Scaffolds are some of the most dangerous workplaces, and not only construction workers risk their lives while working on these structures. Scaffold-related injuries and fatalities occur each year, despite the strict safety standards set by the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health. The safety agency says compliance with regulations can prevent all scaffolding accidents.
If you are a construction worker, window washer, painter or in any other occupation that has you doing your job on a scaffold structure, it would likely be a good idea not to lose sight of the dangers. Always be on the lookout for dangerous situations. You might not realize it, but you are entitled to refuse to work on an unsafe scaffold structure.
Know the rules
Cal/OSHA rules cover every aspect of working on scaffolds, and learning those rules will help you to identify and avoid safety threats. The rules mandate the quality of the structural materials and the planking, the required width of the scaffold, the distance from buildings and electrical cables, and more. The agency also specifies the conditions that require guardrails, their height, and safe access and egress methods. If you keep your standards at those levels and take the necessary precautions, you might return home safely each day.
Is the structure secure?
Before getting on a scaffold, make sure it is secure and in compliance with the following regulations:
- Are the scaffold’s footings stable, rigid and placed on a firm surface?
- Are the scaffolding planks strong enough to support at least four times the planned load?
- Is the supporting rope or wire strong enough to carry six times the planned weight?
- Are bricks, boxes, barrels or other objects that can shift and cause it to collapse supporting the scaffold?
In addition, make sure that the number of workers on the scaffold does not exceed the number for which it the manufacturer designed it.
Personal protective equipment
The scaffold itself is not the only area in which you need to pay attention in order to help guarantee your safety. Consider the following:
- Always comply with the following Cal/OSHA guidelines for PPE.
- Never work on a scaffold without wearing a safety harness.
- Secure the lanyard to the building or another stable structure.
- Be aware of the hazards posed by workers on higher levels of the scaffold. Wear a hard hat because dropped objects can cause catastrophic injuries.
- Wear a life vest if you work on a scaffold structure positioned over water.
Even if you work underneath the scaffold instead of on it, you still face significant dangers for which you need to take the appropriate safety precautions.
Safe work area
The most significant hazards when working on scaffolds involve slips and trips. To avoid falls, keep the following precautions in mind:
- Wear work boots that provide adequate traction.
- Never work on a structure where water, oil or ice is present on the surface.
- Keep tools in tool belts or properly organized and out of the way to avoid trip-and-fall accidents.
- Stay away from scaffold work in adverse weather conditions such as high winds and rain.
- Do not work on a scaffold that is not level.
Make sure the structure is clear of workers and tools before repositioning or moving it.
Despite taking the necessary precautions, you might still be a victim of a scaffolding accident. The California workers’ compensation system is a no-fault system that covers injured workers regardless of who caused a workplace accident. Legal counsel is available to help you with the navigation of benefits claims, which will cover medical expenses and lost wages. If your injuries cause permanent disability, you might receive additional benefits.