While some may believe there are no useful regulations, and certainly the actions of some scaffold users would confirm that belief, the OSHA standards (regulations) governing how we use scaffolds are actually quite, well useful. Included are exciting minimum requirements such as who is to inspect scaffolds and who is to supervise the construction of scaffolds. If you are a user of scaffolds, don’t stop reading! Here’s a highlight of what you will find when you read section 29 CFR 1926.451(f) – Use of Scaffolds:
(1) Don’t overload scaffolds. If you don’t know how strong a scaffold is, or how much stuff you are placing on the scaffold, it is impossible for you to comply with this easy to understand regulation.
(2) Don’t use lean-to or shore scaffolds. If you think shore scaffolds are only used along the seashore, you’re all wet. Imagine taking a sawhorse, cutting it in half and leaning both halves against a wall, about 8 feet apart. Throw some planks across the top and you have a lean-to scaffold. Don’t do this.
(3) Have a Competent Person inspect the scaffold prior to each workshift. This one is serious; inspections help spot any improper modifications and developing problems that may exist. Remember, a Competent Person can identify hazards and has the authority to do something about it.
(4) Repair any busted scaffold components or have them removed from use, before getting on the scaffold.
(5) Don’t move your scaffold horizontally with folks on it unless it has been specifically designed for that use by a qualified registered professional engineer. This doesn’t apply to Mobile Scaffolds which, under certain conditions, can be moved with or without folks on them.
(6) Don’t get too close to power lines. If the hum is too loud or your hair is standing on end, you are too close! As a rule of thumb, 3 feet up to 300 volts, 10 feet up to 50,000 volts and an additional 0.4 inches for every 1,000 volts above that. I have no idea how you would measure that although I strongly discourage using a metal tape measure!
(7) Erect, dismantle, move, or alter a scaffold only under the supervision of a Competent Person, Qualified in scaffold erection, using trained and experienced workers. This is important. If you don’t know how to erect scaffolds, don’t assume you’re an expert—you’re not. And don’t screw with the scaffold; ask for help.
(8) Slippery scaffolds can be dicey. Unless you are using the scaffold for a ski jump, stay off it until the slipperiness is removed. Of course, if you are the slipperiness removal technician, then get up there and remove the oil, ice or whatever is making it slippery.
(9) If you are swinging hoisted loads, don’t let them hit the scaffold. You would think this is logical but apparently not if we have a regulation for it.
(10) Make sure the suspension rope matches the hoist and brake size. Brakes sized for a ¾ inch rope won’t stop if you have a ¼ inch rope. Oh-oh!
(11) Don’t burn, melt or eat the suspension rope holding you.
(12) Don’t work on a scaffold in storms or a high wind, as determined by your Competent Person. If the wind is so high that you think you will be blown off the scaffold, then you must utilize personal fall protection or put up a windscreen. (really, it actually says this!)
(13) Don’t let stuff (debris) pile up on the platform.
(14) Don’t use upside down 5 gallon buckets (and other similar items) to increase the height of the scaffold. Here’s a novel idea: if the scaffold isn’t high enough, have a trained and experienced erector build it higher.
(15) Don’t use ladders on scaffold platforms unless the scaffold platform is big enough to provide stability against overturning forces from the ladder, the platform is secured to prevent movement, the ladder is stabilized due to platform deflection, and the ladder legs are secured so they don’t come off the platform (duh). (Of course, you could have the trained and experienced erector from # 14 build the scaffold higher.)
(16) Wood platform plank cannot deflect more than 2 inches for a 10’-0” span, 1-3/8 inches for a 7’-0” span and 1 inch for a 5’-0” span. If the deflection is more than that, you either have too much load on the plank, or you have crummy plank, or both. If you don’t know how much weight you can put on the plank, reread # 1 and get help.
(17) Don’t weld from a suspended scaffold unless you know what you are doing. This means you know what precautions must be taken to protect the scaffold so that you don’t burn off the ropes holding you in the air, you don’t fry the hoist, and you don’t melt the aluminum components. If you haven’t been trained in the necessary rigging techniques, stay off the scaffold with your stinger; you may kill yourself.
As I stated earlier, these are highlights of the minimum requirements for the safe use of a scaffold. Don’t assume this covers everything that you may be doing on the scaffold. Rules and regulations do not make up for the stupid stuff you may do. Just because it isn’t listed in the standards doesn’t mean it is safe. If you are unsure about whether you are working safely, then get off the scaffold and get training, or retraining. Scaffolds are safe when constructed correctly. It’s the untrained user that will make that scaffold unsafe.