Scaffolding is the preferred solution to many access issues on construction sites across the country.

This provides a safe means of access for workers who perform their duties at heights.

Scaffolding is recommended above numerous other means of access, particularly if the work involves multiple tools, workers, materials, or equipment, or the job itself will be prolonged.

It is estimated that about 2 in 3 construction workers do at least some of their work on scaffolding.

While not many people consider scaffolds as dangerous, about 4,500 workers are injured annually in scaffold-related injuries with as many as 50 actually losing their lives.

The question is, how safe are scaffolds?

As with numerous other aspects of safety, knowing about the hazards and following the right procedures for minimising risks can help eliminate much of the potential for injuries and problems.

Following is how you can ensure safety when it comes to using scaffolding.

1. Start with Proper Training

Using scaffolds safely requires erecting, moving, dismantling, and maintaining them properly and ensuring that workers performing tasks on them to fully understand the right safety procedures.

Mandatory training is the best way to address both needs. The former is also referred to as Competent Person training.

A competent person is responsible for coordinating and overseeing scaffolding.

2. Follow the Instructions

Scaffold-related incidents are almost always avoidable if workers follow the instructions accordingly.

It is quite easy for workers to become so familiar with the scaffolding they work on that they make the mistake of assuming that all scaffolding systems will be exactly the same, which is often not the case.

3. Consider the Hazards

Hazards associated with scaffolding use may vary depending on the operating environment as well as the nature of tasks being performed.

Falls are generally the greatest hazard a worker on a scaffold faces, which is why it is recommended to fit handrails or some other type of fall-protection mechanism on scaffolding structures.

4. Respect the Complexity of Scaffolds

Scaffolds might appear to be somewhat simple structures, particularly for workers that have been working on them for a long time.

However, they involve complex engineering as well as the interaction of various resources.

Respecting the complexity of scaffolds and making sure the workers that work on them are properly supervised can have a dramatic impact on the reduction of the number of injuries and damage to equipment scaffolding accidents cause.

A small investment in extra attention may provide a significant return in the end.

5. Proper Assembly and Dismantling

Erecting the scaffold safely is critical as is dismantling it once you have completed the construction project.

If it is placed in a public place, you must ensure that you properly divert the public from the area where the structure is present.

Ideally, this should be done during the times of the day when foot traffic is minimal, such as at night or early in the morning.

The Competent Person is responsible for determining the safety and feasibility of providing fall protection mechanisms for workers that erect and dismantle scaffolds.

6. Wearing the Right Protective Gear

The right safety equipment is a must-have when it comes to outdoor work of any type.

This includes everything from footwear to gloves, safety glasses, and hardhats.

When it comes to on-platform tasks, protection for the head is critical because of potential falling risks.

Always remember that employers are required to provide fall protection mechanisms for employees working over 10 feet above a lower level.

7. Proper Inspection

Inspections should be done on a daily basis before using the equipment.

The Competent Person, a supervisor, or both should inspect the scaffolding on a regular basis.

Inspections should involve testing of the equipment, a visual inspection for any signs of damage or wear, as well as recommendations for maintenance.

Equipment should be either repaired or replaced if there’s evidence of any damage likely to compromise the integrity of the scaffold or platform, including guardrail systems or PPE, which includes harnesses, lifelines, and associated fasteners and clips.

8. Prevent and Avoid Falling Objects

To prevent objects from rolling off and landing on somebody below, you can use toe boards around the scaffold.

You should also keep the workplace clean to ensure that the hazard of knocking something off the scaffold or even tripping is reduced.

9. Make Use of Wind Screens on High Scaffolds

If the area where the scaffolding is located is subject to winds of over 40kph, you should consider installing a windscreen to ensure that objects are not blown around by the wind.

If a windscreen is not available or feasible, a fall protection system can be used to address the risk that high winds pose.

Final Thoughts

Working on scaffolds is one of the greatest safety risks present on construction sites.

However, it is possible to reduce the risk of injury or damage to property by implementing the 9 safety tips discussed here.

This will ensure that workers operating on scaffolds can complete the job safely.

If you are looking for knowledgeable and experienced scaffolders, who have leading-hands that work together with you and offer expert advice, please contact Skelscaff today on 1300 266 607 or email the company at
Note: Some of the information incorporated into the above article was originally provided by Safe Work Australia.

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