Scaffolding Planks

Pop Quiz: 30 Questions About Scaffolding

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It is somewhat surprising how creative workers can get when it involves scaffolding.  Just when it seems all the questions have been answered, along comes a question that raises an issue that was never addressed.  Challenge yourself to these questions and see if your answer agrees with the one given at the end of this article.

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Solid Platforms

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It is true that a scaffold without a platform cannot be a scaffold since a scaffold is defined as a “temporary elevated platform and its supporting structure.” It can, therefore, be assumed that a platform is rather important. But it isn’t the OSHA standards, or any other regulations and guidelines that make a scaffold platform important; it is the absolutely critical nature of a platform that makes it imperative that scaffold designers, erectors, and yes, users fully understand what makes a scaffold platform safe for use. So, what makes a platform safe and how is its safety assured prior to placing the platform and its supporting structure to use? Let’s explore those issues through a series of frequently asked scaffold platform questions:

What materials can be used to construct a scaffold platform?
Anything can be used to construct a platform. Common materials included solid sawn wood members, manufactured wood products, aluminum, steel, fiberglass and plastic. In fact, even cardboard and concrete could be used although I doubt the erectors would appreciate installing concrete panels!

If solid sawn lumber is used to construct a platform, does it have to be “Scaffold Grade”?
It depends. Some standards, such as the U.S. Federal OSHA General Industry Standards, 29 CFR 1910, require the use of scaffold grade plank while the U.S. Federal OSHA Construction Industry Standards, 29 CFR 1926, do not. When designing for a construction industry application, if you are a qualified designer who can calculate lumber stresses and control the loads that will be applied to the lumber, then you can specify any wood you desire provided the lumber maintains a safety factor of at least 4 [29 CFR 1926.451(a)(1)]. Having said that, the Scaffold & Access Industry Association, SAIA, the Scaffold, Forming & Shoring Institute, SSFI, and industry professionals encourage the use of scaffold grade plank when using solid sawn lumber.

Do all planks have to extend (overhang) their supports by 6 inches minimum and 12 inches maximum?
No. If the plank is secured from movement so that the individual plank cannot slide off its support, it does not have to extend a minimum 6 inches over its support. Conversely, it can extend further than 12 inches (in some jurisdictions the maximum overhang is 18 inches) if the plank is secured from movement, including uplift. Of course the plank has to be designed so the use of a long overhang doesn’t result in an overstressed plank.

Which jurisdictions allow an 18 inch overhang?
If you are a scaffold designer, erector, inspector or user you should know the answer to this question. If you don’t know, get training for your jurisdiction. For example, federal OSHA allows overhangs up to 18 inches for plank longer than 10 feet, California allows 18 inches for any length plank and the US Army Corps of Engineers limits all plank overhang to 12 inches, regardless of plank length.

I have been told that nailing plank damages them. Can you nail plank together to keep them from moving?
Of course you can—its wood! If you pound in the nail in the same spot for a long time you’ll probably damage the plank but you really have to keep hammering it.

Is it true that you cannot install plywood on top of plank?
No. While at one time US federal OSHA issued a Letter of Interpretation (LOI) that claimed that you could not install plywood on top of plank, it was rescinded (the LOI went away). Keep in mind that once plywood is installed on top of plank, the plank become “joists” just as 2×4’s or 2×10’s (plank standing on edge) would be.

Speaking of joists, what can be used to support a plywood deck?
You can use whatever works. That doesn’t mean slapping down whatever is available—it means anything that works; any structural member that is designed by a qualified person (see US federal OSHA standard 29 CFR 1926.451(a)(6)) can be used. This includes solid sawn lumber, laminated veneer lumber, aluminum joists, steel beams, and tree trunks if you can figure out how strong they are.

Can I use balsa wood?
Sure, as long as it has the sufficient strength.

US federal OSHA specifies that a platform cannot deflect any more than 1/60 of the span when loaded. [29 CFR 1926.451(f)(16)] Does this apply to the typical manufactured plank that is made out of aluminum and has hooks on each end for hooking over its supports?
You it does. However, based on my experience, if your 10’-0” aluminum platform unit deflects 2 inches due to the load, you may have a serious overload problem.

A common practice is to install a “skip plank” platform where the plank are spaced at about 19 inches on center, resulting in a platform where every other plank is removed. This of course is covered with plywood and requires only half the plank to construct the platform. It has been claimed that a skip plank platform is as strong as a fully decked platform, especially because it seems to not deflect as much. Is this true?
How can it be as strong if it has half the plank? It just seems that way because the plywood helps to distribute the load to more than one plank, making it feel stronger. Don’t fool yourself—it is half as strong. Actually it is less than half as strong since the plank have to support the plywood.

You have mentioned plywood several times now. What thickness plywood is needed for a scaffold platform?
I cannot answer that. It all depends on the members supporting the plywood and the spacing of those members. Remember, and this is important, just because the plank supporting the plywood span 10 feet, doesn’t mean it is a “light duty scaffold.” Your platform must be designed by a qualified person, a person who knows how to calculate loads, use charts accurately and/or have the ability to “solve the problem.”

Can particleboard, oriented strand board (OSB) or flake board be used as a platform?
Sure. See the answer above about designing platforms.

Is there such a thing as an “OSHA approved plank”?
Nope. OSHA doesn’t approve any product. It is up to you to use the plank properly. If you don’t know how to do that, get some training.

Plank or Platform?

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Is it plank or a platform that you stand on?  Is this a tough question?  Why is a concept so easy in theory so difficult in application?  The simple answer to the first question is that scaffold plank can be used to construct a platform.  For a variety of reasons, it gets complicated, or so it seems.

The Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, OSHA, describes a scaffold platform as a “work surface elevated above lower levels.  Platforms can be constructed using individual wood planks, fabricated planks, fabricated decks, and fabricated platforms.”  In an attempt to include the largest variety of products that can be used to construct a platform, OSHA refers to the various components as “platform units.”  While the experienced scaffolder will recognize that wood plank can be platform units, those not so knowledgeable will easily become confused since “platform unit” is not defined in the OSHA standards other than to say:  “Each platform unit (e.g. scaffold plank, fabricated plank, fabricated deck, or fabricated platform)” as a way of defining a platform unit.  The intent of the platform standards is to ensure a safe work surface for the scaffold user.  This means that the worker should expect a surface that has sufficient strength, doesn’t deflect too much, doesn’t have any big holes to fall through, and is relatively flat.

Having stated these expectations, where does that leave us when it comes to the specifics?  It depends on what you are using for “platform units.”  It also depends on the applicable scaffold standards.  Is it General Industry or Construction?  Let’s take a look at some of the things it takes to have a decent scaffold platform:

  • All platform units shall have a safety factor of four.  This means that if you are going to put 250 pounds on the platform unit, it has to hold at least 1,000 pounds before it breaks.
  • If you have a 2×10 plank, it has to be 4 times stronger than the load it will hold.
  • If you are using a platform unit as described above, in other words a 2×10 wood plank, a fabricated plank such as a laminated veneer lumber 2×10, or a fabricated deck (read that to be a hook plank) the space between units cannot be more than 1 inch.
  • If you are using solid sawn lumber for a platform unit, that is a plank cut out of a tree, it must be scaffold grade if OSHA General Industry standards apply, and it must have a 4 to 1 safety factor if OSHA Construction Industry standards apply.  (In Construction Industry applications, it does not have to be scaffold grade but the Scaffold Industry Association recommends that only scaffold grade solid sawn plank be used.)
  • You can use Styrofoam as a platform unit but you better make sure you have that 4 to 1 safety factor!
  • If you are using laminated veneer lumber, or other platform units fabricated from wood, again it has to have that 4 to 1 safety factor.
  • The minimum width of a scaffold platform, for most supported scaffolds, is 18 inches.  You can get by with less if you can show that you don’t have room to construct an 18 inch platform.
  • Platforms are to be “fully decked” between the front uprights and the guardrail system.  Great idea where a guardrail is being used.  I have no idea what that means when there is no guardrail.  Some people think that means the full width of the scaffold.  Suppose you have a nine foot wide (not long but wide) bay; does this mean the platform should be nine feet wide?
  • Platforms constructed with plank and plywood are legal, and safe too, notwithstanding an incorrect OSHA Letter of Interpretation that claimed one couldn’t inspect the plank if it was covered by plywood.
  • OSHA has a plank span chart in non-mandatory Appendix A of the Construction Scaffold standards.  You can follow this chart if you want.  Just make sure the plank you are using equals the strength used for the chart.  Of course, if your plank is stronger than what the chart is based on, then you can’t use the chart.  Get a qualified person to tell you what your plank can do.
  • Make sure you know what you are buying when it comes to plank.  Unscrupulous purveyors of scaffold plank have a tendency to overstate their products capability.  (If the deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.)
  • If you choose to construct your platform with joists, such as aluminum beams, and plywood, make sure it is designed to support the intended load.  In other words, have a qualified person design it.
  • It is assumed that if platform units hang over their supports at least 6 inches they won’t fall off.  If you think your platform units may fall off, secure them so they don’t.
  • Don’t let your platform units hang over their supports too far as this will result in a diving board (also called a widow maker).  This is not good.  Unless you secure the opposite end, don’t let your platform units stick out more than 12 inches for platform units 10 feet or less in length or 18 inches for longer plank.
  • Overlap your platform units at least 12 inches unless you secure them.

Well, these are a few things to think about when you are installing or working on platform units.  Consult the OSHA, ANSI and SIA standards and codes for additional important information.  Remember this:  there is no back-up for a failed platform unit like there is for other scaffold components.  In engineering jargon, the platform has no redundancy.  If the platform unit you are standing on breaks you are history.  Some people suggest that the platform below will stop you.  Unfortunately, by the time you hit the deck below you will have built up enough energy to break that one too.  By the time you hit the ground you will have broken a lot of plank that you will have to pay for as soon as you get out of the hospital!  Don’t take chances on damaged product, misrepresented product, faulty product, or poorly placed product.  That’s what the standards say, in spite of the use of the term “platform unit.”

What’s in a Plank?

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Planks are a vital component in scaffolds, as even the casual observer will notice.  Yet it appears that too many workers take this vital component a little too casually.  Planks and platforms consistently rank in the top 10 list of most frequently cited violations of standards.  So what’s the big deal?  You would think that everybody using a scaffold would particularly note what they are standing on—or in some cases what they are not standing on.  After all, there isn’t much backup for the user who suddenly loses the board holding him or her.  Let’s face it; once the board disappears, you’re going down.

So, what can be done to decrease those citations and the corresponding high number of serious injuries and even death?  Well, first of all, you can comply with the applicable standards.  They were written to address the hazards associated with the use of planks.  These standards can be found in both the OSHA construction industry standards and general industry standards.  The Construction Industry standards are more comprehensive than the general industry standards and will be used as the guideline for the remainder of this article.  A review of the standards shows that the platform standards can be classified into three main groups; strength, installation, and maintenance.

Plank Strength

The OSHA Construction Industry standards require that all scaffold components, including plank, have at least a 4 to 1 safety factor.  This means that the plank must be able to support four times what you are placing on it.  If you weigh 150 pounds, the plank you’re standing on must hold  4 times 150 pounds or 4600 pounds.  If you weigh 300 pounds, then the plank has to be able to support 1200 pounds.  These same standards allow you to use whatever you want as a plank as long as you have the correct safety factor.  The OSHA General Industry Standards, on the other hand, specify that all wood plank shall be “scaffold grade” or equivalent.  The idea here was to instill some sense of strength for those workers who are unaware of the strength requirements.  Going back to the Construction Industry standards, it is interesting to note that no plank size or specie of wood is specified.  For that matter, there is no reference to wood!  You get to use whatever you want as long as it’s strong enough.  Now, before I offend the purveyors of plank, please remember that the use of scaffold grade plank or equal is a good idea since most workers are used to it and have an idea how much load they can put on it.  It’s just that OSHA can’t write you up for not having non-scaffold grade plank.


It is expected that plank will be installed on a scaffold in such a way that it will remain in that location and will present a reasonable surface from which to work.  To guarantee that expectation, the standards establish minimum criteria for the construction of plank platforms.  First it is assumed that you are using a wood product that is about 2 inches thick by 10 inches wide.  Second, you will be using multiple plank to construct your platform, and third, the plank will result in a relatively level surface.  Here are the criteria to make the safe platform happen:

  1. The ends of the plank shall overhang its’ supports at least 6 inches, or in the alternative, be restrained so it doesn’t come off the supports.  It is assumed that if the plank overhangs the support 6 inches, it won’t slip off.
  2. The maximum overhang is 12 inches for plank 10 feet and shorter, and 18 inches for longer plank.  You can cantilever the plank further, but you have to tie down the other end so it doesn’t flip up.  Also, if you decide you want a diving board on your scaffold, make sure the cantilever can handle the load.  Better yet, use the right size plank if you think there will be a problem with plank abuse.
  3. Plank shall be overlapped at least 12 inches or secured from movement.  This is logical once you think about it; if the minimum overhang for each plank is 6 inches, then the minimum overlap would be 6 inches plus 6 inches, 12 inches,  Please note there is no maximum overlap.
  4. The space between each plank shall be no more than 1 inch.  This is so your stuff stays on the plank and there is no tripping hazard,
  5. The minimum width of the platform, under normal circumstances, is 18 inches.
  6. The maximum distance from the front edge of the platform, not the scaffold but the platform, is 14 inches for all trades except plasterers, where the distance is 18 inches.  If you are using an outrigger scaffold, the distance is 3 inches.  If you aren’t sure what an outrigger scaffold is, look it up in the OSHA standards.  It is NOT the side bracket, commonly called an outrigger, that is used with frame and systems scaffolds.
  7. The maximum distance from the back edge of the platform to the guardrail system is 9-1/2 inches.  If you are using a toeboard for falling object protection, it has to be at the back edge of the platform, not back where the guardrail system is.


Wood plank make good platforms as long as they maintain their integrity and strength.  Therefore, maintenance is crucial to a safe scaffold platform.  If you are using a manufactured plank, such as laminated veneer lumber (lvl), follow the manufacturer’s recommendations.  If you are using a solid sawn product, ask your supplier for advice.  The reputable suppliers will know what needs to be done to keep a plank in good repair.  Also, the Scaffold Industry Association has a pamphlet that includes recommendations for visually inspecting plank for damage.  The pamphlet addresses splits, knots, holes, saw cuts, warp, twist, and other factors that can have an adverse effect on plank.  If you are responsible for inspecting your plank, I strongly recommend obtaining this document from the SIA.  Its’ cost is nominal and the information invaluable.  Plank can also be machine tested to determine the strength of an individual board.  These testing machines are available on a rental or sale basis for your use in determining the quality of your inventory.


In summary, plank made of wood and other materials can be safely constructed and used to support workers and materials.  It is up to the erector to construct the platform so it stays where it’s suppose to; it’s up to the user to use it properly and not abuse it.  Remember, if you don’t know how to construct or modify the platform, don’t modify it.  If you don’t know how much stuff you can put on your platform, find out.  If you don’t find out, and overload that plank you’re standing on, the end result will not be pretty.

It’s Just Wrong

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There is no diplomatic way to state this but to say it’s just wrong.  I’m speaking of the misguided idea that platforms constructed by placing plywood on scaffold planks is not allowed under the present U.S. Federal regulations governing the construction and use of scaffolds in the United States.  More specifically, there apparently are safety officers and OSHA compliance officers who claim that placing plywood decking on top of scaffold planks is hazardous and consequently in violation of the scaffold standards.  I believe there are two issues involved with this subject.  The first issue involves the construction of the platform while the second issue involves the scaffold regulations issued by the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, OSHA.


Platform Construction


Let’s take a look at the construction of a scaffold platform that consists of a plywood deck supported by structural members which in turn, are supported by scaffold components.  A deck of this design can be compared to a wood floor in a house or apartment building.  The plywood, or other decking material, is supported by structural members that are spaced in equal increments.  The designer of the platform must consider two aspects.  First, the decking and supporting structural members must be strong enough to support the anticipated loads and secondly, the platform must be designed so it doesn’t fall down during use.  From an engineering standpoint, it is a relatively easy task to determine the strength of the components.  It is also relatively easy to conjure up a design that won’t collapse during use.  Of course, once the design of the platform and its’ supporting structure has been determined, it is up to the erector to construct the platform so it conforms to the design that presumably is correct.  Assuming the scaffold platform is accurately designed, and correctly constructed, the user can be assured that he/she will have a safe work experience.


But, what is a properly constructed scaffold platform?  It will be a platform that obviously is strong enough for the anticipated loads.  It will be a platform that will not have excessive deflection.  It will be a platform where the components will not slip off the supports.  It will be a platform that can be visually inspected.  It will be a platform that is sufficiently wide.  What kind of platforms meets these conditions?  A properly constructed plywood/plank deck easily meets all these expectations. It will be strong enough (4:1 safety factor), limit the deflection, be secured from movement, be smooth surfaced, and be easily inspected from underneath where potential damage can be seen.  In fact, all kinds of platforms can meet these specifications; the variety of possible platforms is limited only by the imagination of the designer.


The Regulatory Question


How then does such a platform comply with the recognized standards?  Rather well, thank you.  Unfortunately, there are those who believe that several standards may be violated.  At issue is whether this type of platform complies with standards for fabricated decks, whether this type of platform exceeds the allowable deflection standards, and whether an adequate inspection can be made.


Fabricated Deck Issue


The claim is that the deck must be a fabricated deck or plank only.  Keep in mind that, by OSHA definition, a platform “means a work surface elevated above lower levels.”   Therefore, the platform can be constructed of many materials.  In fact, the platform can be constructed of Styrofoam® if it is strong enough and meets the deflection criteria prescribed in the standards.  Also keep in mind that by OSHA definition, a fabricated deck “means manufactured platforms made of wood, metal or other materials.”  A platform constructed of plywood and scaffold plank is not a fabricated deck because it is not manufactured but rather assembled from two wood products.  The fact is that the OSHA standards do not require that platforms be built with fabricated decks.  What OSHA does require is that platforms have sufficient strength, are at least 18 inches wide, don’t have any large openings, and have a fall protection system when the elevated platform is more than ten feet above the level below.  So much for saying the platform must be a fabricated deck!


The Deflection Issue


The claim is that a plywood/plank deck will exceed the allowable deflection regulations.  This is ludicrous.  The OSHA standards specify that scaffold platform deflection must be limited to one sixtieth of the span.  This means, for example, that a platform can’t bend down more than 2 inches in a 10 foot span.  This regulation says nothing about the materials that are used.  You can use anything you want, just don’t let it bend too much.  The qualified person can determine how much a plywood and plank deck will deflect; that’s part of the design process.  Therefore a plywood/plank deck can be designed so the deflection is within the regulatory limits.  So much for saying that a plywood and plank platform will deflect too much!


The Inspection Issue


How about inspection?  The OSHA standards require that scaffolds “shall be inspected for visible defects by a competent person…”  Some people are concerned that the plank cannot be seen if there is plywood on top of it.  Well, the real concern should be on the underside, where the plank, and the plywood, will show evidence of failure long before the top indicates anything.  Besides, this allegation is no different than saying the plank should be lifted off their supports daily for an inspection of the scaffold bearer, or the sill should be disassembled so the foundation can be inspected.




The bottom line here is that a plywood and plank platform makes a very nice working surface that is safe and functional, assuming it is properly designed and constructed.   To say that these types of properly constructed platforms are a violation of applicable standards is an unreasonable, bizarre interpretation of the standards and a complete misunderstanding of safe scaffold construction.


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A friend with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) sent this sketch to me. He asked for my opinion concerning the safety of the installation and whether this scaffold complied with the OSHA Standards. What would you answer?


We can analyze this scaffold two ways:


1. Is this scaffold safe?

2. Is this scaffold in compliance with applicable standards?


Let’s look at the safety issue first. The platform is at two levels. Assuming that the frame is 5 feet tall and 5 feet wide, both platforms are less than five feet above the level below. Is this safe? If the platform is cantilevered over a boiling vat of sulfuric acid, you may want to consider fall protection. On the other hand, if the scaffold is in the local pillow factory, there probably isn’t any problem. What about the width of the platform? What about the relative relationship between the two platforms? What about having the lower platform supported by an intermediate horizontal support, typically a member that is about 1 inch in diameter? Is there safe access? What work activity is this scaffold supporting? These are questions that the competent person should ask when evaluating this scaffold.


Typically the scaffold industry accepts the fact that a work platform should be at least 18 inches wide, meaning that two 2×10 planks is the minimum platform width. (This fact is confirmed by OSHA, ANSI, and Cal/Osha.) It would appear that this scaffold meets those criteria. However, it seems that a hazard could exist due to the gap between the platforms, especially since these platforms are at approximately the same elevation. A worker, concentrating on his/her work, may quickly look over, see a platform, and think it is continuous; stepping backward would be disastrous!


An intermediate ledger supports the lower platform. Is this permissible? Sure it is, limited only by the strength of the supporting member. Under normal circumstances, this smaller diameter ledger will still be stronger than the typical platform. In fact, the beauty of these frames is that they can support platforms at different elevations, and they can support the side brackets at various elevations too.


Access via the frame is probably not possible due to the overhang of the plank. A clamp-on ladder or other safe means of access would be required. Finally, there is a danger of the scaffold over-turning due to an excessive load on the side bracket platform. The scaffold would require counterweights or a tie to another substantial structure to be sure that the scaffold would remain stable.


Analyzing the scaffold based on the applicable Federal OSHA Standards will produce similar results as the first analysis. This shouldn’t be surprising since the standards have been established to address hazards such as the ones already described. The most common question that is asked regarding a scaffold such as this one concerns the width of the platform. Regulation 29CFR 1926.451(b)(1) frankly states that “each platform on all working levels of scaffolds shall be fully planked or decked between the front uprights and the guardrail supports as follows…” If you think that this means that the platform should be across the full width of the frame, take another look at the side bracket platform. Where is the upright? Where is the guardrail support? The upright is behind the platform, and there is no guardrail support! What’s a worker to do? For that matter, what’s a compliance officer to do? Ask the questions: What is the intent of this regulation? What hazard does this regulation address? It’s simple, the regulation addresses fall protection. Since this platform is only 5 feet above the level below, there is no hazard, based on the OSHA fall protection standards. The standard, in particular 29CFR 1926.451(b)(2), requires that all frame scaffold platforms shall be a minimum 18 inches wide except in certain specific circumstances. The platforms on this scaffold comply with this regulation.


Do any standards address the intermediate ledger that supports the lower platform? The answer is found in 29CFR1926.451(a)(1) which specifies that “each scaffold and scaffold component must be capable of supporting, without failure, its own weight and at least 4 times the maximum intended load applied or transmitted to it.” As long as the live load applied to the ledger is no more than 25 per cent of the maximum load it can support, we are in compliance with the regulations.


As described earlier, access via the frame rungs/ledgers, is not permitted due to the assumed overhang of the plank. (If there is no overhang, and if the rungs/ledgers are spaced properly, the frame could be used as access.) As described in the standards, safe access includes stairs, clamp-on ladders, portable ladders, and direct access. Access between platforms would not be necessary if the horizontal distance between the platforms is less than 14 inches, and the vertical distance between platforms is no more than 24 inches. (See 29CFR1926.451(e)(8))


Finally, stability for this scaffold is addressed in the supported scaffold criteria sub-paragraph. Several regulations require that supported scaffolds, including frame scaffolds, shall always remain plumb and level.


In summary, this analysis shows that good construction practice can, in many instances, exceed the standards. This isn’t surprising since the standards are minimum requirements for the construction and use of scaffolds. The analysis also shows that:


1. The minimum width of a typical frame scaffold platform is 18 inches.

2. Workers on platforms more than 10 feet above the level below must have fall protection.

3. Platform fall protection may be required at lower heights, depending on exposure to hazards.

4. The platform does NOT have to extend all the way across the full width of the frame although this may be the easiest way to provide fall protection.

5. Access shall be provided for all platforms more than 24 inches above the level below.

6. Supported scaffolds must remain stable and plumb at all times.


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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.