Scaffolding accidents are usually the result of improper construction or negligent maintenance of the scaffolding. It is estimated that 10,000 of the 500,000 injuries that occur annually on construction sites are scaffold accidents.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have strict regulations concerning the proper assembly and usage of scaffolds. Unfortunately, the erector and/or laborer often perceive certain components as unnecessary or too expensive to rent or buy. The result is a scaffold that does not comply with the OSHA standards.
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The most commonly “forgotten” scaffold components are:
Base Plates and Mud Sills: Base plates and mud sills are required on all scaffolds. Also, the surface on which the mud sills are placed must be capable of supporting the loaded scaffold without settling. In some cases it may be necessary to compact the soil before setting up the scaffold.
Scaffold Ties: The first tie must be installed at the horizontal member of the frame closest to the 4:1 base to height ratio. In other words, if you are utilizing 5-feet wide frames, the first tie should be installed at the horizontal member of the frame as close to the 20-feet height as possible. After the initial tie is installed, subsequent ties must be installed at height intervals not to exceed 26 feet. Also, ties must be installed at each end of the scaffold and at horizontal intervals not to exceed 30 feet. All ties should be capable of withstanding a “push” or “pull” force of 2,500 pounds. Additional ties may be necessary when enclosing a scaffold or when the scaffold is subject to high winds. If in doubt, always review your scaffold set-up plans with a professional engineer prior to beginning the set-up.
Side Brackets: When using side brackets, it is important to remember that brackets are for personnel only. NEVER use side brackets for material loading or storage. Also, check the load capacity of the side brackets and do not overload them. Most brackets are rated for a load capacity of 500 pounds. When determining the load on a particular bracket, you must remember to include the load in the area of .5 of the bay on each side of the bracket. Side brackets should be secured against uplift by either pinning (if holes are provided) or wiring to the frame.
Guard Railing: This should be complete with both top rails and mid rails. Current OSHA scaffold codes require fall protection on all scaffolds where the user is exposed to a fall of 10 feet or more to a lower level. When using guard railing to satisfy the fall protection requirement, it must be installed with a top rail height of between 38 inches and 45 inches above the work platform. Mid rails must be installed approximately midway between the top rails and the work platform. Also, all top rails must be able to withstand a force of 200 pounds in any downward or horizontal direction. Don’t forget guard rail panels on the side brackets at each end of the scaffold.
Toe-boards: Current OSHA scaffold codes require toe-boards on all sides of the work platform at heights of 10 feet or greater. Toe-boards must be a minimum of 3.5 inches high and be able to withstand a force of at least 50 pounds applied in any downward or horizontal direction.
Work Platform Decking: OSHA requires all work levels to be completely decked. Always follow the OSHA chart to determine platform load capacity when using plank. When manufactured plank or decks are used, be careful not to exceed the rated load capacity. Also be sure to properly inspect all planks/platforms before installing, and once installed, check for proper overlap of the planks.
Fastening (Lock) Pins: The most popular types are snap pins, gravity pigtail pins, and hinge pins. These are recommended at all frame connections, especially if hoisting material from the platform level.