By ell brown
Experts say that work from any height above 2 metres can be dangerous, this is not always the case with workers erecting scaffolding. Scaffolding can fall at any stage in its erection or during its dismantling, even workers on the ground can be injured. Workers incorrect assume that only workers on the highest levels of the scaffold are at risk of serious injury.
In addition to the risk of falling off a scaffold, workers also face injury if the scaffold collapses and they are working on, in or around it. The main cause of this type of incident is that the collar locking mechanism is not engaged correctly, causing the scaffolding to collapse.
Another common form of injury is when workers fall because they are trying to move from one scaffold to another or to a higher or lower level. In fact the most common occurrence that results in scaffold induced injuries is external falls from the open sides of scaffolding. It is important that workers are not allowed to erect or dismantle scaffolding unless they are trained to do so.
Most of the hazards related to erection and dismantling of scaffolding can be overcome by adopting the sequential erection method. This will ensure that only one-bay-at-a-time is erected, sequential installation of standards and guardrails or guardrails alone. This ensures that scaffolders are not required to walk further than one bay length along an exposed edge of a scaffold platform, reducing the risk of falling.
It is also important to ensure that the appropriate access system is set in place so that the risk of falling because of climbing is reduced and facilitates workers safely moving from one lift to the next. A stairway or ladder access that is progressively installed as the scaffold is erected can minimise this hazard.
Another problematic issue is when scaffolds are not erected or used properly, either because of ignorance due to a lack of training or negligence.
These are some of the ways to avoid incidents involving scaffolding:
- Scaffold must be sound, rigid and sufficient to carry its own weight plus four times the maximum intended load without settling or displacement. It must be erected on solid and stable ground.
- Unstable objects, such as barrels, boxes, loose bricks or concrete blocks must not be used to support scaffolds.
- Scaffold must not be erected, moved, dismantled or altered except under the supervision of a competent person.
- Scaffold must be equipped with guardrails.
- Scaffold accessories such as braces, brackets, trusses, screw legs or ladders that are damaged must be immediately repaired or replaced.
- Scaffold platforms must be tightly planked with scaffold plank grade material or equivalent.
- A competent person must inspect the scaffolding and at designated intervals re-inspect it every now and then.
- Rigging on suspension scaffolds must be inspected by a competent person before each shift and after any occurrence that could affect structural integrity to ensure that all connections are tight and that no damage to the rigging has occurred since its last use.
- Synthetic and natural rope used in suspension scaffolding must be protected from heat-producing sources such as welding processes.
- Employees must be instructed about the hazards of using diagonal braces as fall protection.
- Scaffolds must be at least 10 feet from electric power lines at all times, this should be considered before the scaffolding is even erected.