stability of each section you add by forcefully trying to wobble the scaffold. Always better to err on the side of caution.
#3. Plank the Whole Section
While you only need a couple of planks for each section as you build to the final height, when you reach the desired number of tiers, always plank the entire area. This will not only provide extra workspace for tools and materials, but it is ultimately much safer.
Just because you’re on a scaffold, do not be slack in scaffolding safety practices. Always use the guardrails that go on the backside of the work level. Scaffolding safety guardrails prevent unnecessary accidents.
Workers have been known to get unexpectedly dizzy, and a guardrail across the backside of the scaffold is all that will keep them from a dangerous fall. Never use a scaffold over one tier without the proper guardrails in place. The best scaffolding safety policy is to get a habit of using them every time.
#5. Secure the Scaffold
Any scaffold that is erected three stories or higher should be secured to the structure you’re working on. There are safety attachments that are used at the second tier of frames.
Do not slack off on this safety procedure, assuming the scaffold will not wobble or slide. The consequences of a scaffold that begins to tilt can be severe. Secure the scaffold according to OHSA scaffolding standards.
#6. Stable Base
The scaffold should always be set on either casters or base plates. If you do not use the proper base to ensure scaffolding safety, you may damage the tubing on the frame. Repeatedly using this incorrect procedure gradually can weaken the structure of that frame. Never use more than one caster or block. Do not stack any base to make the scaffold higher.
If you ever put that frame at any point in a new set up, it could compromise the stability of the scaffold. Failure to use the correct casters, or a 2″ x 12″ block under each from, is a poor procedure. It also violates OHSA scaffolding safety standards. Take the time to use proper bases every time you erect a scaffold.
Always avoid working on a scaffold when the weather is windy or stormy. This may seem like a common-sense decision, but people do not often realize until it’s too late, that the intensity of wind speed increases the higher you’re off the ground. Do not work on a ladder, or a scaffold, if the conditions are not safe.
Putting It All Together
Scaffolding is an excellent way to provide a large and safe workspace. You can construct a scaffold to reach almost any level if you follow procedural guidelines and OHSA scaffolding safety standards.
If you plan to use scaffolding extensively, take the time to complete a certification course. You will not only learn how to properly and safely use scaffolding, but you’ll also learn some tips to make them more useful.