WOW! OSHA Standards & Regulations

By David H. Glabe, P.E. / February 3, 1998

The letter I wrote last month concerning Mr. Schapira’s plank article created an uproar of untold proportions! My sole purpose for writing the letter was to clarify for safety officers, suppliers and users, that federal law, as it pertains to construction, does not require scaffold grade plank. My intent was only to clarify one (what I thought was minor) detail about a subject that is and should be of great concern to all of us. Mr. Schapira is exactly correct in stating that we should always use scaffold grade plank, particularly when we don’t know how to determine how strong a plank is. It was never my intention to minimize Mr. Schapira’s article, it was never my intention to embarrass anyone, and it was never my intention to create confusion.


It appears that the confusion stems from conflicting OSHA standards. In a conversation with Mr. Schapira, it was pointed out to me that, while the Construction Industry Standards, 29 CFR Part 1926 do not require scaffold grade plank, the General Industry Standards, 29 CFR Part 1910, do require that scaffold grade plank be used. I absolutely agree with this. My mistake was not specifying that I was referring to the Construction Industry Standards, 29 CFR Part 1926. It has also been brought to my attention that certain state standards, including California, may require that scaffold grade plank be used when solid sawn plank is used to construct a platform. I apologize to Mr. Schapira, and others, because it was never my goal to confuse the issue or suggest that any article was incorrect. Heck, I thought I was just helping out!


For the record, here is what the standards state:


1. The OSHA General Industry Standards (29 CFR Part 1910), require that scaffold grade plank must be used. (Ref: 29 CFR 1910.28(a)(9))


2. The OSHA Construction Industry Standards (29 CFR Part 1926) require, in 29 CFR 1926.451(a)(1) that “…each scaffold and scaffold component shall be capable of supporting, without failure, its own weight and at least 4 times the maximum intended load applied or transmitted to it.” The non-mandatory appendix of this standard, (Appendix A), does specify that scaffold grade plank should be used. This means that if you use scaffold grade plank, you are in compliance with the OSHA standards.


3. California Construction Safety Orders, Title 8, Paragraph 1637(f)(1) requires that “…all planking shall be at least equivalent to 2×10 lumber selected for scaffold grade plank…” (underline added).


4. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) requires, in Paragraph that “All solid sawn scaffold planks shall be of a ‘scaffold plank grade’ and shall…”


5. The Scaffold Industry Association (SIA), in the Code of Safe Practices for Frame Scaffolds, Systems Scaffolds, Tube and Clamp Scaffolds & Rolling Scaffolds, recommends in M.1. that “… Only scaffold grade wood planking…shall be used.”


As the saying goes: I don’t write the OSHA Standards, I only read ‘em. OSHA is reviewing this issue and it may be that OSHA will declare that scaffold grade plank use is implied in the construction standards. I know that if you cannot calculate the safety factor for the plank you are using, then scaffold grade planks should be used, utilizing accurate load and span tables to determine allowable plank spans and loads. As was stated in Mr. Schapira’s article, and in my letter to the editor in last month’s newsletter, I strongly recommend, Mr. Schapira recommends, and the SIA recommends, use only scaffold grade plank when using solid sawn plank.

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David H. Glabe, P.E.

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