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Scaffolding Safety Tips

Scaffolding Safety Tips

Painters, window washers and construction workers frequently use scaffolding in their work. If you are a worker in these jobs or others that use supports, you must do regular check-ins with your safety knowledge.

Whether you’ve never used scaffolding before or have a long history of use, reviewing safety rules will ensure you don’t forget any steps when setting up and using the device. The best way to prevent falls from working at heights is to start with a thorough understanding of the rules for safe use of scaffolds and similar structures.

Scaffolding Setup Process

To safely set up scaffolding, you must ensure several steps of the process follow the proper procedures for the site. The ability of the workers to securely set up the scaffolding and use it is as essential as the integrity of the structure itself. For safe use, be meticulous in your setup of the scaffolding and never skip safety regulations when on the scaffold.

Scaffolding Setup Process

1. Verify Personnel Safety

Scaffolding setup requires having a knowledgeable manager in charge of the project. Only set up scaffolding if you have received adequate training for the process. Use these guidelines as reminders of your education, never as a substitute.

Before setting up any parts of the scaffolding, verify everyone has hard hats, non-slip footwear and any other PPE required of the situation.

2. Check the Area

Examine the area surrounding the scaffolding. Look for a level, sturdy area on the ground to place the base of the scaffolding on. Also, look up to avoid setting up scaffolding near power lines or other obstacles above the area. Don’t forget to include the reach of tools workers will use on the scaffolding when placing the structure in an area clear of overhead dangers.

If placing any of the scaffolding’s feet on soil, always use mudsills. Mudsills extend the area of the scaffolding feet to increase the surface area that experiences force from the scaffold. Spreading out the force reduces the chances the feet will sink into soft ground or soil.

These mudsills can be wooden planks. Use pieces of wood measuring at least 10 feet by two feet under at least two of the scaffolding’s feet. Mudsills must go at least two feet past the feet. Always secure the feet to mudsills with nails or screws through the base plates at the bottom of the scaffolding feet.

3. Inspect Components

Inspect all components of the scaffolding for part integrity and strength. Avoid using any parts that have rust, dents or other damage that could compromise their performance. The strength of the scaffolding system also matters.

Choose a scaffold based on how many people and supplies it must support. You have three options for scaffolding supports. For scaffolding safety, select a structure that will support at least four times the heaviest load you intend to put on it.

  • Light duty: Supports 25 pounds per square foot. Use for basic maintenance and inspection.
  • Medium duty: For masonry work or for projects that require equipment and parts, select medium-duty scaffolds, which hold up to 50 pounds per square foot.
  • Heavy duty: The strongest scaffolds, which support up to 75 pounds per square foot, work best with multiple workers or when the structure must support heavy equipment or parts.

4. Verify First-Level Stability

The first level is the most essential part of the scaffolding because it must hold the rest of the structure. Use a level to verify the first layer of the scaffold does not have any slopes or dips. Also, check the footings to ensure they are at right angles to each other. Square footings ensure the scaffolding has not twisted.

If the scaffolding has wheels on the base for easy moving, lock them after moving the structure into place. Check that all wheels remain locked before anyone climbs onto the scaffolding.

5. Erect Parts to Specifications

Build the scaffolding according to specifications for the type used. Always install cross-bracing at each layer and lock the connections into place. Pin each layer and double-check the security of the pin connections to ensure they each are in place. Check the locking devices each time you verify the wheel locks.

For the platforms, do not allow more than a one-inch gap between boards. The working deck front side cannot sit more than 14 inches from the surface. All other sides need guardrails and toe boards.

Have a ladder to reach the highest platform available and a lift system for hoisting tools and equipment up to the scaffolding. For scaffolds that measure four times taller than their base, use guying, bracing or tying to hold it steady and keep it from falling.

6. Include Fall Protection Features

For scaffolding greater than 10 feet tall, you must have fall protection. Including these safety features could prevent some of the 60 deaths and 4,500 injuries each year from scaffolding-related accidents.

Fall protection includes guardrails and toe boards on open sides. For supported scaffolding, workers need fall protection from either a guardrail or personal fall arrest system. Suspended scaffolds require both. Other types of systems need workers to wear a harness with a connected lifeline for personal fall protection.

Personal fall arrest systems add another level of security for those working on scaffolding. According to OSHA, the personal fall arrest system must include either a horizontal or vertical lifeline, a harness and an anchorage point. Such protections prevent a worker from falling to the ground if she slips over a guardrail or if the scaffolding does not include a guardrail.

Using Scaffolding for Commercial and Industrial Painting Projects

Erecting the scaffolding only accounts for part of the safe use for these structures. You must also follow safety guidelines for using the scaffolding, which starts with inspecting the erected structure.

1. Inspect the Scaffolding

Before anyone climbs onto the scaffolding, check the connections, supports and other parts of the structure. A thorough inspection ensures the correct construction of the framework, which makes the scaffold safe to use for workers.

Check the security of the wheels or mudsills. Ensure all wheels or casters are in the locked position and cannot move. For mudsills, verify that someone nailed or screwed the scaffold base plates into the boards.

Look at all the locking pins. The builder of the scaffolding needed to insert every pin completely and lock it into place.

Check the platforms. Each platform must cover the full distance of the level. If more than one board creates the level, there should be less than one inch between the boards.

Ensure the fall protection system works. Guardrails need to stay securely in place even if a person leans on them. Fall arrest systems need to have a strong anchorage point that will support a person whose weight pulls on it in a fall.

Once you have thoroughly inspected the security and safety of the scaffolding, you can allow people to use it for painting.

2. Scaffolding Use for Commercial Painting Safety

Scaffolding for Commercial Painting

To safely use painting scaffolding, everyone who stands on a platform must receive training before climbing to the working height. Wear a hard hat and durable shoes to protect against falling debris and slipping.

When climbing to the platform, use a ladder or other safe method or reaching the level. Never carry your tools or paint with you up the ladder. Hoist these up with a rope once you safely reach the working level.

Do not allow more workers than necessary on the platform. Too many people can make the surface crowded and increase chances of falls. Additionally, the extra weight could pose a hazard on light-duty scaffolding, which is best for use by a handful of people without heavy tools or equipment.

If inclement weather threatens, evacuate the scaffolding. Lightning can strike metal structures, resulting in electrocution. Snow and rain can make the surfaces slippery and dangerous. High winds can blow people and tools off the structure.

Should your work require you to move a rolling scaffold, have everyone place their painting equipment and paint back on the ground and climb down themselves before unlocking the wheels and moving the scaffolding. Check that you securely lock all wheels before allowing anyone to climb back onto the scaffolding.

In addition to these safety tips, OSHA has regulations that ensure specific actions and worksite setups meet requirements.

OSHA Scaffolding Rules

OSHA creates regulations to ensure workplaces are safe for workers and those nearby. Because 65% of those in the construction industry use scaffolding, the organization classifies its scaffolding rules under the construction category. Several guidelines for construction already have come under setup and use. However, if you still have questions about setting up or using scaffolding according to OSHA rules, here are answers to those queries.

1. Who Can Erect, Inspect or Work on Scaffolding?

OSHA allows only those who have undergone training to set up, inspect or work on scaffolding. The training will consist of an instructor teaching workers about the dangers of scaffolding use and how to prevent accidents.

Those in charge of erecting or inspecting the scaffolding need to also take training sessions about how to set up scaffolding safely and to identify problems that could pose safety hazards.

Occasionally, employers will need to retrain their workers. OSHA does not require a specific timeline for retraining. Instead, the organization recommends scheduling retraining if changes occur in the scaffolding construction, fall protection or worksite. Additionally, workers who do not show understanding or competence in preventing accidents while working on scaffolding or erecting it will need retraining.

2. What Are Minimum Scaffolding Dimensions?

Scaffolding must support people and tools on it. The minimum weight capacity needs to hold the structure and four times the intended weight it will carry. Workers must clear debris from the platform because OSHA prohibits workers from using a cluttered platform.

Planks used for each platform must adhere to the same weight capacity as the scaffolding itself. Additionally, each platform must measure at least 18 inches wide. Platforms should reach as close to the uprights as possible, no more than one inch of space without barriers. If side brackets force the planks for the platform to stand farther away from the uprights, the maximum distance is 9.5 inches.

Platform supports depend on the length of the surface. For platforms measuring less than 10 feet long, the edges cannot be more than 12 inches beyond the supports. Longer platforms, greater than 10 feet, cannot exceed 18 inches past the supports. Platform planks that overlap must have their juncture over a support.

3. What Are Requirements for Guardrails?

Guardrails include toe boards, which prevent tools from falling off, as well as midrails and toprails. While some types of scaffolds do not require guardrails as long as workers have personal fall protection, installing guardrails makes the scaffolding safer. Single-point and two-point suspended scaffolding need both guardrails and personal fall protection.

All open sides of the scaffolding require guardrails. The working side of the structure must be less than 14 inches from the surface, or less than 18 inches if the workers need to plaster or lathe the wall.

OSHA prohibits using plastic or steel bands for the toprail or midrails of guardrails.

4. How to Support Scaffolds

How to Support Scaffolds

Scaffolds with a height greater than four times the width of the base require additional support with braces, guys and ties.

Ties, braces or guys start at the horizontal portion that reaches the closest height to the four-to-one ratio. For example, if the base width measures 10 feet and the scaffolding measures 50 feet, you will install the first tie at the horizontal support closest to 40 feet off the ground.

If the scaffolds measure less than three feet wide, install ties every 20 vertical feet. For wider scaffolds, vertical ties may have intervals of every 26 feet.

You will need multiple supports at each vertical level. Install horizontal braces at each end of the scaffolding for each vertical interval.

5. What Means Can You Use to Get Onto Scaffolding?

OSHA prohibits workers from using cross-braces to climb scaffolding. Any platforms higher than two feet vertically from the closest surface require a means of access. Allowed access means include stairs, ramps, walkways and ladders.

6. What Types of Scaffolds Does OSHA Prohibit?

OSHA does not allow the use of lean-to and shore scaffolding. Also, the agency does not permit workers on scaffolding that has ice, snow or other slipping hazards on the platforms unless the workers are in the process of removing these.

7. How Can You Prevent Accidents From Falling Objects?

Accidents from falling objects also come under OSHA’s regulations. Install toeboards, catch nets or other means to prevent materials from falling off the scaffolding. All workers under the scaffold must wear hard hats, even with the safety measures in place.

Staying Safe for All Painting Projects

Contact PennCoat for Industrial and Commercial Painting Projects

Our painters always strive to use the highest level of care on the job, especially when they work on scaffolding. At Penncoat, we take the toughest painting projects for industrial or commercial needs and execute them to the demanding expectations of plant managers, engineers and other facility heads. For more information about our services in Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, contact us.