If you work in construction, a big portion of your job may involve the use of scaffolding. Scaffolding allows you to tackle projects at greater heights, like working on the outside of a high-rise building. However, as useful as scaffolding can be on a construction site, it can also be deadly. When scaffolding is not erected or maintained properly, or safety protocols are not followed, workers don't just get injured—they also lose their lives.
The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has a list called the "Fatal Four" for individuals who work in the construction industry. The Fatal Four lists the four leading causes of death at construction sites, with "Falls" being the number one cause of death. Additionally, among their top 10 frequently cited OSHA standard violations, you will find "Fall protection, construction" at number one and "Scaffolding, general requirements, construction" in the number three spot. These alarming statistics prove that measures need to be taken to prevent scaffolding accidents from occurring if we want to save the lives of our workers.
A little bit of awareness and prevention can go a long way in avoiding scaffolding accidents. OSHA provides some important scaffolding safety tips that every construction worker should be aware of:
- Scaffolds must be erected on solid footing, and they must be so sound and rigid that they can support their own weight plus four times the maximum intended load without settling or displacement.
- Scaffolds must have guardrails, mid-rails, and toe boards.
- A "competent person" needs to be in charge of the scaffolding; that means he needs to inspect it before anyone sets foot on it, and then continue to re-inspect at designated intervals. He also must supervise every aspect of the scaffolding—when it is erected, moved, dismantled, or altered in any way.
- To prevent electrocution or fires, any rope used in suspension scaffolding must be protected from heat-producing sources. Scaffolds must also be at least 10 feet from electric power lines.
- Any scaffold accessories—such as braces, brackets, trusses, screw legs, or ladders—that are damaged or weakened for any reason must be immediately repaired or replaced.
Your life is far too precious. You should not put it at risk by working on a poorly constructed scaffold. If you are concerned about certain safety measures being taken on your construction site, speak with your employer about the conditions. You may save not only your own life, but the lives of your co-workers as well.
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