One of the most dangerous pieces of equipment on a construction site is improperly erected scaffolding because not only does it pose a risk to the workers on it, but every one below it as well, both employees and members of the public.
An incident which took place in the UK is an example of why unsafe scaffolding is such a risk. The company’s director appeared in court after 2 workers were seen replacing guttering during heavy winds, using unsafe scaffolding. A concerned member of the public noticed the unsafe practices and reported it to the UK’s health and safety authority.
The 2 workers were found to be working on badly erected scaffolding towers with an unsecured board being used as a walkway between the towers. There was also missing edge protection on the scaffolding and a man was seen climbing down the outside of the scaffolding instead of using an access ladder.
This scene is one that perfectly depicts negligence on the part of the employer – the workers could have easily been seriously or even fatally injured.
The incident resulted in the company receiving a 12 month conditional discharge and being ordered to pay prosecution costs after pleading guilty to the breach of the Work at Height Regulations 2005. This company was lucky to get away with a fine and not lose any of its workers because of unsafe practices which is usually what happens.
A health and safety inspector, Grayam Barnes had this to say after the court’s ruling:
“I would like to thank the person who contacted HSE about the scaffolding as the men could easily have been seriously injured or even killed in a fall if the work had continued.
They were working on scaffolding with numerous missing safety features, and an unsecured board linking the two towers. The fact that they were working in high winds increased the risks to them even further.
Falls from height are one of the biggest causes of workplace deaths in the construction industry, and firms should be doing all they can to minimise the risks.”
Employers should not ignore the rules particularly when it comes to safety. Scaffolding needs to be maintained and inspected regularly including its components and stair flights. Employers and others responsible for scaffolding safety should not wait for an accident to occur before they address safety issues with scaffolding.
Remember that in Australia employers, the suppliers, scaffolders and scaffolding installers as well as contractors all carry responsibility in scaffolding safety and inspection of scaffolding structures and its components.
In this case and in many others, the need for edge protection is ignored. Falling is a serious risk when it comes to scaffolding work and any work from height. But remember that not all scaffolds may have been designed to have edge protection fitted though, so obtain written approval from a competent person before installing edge protection on a scaffold system if it is not manufactured this way. Approval should also include specifications on how to install and maintain edge protection.