Mast Climber

Is a Mast Climber a Scaffold?

By | Mast Climber, Resources | No Comments

Is a mast-climbing work platform a scaffold? This is a common question due to conflicting information provided by OSHA. The quick answer to the question is yes, but determining the applicability of OSHA standards for mast climbers requires a bit of research, a real understanding of what a mast climber is, and common sense.

While developing the revised scaffold standards that went into effect in 1996, the evidence indicates that federal OSHA determined that aerial work platforms, as described in the ANSI A92.2-1969 standard, are in fact scaffolds.

The original 1971 OSHA standards placed the aerial work platform regulations in Subpart N, Cranes and Derricks. However, the SAIA pointed out that since OSHA determined that aerial work platforms are scaffolds, the aerial work platform standards should be included in the revised scaffold standards. OSHA agreed and placed the aerial lift standards in a new section recognizing that aerial lifts were a unique type of scaffold. The Scaffold Standards Scope and Application, 29 CFR 1926.450(a) states: “The criteria for aerial lifts are set out exclusively in 1926.453 of this subpart.”  This is also stated at the beginning of the Scaffold General Requirements, 29 CFR 1926.451: “This section does not apply to aerial lifts, the criteria for which are set out exclusively in §1926.453.”

In addition, it is acknowledged in the preamble to the 1996 revised scaffold standard that: “OSHA recognizes that the A92 committee has updated A92.2-1969 and has adopted other A92 standards which address technological advances and evolving safe industry practices regarding elevating and rotating work platforms. The Agency has determined that compliance with the pertinent A92 standards adopted by ANSI since 1969 will provide employee safety at least equivalent to that attained through compliance with ANSI A92.2-1969.”  This opinion was restated in a note to § 1926.453 (found at the end of section 1926.453): “Non-mandatory Appendix C lists examples of national consensus standards that are considered to provide employee protection equivalent to that provided through the application of ANSI A92.2-1969, where appropriate.”  Simply stated, if you comply with the ANSI standards, OSHA will recognize that you are working safely, and you will be in compliance with 29 CFR 1926.453.

If you are using a mast climber and complying with the requirements of the specific ANSI A92.9 standard for mast-climbing work platforms the assumption is that your company is in compliance with the OSHA standards because of OSHA’s note concerning mast-climbing work platforms in the mandatory standard, 1926.453.  Furthermore, A92.9 is listed in Non-Mandatory Appendix C of the OSHA scaffold standard and included in OSHA’s note.

Sounds easy, right? Not so fast.

On Aug. 1, 2000, OSHA issued a Letter of Interpretation arguing that scissor lifts are not aerial work platforms but are Mobile Scaffolds, a concept that is based on the fact that scissor lifts were not included in the A92.2-1969 standard; this is a theory that conflicts with the industry’s understanding and categorization of scissor lifts as an aerial lift demonstrated in the ANSI A92.6 Self-Propelled Elevating Work Platforms standard.

It then follows that since mast climbers, like scissor lifts, are not listed in A92.2-1969, and using OSHA’s flawed logic, mast climbers are not aerial lifts and must comply with the scaffold regulations in 29 CFR 1926.451 and 452.  While this is a ridiculous proposition, and contrary to the statements in the Scope and Application of the scaffold standard, let’s see what happens when applying an alleged applicable OSHA standard.

First, which OSHA regulations apply? Using Figure 1 as an example, you can see that there are wheels and a mast; perhaps it can be considered to be a Mobile Scaffold.  One OSHA Mobile Scaffold standard requires that “platforms shall not extend outward beyond the base supports of the scaffold.”  Note the platform extensions in Figure 1—looks like we have a problem! How about the requirement that “caster stems and wheel stems shall be pinned or otherwise secured in scaffold legs”? This doesn’t seem to work so well either

Now consider this mast climber to be a regular Supported Scaffold, rather than a Mobile Scaffold. Perhaps these standards are a lot easier to use. These regulations require that the scaffold has to be tied to the adjacent structure at each end and every 30 feet in between. Since there is only one mast, that would mean at each corner. Vertically, a tie isn’t needed until the mast is four times higher than the minimum width.  This typically does not conform to the manufacturers’ requirements and will probably result in mast failure.  Without belaboring the situation, you can see there are problems attempting to apply non relevant standards.

The solution is obvious, simple and has already been addressed by OSHA in § 1926.453. Since OSHA’s note in § 1926.453 accepts the ANSI standards as applicable and acceptable standards, not only will you be safe, you will also be in compliance with the OSHA standards assuming you apply the appropriate ANSI standard.  It’s as easy as that!  If anybody tells you differently, they are wrong:  Refer them to A92.9 and tell them to carefully read the note at the end of § 1926.453.  If you don’t have the applicable ANSI A92 standard, download a copy from for a nominal fee.



Figure 1- Mast Climber: Single Mast

Bricks and Steel

By | Forming, Mast Climber, OSHA Standards & Regulations, Resources, Scaffolding | No Comments

Masons are allowed to be exposed to fall hazards due to over-hand bricklaying while on steel supported scaffolds; the use of side brackets (knee-outs) with supported scaffolds.

It is difficult to imagine masonry construction without scaffolding.  Prior to the advent of steel frame scaffolding, Bricklayer’s Square scaffolding was used to provide an elevated work platform for the masons to conduct their work.  Starting in the 1930’s, steel scaffold frames slowly replaced the wood scaffolds commonly used by masons.  Adjustable scaffolds, specifically designed for masons, became available in the 1970’s and the evolution continues today with mast climbers and other powered platforms being used by masons.

In spite of the variety of the equipment used by masons, several issues have persisted regarding the proper use and safety of scaffolds.  The first issue involves the fall exposure that masons have while constructing a brick wall.  The federal Occupational Safety & Health Administration, OSHA, standards recognize this issue and in 29 CFR 1926.451(g)(1)(vi) specify that “Each employee performing overhand bricklaying operations from a supported scaffold shall be protected from falling from all open sides and ends of the scaffold (except at the side next to the wall being laid) by the use of a personal fall arrest system or guardrail system.”  While clear in its intent, there are still people who do not understand this.  Simply stated, we allow the mason to be exposed to a fall hazard.  That’s right, the mason can fall over the wall if he so chooses.  However, any reasonable mason understands that if he leans over too far, he will fall over the wall!  Typically, masons like to lay brick at waist high which means that the wall acts as the guardrail—problem solved.  In those instances where the wall is lower, then yes, there is a fall hazard.  But the hazard of trying to work through a guardrail system laying brick frankly is a greater hazard.  Please note that only those who are “performing brick laying operations” are allowed to be exposed to the hazard.  In other words, if you aren’t laying brick, you can’t be there.

The second issue involves the use of side and end brackets (commonly, and incorrectly, called outriggers).  The normal use of these brackets is on the front of the scaffold, between the wall being constructed and the scaffold front leg.  These brackets support the plank for the masons and are moved up in convenient increments as the wall increases in height.  There’s nothing wrong with this installation.  The problem is when masons install these brackets on the back of the scaffold and then used them as a landing or storage platform for brick and mortar.  This is not good unless these brackets have been designed for that purpose.  In fact, OSHA addresses this issue in 29 CFR 1926.452(c)(5)(iii) by emphatically stating that these brackets shall be used to support personnel “unless the scaffold has been designed for other loads by a qualified engineer.”  The reason for this is that it is easy to overload the brackets and also easy to tip the scaffold over, nether prospect being very appealing to the mason.  Keep in mind that the standard doesn’t say you cannot do it; if you would like to do it, hire an engineer who can help you.

The third issue that appears on occasion has to do with the material on the scaffold platforms.  There is another OSHA standard, 29 CFR 1926.250(b)(5), that “Materials shall not be stored on scaffolds or runways in excess of supplies needed for immediate operations.”  A quick read of this standard would suggest that a mason could have no more than a few brick or block on the scaffold at any given time.  In fact, OSHA even issued a Letter of Interpretation that stated that all materials had to be removed from the scaffold at the end of the day.  Fortunately, OSHA clarified this letter and stated that the hazards being addressed by this standard included falling objects and scaffold overload.  OSHA concluded that since these potential hazards are specifically addressed in the scaffold standards, while leaving materials stored on a scaffold may be a violation of 29 CFR 1926.250(b)(5) it shall be considered a de minimis violation, one that carries no fines.  Of course it is assumed that the mason will make sure the brick and block will not fall off the scaffold and the scaffold is not overloaded.  This particular issue has appeared recently on jobsites where the Army Corps of Engineers regulations, EM 385, are enforced.  As with all standards, it is important to know what the intent of a particular standard is and what hazard is being addressed.  Once this is understood, it is much easier to resolve any issues regarding the storage of materials.

As long as we have brick and block walls, we’ll have scaffolding.  Scaffolding has proven to be effective and safe, provided you know how to use it safely.  Do you?

Complex Applicability

By | Aerial Lifts, Mast Climber, OSHA Standards & Regulations, Resources | No Comments

An appraisal of the codes and standards that apply to aerial lifts, including boom lifts and scissors lifts.

Sometimes it’s simple, sometimes it isn’t.  When it comes to aerial platforms, such as boom lifts, scissors lifts, mast climbers and the like, the applicable OSHA standards get twisted, misapplied, and misused.  What causes this, you ask?  Well, maybe you don’t ask, but here it is anyway!

First a little history:  When OSHA decided to revise the Construction Industry scaffold standards, it was determined that aerial platforms (OSHA calls them aerial lifts), would be included.  Since aerial platforms are a very specific type of scaffold, OSHA acknowledges this fact by clearly stating in the Scope and Application [29 CFR 1926.450(2)] that “The criteria for aerial lifts are set out exclusively in §1926.453 of this subpart.” To further emphasize this exclusivity OSHA restates the obvious in the General Requirements, §1926.451, stating that “This section does not apply to aerial lifts, the criteria for which are set out exclusively in §1926.453.” What all this means is that none of the scaffold general requirements, including fall protection, access, platforms, and falling object protection to name a few, apply to aerial platforms.

In theory, for aerial platforms, all of this information is contained in §1926.453.  And this, in my opinion, is where the confusion begins.  §1926.453 references an American National Standards Institute standard, ANSI A92.2-1969.  Furthermore, OSHA describes the equipment it considers to be an aerial lift:

(i)                 Extensible boom platforms;

(ii)               Aerial ladders;

(iii)             Articulating boom platforms;

(iv)             Vertical towers; and

(v)               Any combination of any such devices.

The 1969 in the standard is the year 1969.  This was the current standard when the scaffold standards review began.  Consequently this is the standard that was used to establish the definition for an aerial lift.  And therein lays the problem since there has been a substantial growth of aerial platform types since 1969.  Fortunately OSHA recognized that new types of aerial platform equipment and ANSI standards have been introduced into the market since 1969. A note was added at the end of §1926.453 in the OSHA standards that recognizes the ineffective applicability of the 1969 ANSI standard by referring the reader to Non-mandatory Appendix C which “lists examples of national consensus standards that are considered to provide employee protection equivalent to that provided through the application of ANSI A92.2-1969, where appropriate.”  Non-mandatory Appendix C lists ANSI A92 Consensus Standards which apply to the aerial platforms that are familiar and common today.  Included in this list are familiar aerial platforms such as “Boom Supported Elevating Work Platforms” and “Mast Climbing Platforms.”

In practical terms, the referenced ANSI A92 standards are the best resources to use to ensure safe use of aerial platforms.  In fact, a review of OSHA §1926.453 will quickly illustrate the deficiencies of OSHA §1926.453.  This is said not to criticize the OSHA standards but rather is a statement of fact concerning the limitations of the OSHA standards regarding aerial platforms and the legal restraints that often stifle standards writers’ efforts.  The ramification of all this is confusion!  Interestingly, the scaffold General Requirements, §1926.451, are frequently cited as applicable to aerial platforms.  This is incorrect although common practice would indicate otherwise.  Additionally, OSHA §1926.452, Additional Requirements Applicable to Specific Types of Scaffolds, does not apply since aerial platforms are “exclusively set out in §1926.453.”   Clear to me; clear to you?

In legal or perhaps technical terms the outcome of standards application is a bit different.  This shows up in an OSHA Letter of Interpretation that opines that “Self Propelled Elevating Work Platforms” (ANSI A92.6), commonly known as scissors lifts, are not aerial platforms/lifts but rather “Mobile Scaffolds.”  Due to the constraints and wording of the language in §1926.453 and the ANSI A92.2-1969 standard, it is argued that scissors lifts are not included in the ANSI A92.2-1969 standard.  Thus, scissors lifts are not aerial platforms/lifts.  If they are not aerial platforms/lifts, they must be something else.  I guess since a scissors lift has an elevated platform and it has wheels, it can be concluded that scissors lifts are rolling scaffold towers.  Using this logic, helicopters, airplanes, forklifts, Airline Ground Support Vehicle-Mounted Vertical Lift Devices (ANSI A92-7), and boat trailers can be considered rolling scaffold towers!

What’s the bottom line?  The scaffold General Requirements do not apply to aerial platforms.  The scaffold Additional Requirements Applicable to Specific Types of Scaffolds  do not apply to aerial platforms.  In spite of OSHA’s opinion that scissors lifts are Mobile Scaffolds, scissors lifts are aerial platforms.  After all, I would think the industry should know what their equipment is; I hope you agree.

Up and Down – And Around Too!

By | Mast Climber, OSHA Standards & Regulations, Resources, Scaffolding, Scaffolding Platforms | No Comments

Mast Climbing Work Platforms are marvelous pieces of equipment.  And safe too, provided you behave yourself.  Actually it isn’t very difficult to use these platforms—provided you have been trained.  That isn’t unusual.  After all, if you want to use any scaffold or aerial platform you have to be trained.

Mast Climbing Work Platforms are Aerial Platforms.  That is, they are a unique type of aerial platform, designed to provide access at heights.  Aerial platforms include nine types of unique platforms including “Boom Supported Elevating Work Platforms,” commonly known as cherry pickers or boom lifts, “Self-Propelled Elevating Work Platforms,” also known as scissors lifts, and “Vehicle-Mounted Elevating and Rotating Aerial Devices.”  These are commonly used by power companies and typically have a boom and basket mounted to a truck.  Mast Climbing Work Platforms, as the name suggests, has a platform that is supported by a mast or masts, depending on the design of the platform and the length of the platform.  The platform rides up and down the mast by hydraulics or motors.  The platform is enclosed with a guardrail system and access can be by ladder or direct access to the building.  These machines are rather robust in that they carry substantial loads to great heights.  As I said earlier, if you behave yourself, these platforms pose no hazards to the user.

The US federal OSHA construction standards that apply to aerial work platforms are found exclusively in 29 CFR 1926.453.  Unfortunately, the OSHA standards are not clear or very effective.  Since mandatory OSHA standards cannot reference non existing consensus standards, the only ANSI standard that was available at the time the revised scaffold standards were promulgated was ANSI A92.2-1969.  That was a pretty long time ago.  And back then there was not the plethora of aerial platforms that we have today.  To compensate for this deficiency, OSHA provided Non-mandatory Appendix C which lists ANSI standards that are more current.  Furthermore, OSHA states in 29 CFR 1926.453 that “Non-mandatory Appendix C lists examples of national consensus standards that are considered to provide employee protection equivalent to that provided through the application of ANSI A92.2-1969, where appropriate.”  If you have ever read A92.2-1969, this is the understatement of the year.  Your best bet is to use the applicable ANSI standard and not worry about 29 CFR 1926.453.

So, what is in the ANSI standards that make them so much more effective?  First, each of the standards is specific to the type of aerial platform you are using.  For Mast Climbing Platforms, A92.9 is very specific in the obligations and responsibilities of the various parties who are involved with these machines.  For example, there are requirements that manufacturers must meet in the design and manufacture of the machine.  The company renting the equipment must meet requirements that are specific to their part of the work.  And of course, the erectors and users must have training.

As a user of a mast climbing platform, you must understand the safety issues including fall protection, falling object protection and access to mention a few.  The user must also understand the loading limits and criteria for the platform being used.  A single mast platform, that is a mast climber that has a platform supported by only one mast, must be loaded carefully so that the load isn’t out of balance due to the platform cantilever on both sides of the mast.  That doesn’t mean that a two mast platform can be loaded any way you want; you need to know the limitations no matter whether it is a single or two mast platform.  Guardrails can be removed so the platform can be loaded.  This means the user must utilize personal fall protection or restraint equipment while exposed to a fall.

Erectors require a deeper understanding of the equipment.  The base of the mast climber must set on a firm foundation.  It is not uncommon for the mast climber to set on a roof or upper floor of a building.  When this occurs, the supporting structure must be analyzed for capacity.  Don’t guess on this; get a qualified engineer to help you.  Mast climbing platforms can be free standing for a certain height, depending on the base and the design.  However, there is a limit to how height they can free stand, typically in the range of 25 to 40 feet.  Once the mast exceeds the design limit for a freestanding installation, the mast must be secured, or tied, to the adjacent structure.  These ties are not your typical #9 wire but rather are a structural connection that has to support a considerable load.  As a matter of fact, they are critical to the safe operation of the climber.  If you are not an erector, don’t even think about messing with the ties.  If you are an erector, make sure you understand that the first tie must remain connected until a crane is connected to the mast or the mast is otherwise stabilized to prevent tip over.

So what else can go wrong?  Let’s see, besides the mast falling over, workers have climbed up and over the guardrail in an attempt to climb onto an adjacent building floor.  Workers have bypassed the safety switches and run the platform off the top of the mast.  Workers have overloaded the platform to the point of wearing out the gears and rollers and just plain knocking the platform over.  Suppliers have not properly maintained the platform before renting it to the end user.  And, the end user has not maintained it in the field.The solution to all this is easy.  Know what you are doing when you use mast climbing platforms.  If you haven’t been trained don’t get on one.  If you aren’t trained in the proper assembly and disassembly keep your hands off.  Don’t rely on the OSHA aerial platform standards for an education; they won’t help you.  Go to the ANSI Standards and get the training.  In fact the SIA can help in the training!

April Fools and Other Nonsense

By | Mast Climber, OSHA Standards & Regulations, Resources, Scaffolding | No Comments

The bumper sticker that says: “Safety is my Goal.”  What’s the guy doing until he gets to his goal?

The sign next to the elevator on the first floor that says: In case of fire, use the stairs, not the elevator.  What are you going to do, take the elevator up to see how the fire is doing?

What about the guy that claims he is “the safest guy around.”  Better keep an eye on him.

Why do they call a fall protection anchor a deadman?

Why do workers always say that they won’t fall?  Do we have workers that plan on falling?

Why does OSHA claim that self propelled aerial platforms (boom lifts to the rest of us) are mobile scaffolds?

How about:  I’m a scaffold erector—I don’t have to tie off.

I’m the safety guy—you have to tie off.

What about OSHA Approved Plank?

What about OSHA approved anything?

Will I be certified after I take this training?

How long is the OSHA ten hour class?

Is the OSHA ten hour class one third of the OSHA 30 hour class?

Why didOklahomathink that mast climbers are amusement rides?  (It was because of the wheels.)

How do I get OSHA to make me competent?

Once I have a wallet card, will I be competent?

How long before I am an expert?

I’ve been doing this for years; I don’t need no stinkin’ training.

Did you know that if you have a big object on a scaffold platform and the toeboard won’t keep it on the platform, your boss, not you, has to move the object away from the edge of the platform?  (Look it up-29 CFR 1926.451(h))

The OSHA standards require that canopies be installed between the falling hazard and the affected workers.  Where else would you install it?

Why do scaffolds always show up in the OSHA Top Ten Citations?

Why can masons be exposed to a fall hazard but scaffold erectors cannot?

Why can steel erectors be exposed to a fall hazard but scaffold erectors cannot?

If you have to be 10 feet, 0.8 inches away from a 52 KV power line, do you measure that distance with a metal tape measure?

If you use an anchor for fall protection that isn’t designed, how do you know how strong it is?

Who decided that 100% tie off is the same as 100% fall protection?

If you are going to determine if somebody is competent, don’t you yourself have to be competent?

Does anybody ever really stop at stop signs?

Why is there a warning on the dashboard of a golf cart that says you may get hurt if you fall out of the golf cart?  Are there really golfers that think you can fall out of golf carts safely?

Why do people think that experience equals knowledge?

Why does the federal government have different scaffold standards for construction, general industry, maritime and mining?  Are the scaffolds in each industry that different?

Why does the Army Corp of Engineers require toeboards on all scaffold platforms and yet nobody else does?

And now, here is a scaffold quiz for you to answer (and this is no nonsense):

  1. How fast are you going after you have fallen six feet___________________
  2. How long does it take to fall six feet_______________
  3. How much load can you safely put on a frame scaffold leg_____________________
  4. What’s the maximum normal spacing between horizontals on a tube & clamp scaffold_______________
  5. Who designs scaffolds____________________
  6. Who inspects scaffolds____________________
  7. Who erects scaffolds_______________________
  8. What is the safety factor on suspension ropes___________________
  9. What is the minimum width of a scaffold platform________________
  10. Who needs scaffold training? ________________________________________

See page ???? for the answers

  1. 13 mph
  2. 0.61 seconds
  3. About 2000-2500 pounds
  4. 6’-6”
  5. A qualified person
  6. A competent person
  7. A trained and experienced worker
  8. 6
  9. 18 inches
  10. Everybody involved with scaffolding including users.

New Developments

By | Aerial Lifts, Mast Climber, OSHA Standards & Regulations, Resources, Safety Hazards, Scaffolding | No Comments

I’m no genius and I am not a psychic but hey, I can spin a good story as well as anyone.  I will focus on what I know and what I’ve seen (that’s where a knowledge of the past is handy) and give you my opinion about the effect of new developments.  When one thinks of the scaffold frame, its tough to get excited about a 70 year old product.  It’s even tough to get excited about systems scaffold which, relatively speaking, is a new product in comparison with the scaffold frame.  Suspended scaffolds probably have the edge on new developments as far as traditional products go but even there we are still hanging around when we are using them.  Mast climbers, scissors lifts, boom lifts and similar mechanized devices are probably the biggest change in the industry in the past 25 years and will have the biggest impact as far as new developments.

Actually, the new developments I think are not with the specific products but rather how they are used more efficiently.  Additionally, developments in safety standards application will be a bigger development than the actual product.  Let’s take a look at how the safety standards, including the OSHA and ANSI standards, are affecting and will continue to affect the development of the industry.  You may think that this is not a “new development” but it is because of the evolution of standards and the agencies involved with their enforcement.  If the past is any indicator, and I think it is, this industry will continue its slow apathetic spiral downward, capitulating at every turn to ever stricter standards.  While this appears contradictory to the activities of the Scaffold Industry Association, especially in light of the wonderful developments at the recent Committee Week, I specifically address your attention to the willingness of scaffold industry workers to submit to safety officials who know little of the industry but have great authority.

Often I hear a scaffold company owner defer to OSHA, for example, because he/she does not want to make the effort to learn the subject matter.  I’m not ripping on OSHA or any safety people here; they are only filling the void left by lazy scaffold workers.  If you think I’m off base here, I politely ask you to think about your experience with OSHA and other safety workers.  Invariably, the experience always seems to be less than comfortable.  Why is that? Is it because they don’t know anything or is it because you don’t?

About this example:  For years a regulation has existed that requires all scaffolds have a safety factor of 4.  This means that the scaffold must be 4 times stronger than the load that will be put on it.

You cannot change what over, only where you go.

Adjustable Scaffolds–What is it?

By | Aerial Lifts, Fall Protection, Mast Climber, OSHA Standards & Regulations, Resources, Scaffolding, Scaffolding Platforms | No Comments

While scaffolds come in all shapes, sizes, and function, they can be categorized as supported, suspended or aerial lifts.  The American National standards Institute, ANSI, has defined an aerial platform as “a mobile device that has an adjustable position platform, supported from ground level by a structure.”  Scissors Lifts, Mast Climbers, and Boom-Supported Elevating Work Platforms (Boom Lifts) are examples of these machines.  While that may explain aerial lifts, what is the difference between supported and suspended scaffolds?  OSHA offers a rather detailed description for each but it can easily be explained this way.  A suspended scaffold is any platform supported by ropes.  That means all other scaffolds are supported scaffolds (if they aren’t aerial lifts).  In other words, a two point wire rope suspended scaffold really is a suspended scaffold.  However, a frame scaffold hanging off the side of a bridge, for example, is a supported scaffold, even if it is “suspended” over the side of the bridge.  While this example may be obvious, other scaffolds may defy easy categorization.

An Adjustable Scaffold is one of those scaffolds.  Which standards apply to this scaffold?  Is an Adjustable Scaffold a supported scaffold or is it a suspended scaffold?  For that matter, what is an Adjustable Scaffold?  By definition, an Adjustable Scaffold is “a scaffold structure with a manually elevating carriage that supports work and material platforms.”  What confuses the situation is that the platform on an Adjustable scaffold is supported by wire ropes.  This would mean that the scaffold is a suspended scaffold.  But not so fast; the wire rope is supported by rigid legs. That would make it a supported scaffold!  Looks to me like it’s both suspended and supported.  Well it is, sort of.  An Adjustable Scaffold is classified as a supported scaffold and here is why.  It is true that all Adjustable Scaffold platforms are supported by wire ropes.  However, unlike the typical suspended scaffold, Adjustable Scaffolds have an additional mechanism, a back-up system if you will, that supports the platform if the wire rope fails.  This mechanism includes a mechanical lever that prohibits the platform from falling very far, typically less than 12 inches.  Because this mechanism exists, the Adjustable Scaffold is not a true suspended scaffold.  That is, if the rope breaks, the scaffold platform will not crash to the ground.  Rather, it will only drop 12 inches, terrorizing the occupants but otherwise staying in the air and keeping them safe.




Adjustable Scaffolds are used almost exclusively by brick masons.  The ability of the platform to be slowly raised as the brick wall is constructed permits the top of the wall to always be at the optimum elevation for the mason.  One of the unique features of some Adjustable Scaffolds is the ability to free stand 28 feet high.  This allows the scaffold to be erected to the full height of a “big box” store (e.g. a Home Depot® or Wal-Mart®) without having to tie it to the structure.  This is a big advantage for masons in terms of efficiency and constructability.  For taller scaffolds, the masts must be tied to the adjacent structure, in compliance with applicable supported scaffold criteria.

As with all scaffolds, Adjustable Scaffolds must have proper fall protection.  This usually is a guardrail system that is installed when the scaffold is initially erected.  However, when the platform is being stocked by a forklift, and the guardrails are removed, the exposed employees must be wearing fall restraint or arrest equipment attached to a suitable anchor.  Since Adjustable Scaffolds are designed for masons, they can support substantial loads.  Consult the manufacturer for the capacity of the scaffold you are using.  Access can be provided by a portable ladder, stairs, a manufacturer supplied ladder or direct access.  Consult your manufacturer if you can use the mast of your scaffold for access.

Adjustable Scaffolds are Supported Scaffolds.  TheUSfederal OSHA standards that apply are the General Requirements, 29 CFR 1926.451, including the Supported Scaffold Criteria, 29 CFR 1926.451(c) which addresses scaffold stability and scaffold foundations.  Additionally, The American National Standards, A10.8-2001 has consensus standards that specifically address Adjustable Scaffolds.

Help, I’m Falling!

By | Aerial Lifts, Fall Protection, Mast Climber, OSHA Standards & Regulations, Resources, Scaffolding Platforms | No Comments

Fall protection for aerial lift operators and users, while straightforward in my mind, seems to be a mysterious phenomenon that bewilders the minds of many and produces myths worthy of aNew Yorkbest selling novel!  Fortunately, there is no need for it to be this way.  Admittedly, the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, OSHA, standards that apply to aerial lifts can be a bit confusing, to say the least.  However, once explained, it becomes rather clear as to what is expected of aerial lift users.  Besides the standards, a more basic concept can be applied to fall protection for aerial lifts; that concept is, simply put, what’s the best way to keep users from falling?  You can’t get much more basic than that.  Let’s look at this concept first, and then look at the US OSHA standards to see why they are the way they are.


The American National Standards Institute, ANSI, has a number of classifications for the group of equipment known as aerial lifts.  In construction, the four most common types include “Boom Supported Elevating Work Platforms,” “Manually Propelled Elevating Aerial Platforms,” “Self-Propelled Elevating Work Platforms,” and “Mast-Climbing Work Platforms.”  On the jobsite, this equipment is also known as boom lifts, scissors lifts, and mast climbers.  The significance of all this is that boom lifts respond very differently to the requests of the operator than either the scissors lift or the mast climber.  The platform of a boom lift is supported by a single column type strut or beam.  This strut can be vertical, horizontal and any angle in between.  Scissors lifts, as the name suggests, have interlocking diagonal struts that allow the platform to raise and lower vertically directly above the base support.  Mast climbers, as the name suggests, has vertical struts/masts that allow the platform to raise and lower vertically by climbing the mast or masts.  The advantage of the boom lift is that the platform can go up and out, and in some cases, up, out, down and under, while the scissors lift platform and mast climber platform primarily only go up and down, similar to an elevator in a building.   These varying characteristics dictate the type of fall protection that is required.


The dynamic motion of a boom lift creates the phenomenon not unlike a catapult.  The boom can store sufficient energy during movement that it can literally launch the operator up and out of the basket.  Scissors lifts and mast climbers don’t develop this type of force and consequently is not normally a concern for fall protection.  What all this means is that on scissors lifts and mast climbers we want to keep the worker from walking/falling off the platform while on boom lifts we want the worker not only to be protected from walking off the platform but also from being launched from the platform.  This means the first line of protection on all lifts is the guardrail system.  For boom lifts it is also necessary to restrain the employee so he/she never leaves the platform.  A fall restraint system is required to do this.  Therefore, on boom lifts, not only is there a guardrail system to protect the employee but also an anchor to hook the fall restraint system to.  Please note that it is a restraint system, not a fall arrest system that is used.  We don’t want to have to catch you after you have been launched but rather to keep you from ever launching!


How does this approach to fall protection fit with the applicable regulations, you ask?  Well, first and foremost, comply with the manufacturer’s instructions.  These machines are sophisticated devices and the manufacturer is the authority on fall protection for his/her specific device.  The manufacturer may require more protection than I described above.  For example, scissors lifts may require the occupant to utilize personal fall arrest equipment attached to the specified anchor.  The manufacturer may require other safety devices that are not required by the OSHA standards.  If this is the case, you are expected to comply with those requirements provided they are more restrictive than the OSHA standards.  This brings us to the standards.


Aerial lifts are addressed in Subpart L of the Construction Industry Standards, specifically section 29 CFR 1926.453.  These standards are exclusive to aerial lifts.  (Note that the Scaffold General Requirements, 29 CFR 1926.451, do not apply to aerial lifts, as clarified in the first sentence of that section.)  Because OSHA standards cannot reference standards that are not in existence at the time of issuance, 29 CFR 1926.453 references ANSI Standard A92.2-1969 which was the applicable standard in 1986 when the revised scaffold standards were first proposed.  This 1969 standard does not reflect the multitude of machines that have been developed since then; unfortunately OSHA is stuck with this limitation.  Fortunately, OSHA recognizes this limitation and allows that equipment manufactured and used in compliance with more current standards will be recognized to be in compliance with 29 CFR 1926.453.  (See Non-Mandatory Appendix C of the OSHA Scaffold Standards for a list of those standards.)  This leads us specifically to Standard 29 CFR 1926.453(b)(2)(v) which requires that “a body belt shall be worn and a lanyard attached to the boom or basket when working from an [extensible or articulating boom platform] aerial lift.”  A note follows this regulation pointing out that a belt cannot be used for fall arrest but can be used for tethering.  Remember from the discussion above, that if you are properly anchored to the basket of a boom lift, you will never leave the basket and consequently will not be exposed to the forces of a fall.  It should be obvious from all this that if you do not anchor yourself properly you will leave the platform or basket and then we will have to catch you.  In that case you better be wearing a harness or you will probably kill yourself.  Bottom line, use short lanyards when using a boom lift so you never leave the basket.


Guardrail systems are used to keep workers from walking/falling off the platform or out of the basket.  Personal fall restraint is required to keep you in a boom lift.  Comply with the manufacturer’s recommendations no matter what type of aerial lift you are using; those requirements may be more restrictive than the OSHA minimum standards.  And a couple of final thoughts:  A 6 foot lanyard used with a restraint belt is a killer, a 6 foot lanyard used in a basket will still allow you to get launched; keep that in mind when you idly hook off so you “look good.”  And if you’re the truck driver loading the boom lift on the truck, watch out—you have a better chance than anybody of getting launched.

Outlook or Look Out

By | Mast Climber, Resources, Scaffolding | No Comments

What does the year 2005 hold for the scaffold industry?  Typically, at the beginning of the year all sorts of “experts” predict the future for those of us who don’t possess the requisite expertise to ascertain future events.  Having thought about it for a while, I decided that I could do as well as anybody else in predicting the future of the scaffold industry.  Besides, by this time next year, you will have forgotten what I said in January, 2005, unless, of course, I luck out and my predictions are true; then I’ll remind you of my incredible new found ability to predict the future.

First, here’s the bad news.  By the time you ring out 2005, one hundred or so unlucky construction workers will not be here to see the end of 2005 because they either did something unsafe on a scaffold or the scaffold was unsafe to them.  This prediction is based on the theory that history repeats itself.  In this case, 2005 won’t be any different than 2004, or 2003, or 2002, or—well, you get the idea.  Adding to that bad news is that many more won’t be in a decent physical condition to enjoy 2006 because of scaffold injuries.  I hope you aren’t in either of those two categories since I have not yet developed the ability to determine exactly who it is that will get injured and killed.  Wouldn’t it be great if I could do that?  I could call Joe the erector and tell him to take the day off so he doesn’t get killed!

I predict that training will continue to not live up to its expectations.  This isn’t because we aren’t trying.  Quite the contrary; we just aren’t listening.  Practical usage of scaffolding in 2004 has not mirrored the idealistic concepts presented in training.  If you disagree with that, you haven’t been to a commercial construction site in 2004.  Finally, in the bad news column, workers, managers, and others, will continue to refuse to accept responsibility for their actions.  The “shift the blame” game will continue in 2005.

Fortunately, there’s good news for the industry.  The construction forecast developed by others, with far more insight than I could ever hope to achieve, indicates that life will be good.  In turn, this will be good for the scaffold folks, unless all the commercial work is one story high!  Scaffold manufacturing will continue since we have an incredible appetite for scaffold components.  (Where do all those scaffold frames go, anyway?)  Traditional scaffold construction will continue in spite of what some prophets have to say.  The use of mast climbers and other mechanized access platforms will continue to increase while traditional scaffold products will maintain their presence.  (How can I go wrong with a statement like that.)

I predict that we will continue to train workers in the safe use of scaffolds with the hope that they will contradict conventional wisdom.  OSHA will continue its’ attempts to positively influence the death and injury rate although there appears to be little incentive from the federal government to change the status quo.  Large general contractors will continue to encourage and threaten sub-contractors to increase safety awareness and practices, even making up their own interpretation of OSHA regulations to fit the circumstance.  Industrial contractors will continue to lead the industry in safety because they’re better at it than the commercial construction contractors.

I predict that some scaffold suppliers will continue to use workers that are not fully trained due to the pressures of the marketplace and the necessary requirement to achieve continued profitability.

So what is the outlook?  I hope some of my predictions do not come true.  I hope some do.  You know which are which.  Can you help to change the negative to positive and improve on the positive?  Prove me wrong in the deaths and injuries.  Some things we can change, some we have to accept.  We may have to accept the state of the economy; we may have to accept conditions beyond our control.  However, you and I have an obligation to correct what we see as wrong.  This is why we train people.  This is why we have qualified people design and build scaffolds.  This is why we have safety standards.  Is your outlook good or should I look out?