Learning from the Houston Incident: Scaffolding Checklist
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Construction Safety: Scaffolds
On Friday, October 16, Houston firefighters jumped in their trucks and sped to a nearby construction site. The scene appeared devastating and passersby’s compared the sound to an avalanche. Sadly, construction crews were working on a seven story apartment complex across from Minute Maid Park when the scaffold beneath collapsed. Firefighters sorted through the twisted pile of metal that stretched an entire city block. Six construction workers were taken out on stretchers and rushed to area hospitals with four found trapped beneath the rubble.
An estimated 2.3 million construction workers, or 65 percent of the construction industry, work on scaffolds resulting in 4,500 injuries and 60 deaths every year (OSHA). An incident like the one in Houston can be an upsetting and costly ordeal, but it serves as a key reminder about the importance of scaffolding safety.
To ensure the safe and proper use of scaffolding on your jobsites, have your safety or onsite construction supervisors review scaffolding procedures, including set up, training and use as well as fall protection. Below is a construction scaffolding safety checklist that can also be circulated. Check off each bullet as completed.
General OSHA Requirements
- Each employee on a scaffold more than 10 feet above a lower level must be protected from falling to that lower level.
- Fall protection consists of either personal fall arrest systems or guardrail systems meeting OSHA requirements.
- OSHA requires that scaffolds are to be erected, moved, dismantled or altered only under the supervision of a competent person that’s qualified in such activities.
- OSHA requires scaffolds over 125 feet in height and rolling scaffolds over 60 feet in height must be designed by a registered professional engineer and constructed and loaded in accordance with such design.
- Employees performing overhand bricklaying operations from a supported scaffold must be protected from falling from all open sides and ends of the scaffold, except at the side next to the wall being laid.
- The scaffold must be erected under the direction of a competent person(s).
- Employees involved with set up (or near) the scaffold must wear hard hats.
- Scaffold should be level, and footings should be sound and rigid. Do not set footings on soft or frozen ground or on blocks.
- The front face of the scaffolding must be set up within 14 inches of the work (or within three feet for outrigger scaffolds).
- Verify the minimum top edge height on the scaffold is at least 38 inches, but not more than 45 inches. Each top rail needs to withstand a force of at least 200 pounds.
- Verify the capacity—the scaffold must to able to hold four times its maximum intended load.
- The platform should be complete from front to back and side to side. It must be fully planked or decked, with no gaps greater than 1 inch.
- Provide guardrails and toe boards on all open sides.
- When erection is completed, wheels and/or castors should be in a locked position.
- Ensure all sections are pinned or appropriately secured.
- Provide a safe way for workers to get on and off the scaffold (without climbing on cross braces), such as a ladder.
- Scaffold must meet electrical safety clearance distances (no overhead obstructions or electric lines within 12 feet of the scaffold assembly).
Training and Use
- Provide training by a competent person to all employees involved in erecting, dismantling, repairing, inspecting and/or working on scaffolds.
- Require employees to inspect the scaffolding before each work shift.
- Hardhats must be worn by workers on and around the scaffold.
- Verify scaffold loads, including tools and other equipment, are kept to a minimum and materials are removed when the scaffold is not in use.
- Ensure employees are removed from scaffolds during high winds or bad weather.
- Before moving a scaffold, secure all materials and vacate workers from the platform.
- Hoist up all heavy tools, equipment, supplies, etc., rather than carry up by hand.
Fall Protection — Fall-Arrest Systems
In addition to meeting general scaffolding requirements, personal fall-arrest systems used on scaffolds must be attached by lanyard to a vertical lifeline, horizontal lifeline or scaffold structural member.
- When vertical lifelines are used, they must be fastened to a fixed safe point of anchorage, independent of the scaffold, and be protected from sharp edges and abrasion. Safe points of anchorage include structural members of buildings, but not standpipes, vents, electrical conduit, etc., which may give way under the force of a fall.
- Be aware that it is dangerous and therefore impermissible for two or more vertical lifelines to be attached to each other, or to the same point of anchorage.
- When horizontal lifelines are used, ensure they are secured to two or more structural members of the scaffold.
Source: OSHA Safety and Health Regulations for Construction, Standard 1926.451
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