Scaffolding is use for a variety of purposes ranging from construction, maintenance, cleaning and refurbishment of buildings. Scaffolding safety is paramount if a site is to avoid injuries, hazards and regulatory violations.
Why scaffolding safety matters
The construction industry has one of the highest fatality rates when compared to other industries:
A total of 33% of fatalities occur due to:
- Falls from a height – 12%
- Being hit by moving objects – 11%
- Being hit by falling objects – 10%
Keep in mind fatalities are the worst form on injury one can suffer. No one is immune and everyone should take precautions to safeguard themselves and their colleagues. With the right checks and attitudes in place a culture of safety can thrive at any workplace.
Best practices to ensure scaffolding safety
1. Safety should always come first
Regardless of your circumstances and project pressures safety should be the first consideration at all times. This attitude is crucial in minimising injuries. If for no other reason than that working in the quickest way possible is guaranteed to end up with injuries and damages that are not worth the benefits.
No matter how small or large a job the first priority should be keeping yourself and your colleagues safe; even if it means disrupting long standing bad habits. “We’ve always done it this way”, won’t help anyone when something goes wrong.
2. Appropriate training for everyone
Before someone starts a task it is important to provide them with the necessary training. No matter how experienced an individual is in one aspect of work they need to be trained appropriately.
This is especially true if they are transitioning to a new specialisation or if rules and regulations have changed.
3. An orderly worksite
Do your best to keep a worksite orderly even when rushed about. A methodical approach that implements a clear plan for procedures small and large is key to keeping an orderly worksite. Tools, equipment, construction materials and waste should all be organised so as to be used throughout the site in a predictable way.
Place items neatly and away from edges when working on raised scaffolds. Identify any dangling or precarious objects and notify a nearby worker. Keep walkways clear and limit the maximum number workers on a scaffold at anytime.
4. Assess your surroundings regularly for hazards
Assess the site when you start work and then throughout the day for hazards or accidents in the making.
- Are there exposed wires?
- Is there any uneven terrain that can be helped or avoided?
- Is the scaffolding set up in a precarious and haphazard way?
- Is it possible for equipment to fall from a height?
- Is it possible for someone to trip or not notice an obstruction?
Asking yourself simple questions like these can put you in the right frame of mind to spot areas for improvement and create a safe worksite.
5. Use equipment and scaffolding as intended
All equipment, construction materials and scaffolding is designed to be used in a specific way. Use it any other way and you put yourself in danger. Whether you are dealing with ergonomically designed tools or a particular scaffolding system, it is best to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations at all times.
6. Appropriate PPE
- All workers that use scaffolding should clip themselves to a guardrail with a safety harness. Remember 12% of fatalities are due to falls.
- Wear hard hats where appropriate.
- Use goggles to avoid foreign materials getting in your eyes at a raised height.
7. Scaffolding audits/inspections
Have a person that did not help build the scaffold perform a scaffolding audit/inspection. If the project is at a large scale a third-party auditor would be ideal. Such a professional can offer an objective and experienced assessment and add an extra layer of safety to the project.
You can also visit the Government WorkSafe website for more detailed information: Scaffolding checklist PDF.