Common Scaffolding Dangers and How They Can Be Avoided

September 10, 2015


Scaffolding is intended to assist and protect workers and prevent falls. They provide a safer means of working on projects above ground level. However, old / decrepit, incomplete, or non-conforming scaffolds create hazards and become dangerous to workers around them as well as those using them. Safety is first and foremost. Workers must be alert at all times and knowledgeable about scaffold types, and safe operation and practices.

How to Avoid Scaffold Accidents

  • Training workers and competent individuals responsible for erection and dismantling of scaffold structures is essential to scaffold and workplace safety. Where work is performed from a scaffold, training is essential to raise awareness regarding general dangers and potentially unsafe conditions, as well as how to reduce accidents.
  • Scaffolds must be stable structures and must remain plumb and level at all times.

All scaffolds should be able to support as much as four-times the maximum (intended) load, fully planked, and have safety guardrails, crossbracing toprails, midrails, and base plate / mud sill footings. They should be erected clear of powerlines and holes, ruts, and openings. Proper ladder access should be available and used. Never access defective or incomplete scaffolds.

Prefabricated structures must be erected with matching components. Mixed components compromise the stability and integrity of the scaffold’s structure.

Mobile scaffolds should only be accessed by an internal ladder and not accessed at all until all castors are locked in place to prevent the structure’s movement. Mobile scaffolds should never be moved while workers are on it.

Lightweight suspended swing stage scaffolds requires safe operation training and advanced rigging or advanced scaffolding license to ensure danger awareness and operation safety. Safety harnesses and restraint lanyards must be used and securely anchored to the swing stage.

  • Falls from scaffold platforms or scaffold access / egress can be prevented by having proper edge protection guardrail systems, including hand rails, mid-rails, and toe boards at each open edge of a work platform. The rails should be able to withstand a minimal 200-lb. force.

Workers must be trained in the proper use of PPE (personal protective equipment) fall arrest systems. Fall protection arrest systems / harnesses must be securely anchored. Fall arrest systems are only as safe and functional as their anchor point attachment is.

  • Falling objects (from scaffolds) onto workers below is a common danger. Buckets, materials, and other objects must be secured to prevent shifting or falling from the scaffold during use.

Mesh and screens may be attached to the underside of the scaffold to catch falling objects and workers.

Hard hats must be worn by all workers on and off scaffold structures at all times.

According to WHS Code of Practice Regulation 225, scaffolds where an object can fall more than 4 meters should not be permitted unless a competent person confirms (in writing) the scaffold has been completed and is safe to use.

  • Finally, good housekeeping on and around scaffolds is necessary to prevent tripping, slipping, and falling accidents.

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