COMMITTED TO SAFETY AND VALUE ENGINEERING - SINCE 1985
Tag

Scaffold Industry Association Archives | DH Glabe & Associates

Suspended Scaffold Mysteries

By | Resources, Scaffolding, Scaffolding Platforms | No Comments

My experience indicates that people easily get confused about suspended scaffolds.  I’m not sure why that is other than it may have something to do with their knowledge, or lack thereof, of suspended scaffolds and how they work.  This shouldn’t be surprising since most people base their knowledge on what they have seen on the evening news.  Here are a few questions that occur about suspended scaffolds:

What is a suspended scaffold?  This is a fundamental question that has an easy answer.  A suspended scaffold is any temporary elevated platform that is supported by a non-rigid means, such as by rope or chain.  For example, if you have a platform hanging by your mother’s clothesline, it is a suspended scaffold.

Do all suspended scaffold platforms have to be supported by wire ropes?  No.  You can use anything you want as long as the support is strong enough.  This can be clothesline (see answer above), wire rope, cable, manila rope, chain, string, duct tape, bungee cords or rubber bands.  As long as it has the required strength, and you can prove it, you can use it.

What is the required strength of wire ropes?  It depends on what you are trying to hold up.  For temporary suspended scaffolds used in construction and general industry, the safety factor must be at least 6; that is, the suspension line must be 6 times stronger than the load you are placing on it.

Can I really use duct tape?  Well, if you can prove that it will hold 6 times the load you put on it, then you can use it.  I have no idea how you would prove that so I strongly recommend against using it, even if it is “professional grade” duct tape!

Is there a difference between temporary suspended scaffolds and the scaffolds that commonly called “permanent installations”?  Yes there are considerable differences.  Different regulations and standards apply.  For example, temporary suspended scaffolds used in construction in the United States must comply with the applicable OSHA construction standards [29 CFR 1926].  A Permanent Installation, (also known as a “P.I.”), must comply with OSHA standards that specifically address P.I.’s.  The significant differences are in the areas of safety factors and fall protection requirements.

I have a 5/16” wire rope but do not know anything about it.  Are all wire ropes of the same diameter the same?  Absolutely not; wire rope strength varies based on the tensile strength of the steel used.  Therefore you must have the data on the wire rope to determine its strength.

Why are wire ropes twisted?  They aren’t twisted but rather are “laid” into strands.  The strands make up the wire rope.  There are a variety of “lays,” such as the Regular Lay and the Lang Lay.  Different lays have different handling characteristics which means that you should select the wire rope with correct lay for the job.

The safety factor for temporary suspended scaffolds used in construction is 4.  Does this also apply to the suspension rope?  No.  The minimum safety factor for the suspension rope is 6.

Why are suspended scaffolds so dangerous?  They aren’t. If you utilize properly designed and maintained equipment, erect the scaffold correctly, and use it correctly, it’s no less safe than any other construction or maintenance activity.

I saw a worker on a suspended scaffold not connected to a vertical lifeline.  Is this legal?  Who cares if it is legal—is the worker safe?  Typically, a worker on a single or two point temporary suspended scaffold is required to utilize both a guardrail system and personal fall protection equipment.  However, on some temporary 2 point scaffolds the personal fall protection system may be built into the scaffold and rigging.  Depending on the design of Permanent Installations, vertical lifelines may not be required due to its design.  Obviously, before you use a suspended scaffold you must know what the fall protection requirements are.

Can I ride on a suspended scaffold without knowing how to operate it?  Yes you can.

What do I need to do to be safe on suspended scaffolds, whether or not they are permanent or temporary installations?  You need training in the specific type of equipment you are using.

Where can I get training on how to use and operate suspended scaffolds?   Well, that should be evident if you are reading this magazine!  The Scaffold Industry Association.

Hot Wheels

By | Fall Protection, OSHA Standards & Regulations, Resources, Scaffolding, Scaffolding Platforms | No Comments

As with all scaffolds, there are design, construction, and safety issues with mobile scaffolds.  The idea here is to discuss some engineering issues, leaving the obvious safety issues to the “competent person, qualified in scaffold construction.”  Now that I think about it, perhaps the safety issues aren’t so obvious so let’s cover those first.  Make sure you have fall protection, falling object protection, access, adequate strength, a decent platform that remains in place, and don’t do something stupid.  Now that we have the safety features in place, proper design, in combination with proper use, makes the mobile scaffold such an excellent productivity tool.

What is it that makes the mobile scaffold safe, or conversely, unsafe?  The center of gravity, an engineering term that describes the stability of a mobile scaffold, is one significant factor.  Another factor is the strength of the casters and other components.  Another factor is the forces required to move the scaffold.  These forces are horizontal, vertical or both.  A qualified designer of mobile scaffolds must consider these factors, and of course the user of the scaffold must understand how to safely drive the scaffold (or at least push it around).

The Construction Industry scaffold standards from the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, OSHA, address these issues as does both the American National Standards Institute, ANSI, scaffold standards and the Scaffold Industry, SIA, Codes of Safe Practice.  Specifically, the federal standards, of which the construction standards are the best source, identify the hazards described above, that is stability, strength, and dynamic forces.

What is the significance of the strength of the various components?  Well, I doubt you want the scaffold collapsing while you are on it.  Therefore you need to know your limitations.  The typical scaffold caster is usually the limiting factor.  Hallway scaffolds, those narrow scaffolds commonly used by drywall installers, have a capacity of about 250 pounds.  Frame scaffold casters, on the other hand, will have a capacity of approximately 500 pounds unless you buy one of those cheap casters of unknown capacity.  Larger frame scaffold casters, and those used with systems scaffolds will have a capacity in excess of 1,000 pounds.  These caster capacities are usually adequate for most mobile scaffold uses and are almost always less than the leg capacity unless, of course, you buy one of those cheap scaffolds of unknown strength.  The bottom line is to find out what your caster can hold before the ball bearings begin to fall out!

The stability of the scaffold is very important to the occupant of the scaffold for apparent reasons.  It’s just not a good idea to have the scaffold fall over, whether it is occupied or not.  How do we ensure that it won’t tip?  By making it big enough and not pushing it over.  If the mobile scaffold has a big enough base, both in width and length, the scaffold will remain standing, absent any other forces.  Except for California, the maximum height to base ratio is 4.  (In California it’s 3 to 1 and no, it’s not because they have earthquakes.)  This means the height can be no more than 4 times the minimum base.  For example, if you have a mobile scaffold that is 5 feet wide by 8 feet long, the maximum height is 5 feet times 4 equals 20 feet.  If you want to go higher, then make the base bigger.  But be careful – you may be overloading the casters because of all that extra scaffold weight.  The sky is the limit, no pun intended, but the higher you go the heavier it gets and pushing it around gets to be a real challenge.

How much does it take to push over a mobile scaffold?  The snappy answer is: not much.  The force needed to move the scaffold horizontally and the force needed to push it over are not the same although the untrained scaffold user may inadvertently be applying a force to knock it over all the while thinking that she is applying the force to move it horizontally on the floor.  Worse yet, if the casters aren’t rolling, due to maybe a small obstruction, a horizontal force at the top of the scaffold will quickly become a force that will knock the scaffold over.  In engineering terms, we call that instability.  For the user who is riding the scaffold down to disaster, it may be referred to in other terms.  Here is what is going on.  When you push against the side of the scaffold, you are trying to get the mass of the scaffold moving.  If you push close to the bottom of the scaffold, all your efforts will go to moving the scaffold.  As you push more, the scaffold slowly begins to move, converting a static (non-moving) condition into a dynamic (moving) condition.  The weight of the scaffold obviously influences the amount of force needed to get the scaffold moving.

Now, another factor comes into play here; the center of gravity.  The center of gravity is an imaginary point in the scaffold that is defined as the center point of all the vertical loads of the scaffold including the scaffold components, platforms, and the folks on the scaffold.  Typically, this point is in the middle of the scaffold but if there are cantilevered platforms the center of gravity will shift towards the direction of the cantilever.  If the cantilever is big enough, or the weight on the cantilever is big enough, or the folks on the scaffold are leaning out over the guardrail, the center of gravity shifts to the outside of the scaffold base, and the trouble begins.  The users get real excited because it is at this point that the scaffold begins to tip.  The same thing can happen when the scaffold is pulled along from the top by grabbing onto the roof trusses, for example.  While it may take a force of say 100 pounds to get the scaffold going, if the bottom isn’t going anywhere and the top is, the center of gravity begins to shift and the force needed to pull the scaffold over reduces to as little as 20 pounds; this is when the scaffold begins to tip.

Right about this time, the errant user has just experienced basic physics and now realizes the error of his ways. He begins to head to the other end of the scaffold in an attempt to makes things right.  Unfortunately he forgot to pin the casters into the scaffold leg and they fell out during the tipping maneuver;  the rest of the story gets real ugly.  And that is why the OSHA standards require that: “Manual force used to move the scaffold shall be applied as close to the base as practicable but not more than 5 feet (1.5 m) above the supporting surface.”  That is also why the standards also require you to pin the casters to the legs.

And what about surfing the scaffold—the technique of “jerking” the scaffold so it moves horizontally?  What do you suppose that does to the forces and stability of the scaffold?

The Standard Standard

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

I can answer the one question easily: no, safety standards are not there to make your life more difficult.  The fact is, they are there to make your life safer.  Depending on your age, you may think that they come from ancient history but in reality they are a relatively recent development in workplace safety, going back about 100 years.  The federal OSHA standards have their beginning December 29, 1970 when the U.S. Congress passed Public Law 91-596.  This law required that employers “furnish to each of his/her employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his/her employees.”  That’s fine that Congress says we have to have a safe workplace but what exactly is a safe workplace?  Well, that is where the standards (regulations) come in.  Basically, the standards define what a safe workplace is; the scaffold standards define what a safe scaffold is.  Rather straightforward I must say.  But is it?  Who gets to say what the actual standards are?  Some bureaucrat in Washington, D.C.?  Or, maybe a scaffold association?  How about the scaffold manufacturers?  Just a concerned citizen?  Believe it or not, the answer is:  All the Above!

When the original OSHA standards were developed, they were based on existing codes and standards, primarily the standards developed by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).  For scaffolding, the ANSI standard that was used was A10.8.  This standard, known as a consensus standard, was developed by devoted manufacturers, users, engineers, safety specialists, and academia.  (This consensus standard still exists today and is updated periodically—the most recent edition is A10.8-2001.)   Basically, the standards are developed by people with diverse backgrounds, expertise, experience, and interests who come together to determine the most effective guidelines for you to use so you are safe while working with and on scaffolds.

For example, last month 40 individuals met to discuss changes to the scaffold standards that are used in California.  The group included scaffold users, manufacturers, suppliers, safety consultants, CalOSHA personnel and designers.  I attended as your representative from the Scaffold Industry Association.   Two intense days were spent debating the plank standards in the California OSHA standards.  Healthy dialogue, a disagreement or two, and finally agreement for changes resulted in updated standards that defined plank used for scaffold platforms.  This is how it works.  While this activity involved only California, the process is similar for other states and the federal OSHA standards.  Basically, no standard can be changed without due process.  While this may seem cumbersome, it is the only reasonable method for developing fair requirements.  Imagine if we didn’t have it.  The standards would very quickly develop into self-serving, non-effective worthless trash.

The process is taken seriously as well it should be.  The government is required to notify us, the citizens, for any changes that are being suggested.  We are invited to comment on any proposed standards that will affect us.  We can do this by writing to the government and/or attending “hearings.”  How long can this process take?  Quite a while.  For example, the federal scaffold standards became effective in November, 1996.  The initial decision that revisions to the existing standards were necessary was made in the mid 1970’s.  That’s right, it took approximately twenty years to revise the standards.  Therefore, the next time you think the standards stink, think about how many hours of work went into what you use every day.

Think about what went into writing these standards.  Dedicated individuals labored over the language and ramifications of their decisions.  Writing standards is not easy; the wrong use of a word, the wrong reference and incorrect grammar have far reaching effects, not only in relation to other standards, but also to you and I who have to apply these standards every day.  The next time you criticize the standards, you may want to pause and consider what you are doing.  Instead, you may want to thank those talented individuals who were watching out for your safety, even if it was back in ancient history!

An Association: What is it?

By | OSHA Standards & Regulations, Resources, Safety Hazards, Scaffolding | No Comments

This group awarded me the D. Victor Saleeby Award at this year’s convention; I am very grateful for the recognition this award represents and truly regret that I was not able to accept it in person.  I respectfully submit, however, that there are other members of this association who deserve the award more than I.  There are a core of members who have and are continually contributing their time and energy to promote the purpose of this association:  I thank you for this service to the association and because of your service, I accept the award with humility.

What is the purpose of the Scaffold Industry Association?  Amongst other purposes, the association exists “To represent the industry in the development of reasonable product standards and procedures for the maintenance of those standards.”  The volunteers who offer their expertise and time for this cause do so knowing that it will benefit not only themselves, but also their competitors.  Think about this for a minute:  your competitor is helping you.  Is that amazing or what?  Another purpose is “To safeguard and advance the interest of its members by presenting the industry’s viewpoint to appropriate legislative and regulatory bodies and by developing a working relationship with appropriate government agencies.”  That’s right, while you are silently denigrating the compliance officer, your association is working with them.  The alliance with federal OSHA is one such example.  Over the years the association’s members have had a positive effect on the promulgation of standards and rules, not just federal and state safety and health agencies but also the work of the American National Standards Institute.  And you thought that the only thing going on was the yearly convention.

Committee chairmen, council chairmen, committee members and advisors each contribute countless hours of time to the purpose of the association.  The inter-relationship between the various activities creates a synergy that encourages new ideas and concepts.  This is clearly evident in the Training Program.  From its genesis in the mid 1990’s, the program is now recognized as a premier scaffolder training course.  This would not have been possible without the efforts of the individuals and the other committees of the association, especially the support of the SIA Educational Foundation (SIAEF).  Did you know that the SIAEF has applied for a Susan Harwood Grant (The Susan Harwood Training Grant Program provides funds to train employers and employees to recognize, avoid, and prevent safety and health hazards in their workplaces)?  Thanks Mr. McBrayer for your extra special effort!

How can you show your appreciation?  It’s easy—get involved.  Your expertise and experience is required if the association is “To represent the industry.”  This is what it is about:  “an organization of persons having a common interest”.   And when you’re at the next meeting, whether the winter meeting or the summer convention, say thanks to all the members who are working on your behalf.

Congratulations NOT in Order

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

#1  Fall Protection – Residential construction 6’ or more: 1926.501(b)(13)

#2  Fall Protection – Unprotected sides and edges: 1926.501(b)(1)

#3  Aerial Lifts – Fall protection:  1926.453(b)(2)(v)

#4  Head Protection: 1926.100(a)

#5  Fall Hazards training program:  1926.503(a)(1)

#6  Scaffolds – Fall protection:  1926.451(g)(1)

#7  Portable ladders 3’ above landing surface:  1926.1053(b)(1)

#8  Scaffolds – Access:  1926.451(e)(1)

#9  Scaffolds – Platform construction:  1926.451(b)(1)

#10  Training for employees using scaffolds:  1926.454(a)

What is the significance of this list?  One factor is that some people just don’t get it.  For example, how can fall protection be a problem on scaffolding?  Fall protection has been required by federal OSHA since 1971 and it has been a consensus requirement for many years before that.  I fact, I have an illustration from an industry magazine published in the 1920’s that warns workers that guardrails are to be used on scaffolds.  It is difficult to imagine that a scaffold user doesn’t know that he/she is supposed to have fall protection at heights.  Some people just don’t get it.  Let’s face it:  Scaffolding isn’t so complicated that the typical user cannot grasp the concept of utilizing fall protection.  Rather it is the idea that “it won’t happen to me.”  Or perhaps the user lacks the training (Violation #10) that results in a false sense of security.  Do you know of anybody that has planned on going to work with the intent of falling off a scaffold?

#10 counters the efforts of the Scaffold Industry Association.  The association’s training programs have been available for a sufficient number of years that scaffold training violations shouldn’t be in the top 100 much less the top ten.  What gives?  I don’t have the answer to this one.  My experience suggests that employers and employees just don’t see the need for training.  They apparently do not recognize the direct relationship between training and a safe work environment.  This is very evident in this list of violations.  In all cases, except for # 5 and # 10, the equipment is available to eliminate the described hazard.  Obviously, it is the lack of training that really creates the hazards, not the lack of equipment or technology.

Check it out:  Do ladders exist that can extend more than 3 feet above the landing surface?  Of course.  Do scaffold suppliers have various components to provide safe access?  Of course.  Can platforms be constructed so they are safe?  Of course.  Can scaffolds be constructed with guardrail systems?  Of course.  Is it possible to use an aerial lift while wearing personal fall restraint?  Of course.  So what is the problem?  What must be done to get the industry off the top 10 list?

Again, I don’t have the answer but I can throw out a few thoughts that should be considered in developing a solution.  One of the basic problems is in communication.  As politically sensitive as the topic is, the language issue must be resolved.  There is no way that education and training can be effective if the recipient cannot read and write.  Signs, pictures and illustrations are nice but you can dumb down the situation only so far.  At some point the employee must have the skills to perform his or her task, even at the most basic level.  Directly related to this issue is the lack of a common language.  For safety issues, it is not nationalistic honor or pride.  It is safety, pure and simple.  How can safety be achieved when the workers on the jobsite speak English, German, Polish and Spanish, as occurred on a jobsite that I was recently on?

As we all know, the level of safety varies from country to country.  What happens when a worker, who is trained in a situation with sub-adequate conditions and rules, arrives in the United States to work at a jobsite that must comply with the federal OSHA standards?  Is it reasonable to assume that the worker will pick up the skills by practice and observation?  I think not.  This is an accident waiting to happen or at least a violation waiting to happen.  We owe the employee more than that and the employee owes himself more than that.

Personal and corporate responsibility must be considered/reconsidered.  Employers and employees must share in the responsibility for safe work practices.  It cannot be left to the employer any more than it can be left to the employee.  It cannot be left to technology or equipment; it must involve human actions, opinions, thought processes and attitudes.  It is time to make changes in the emphasis and it’s time to recognize the fundamental issues.  Let’s face it, a ladder not extending 3 feet above the landing surface isn’t causing 100 scaffold fatalities a year—it’s a lack of respect for the fragility of the human being.  Do you have ideas on how to fix it?  If you do, I’d like to hear about it.  Also, share your ideas at the upcoming SIA convention.  It is time to fix the entire system. Understand?

Only A Beginning

By | Aerial Lifts, OSHA Standards & Regulations, Resources, Scaffolding, Shoring | No Comments

So, what has the association been up to for the last 25years?  Back in the early 1980’s the big issues were insurance, OSHA, CAL-OSHA, liability exposure and membership.  Sounds familiar doesn’t it?  But wait a minute; it isn’t the same issues although the agencies may be the same.  Federal OSHA was only 13years old and the agency was in the process of revising the scaffold standards.  The scaffold industry was operating under the difficulties and confusion of the original specification standards.  Cal-OSHA’ relationship with the SIA was congenial (as far as I could tell from 1000 miles away) and the liability issues were being addressed through the development of Codes of Safe Practices.  The association was entering its second decade and the membership was growing.  Since that momentous occasion when I was the scribe of the Shoring Council, the association has certainly had its low points and high points.  But there is no doubt that the high points greatly exceed the low points.  The fact that the association has survived some of those low points illustrates not only the tenacity of its members but the value of its existence.  We were on a roll back then, just as we are now, but in a different way.  At that time, we were almost a decade away from initiating the SIA training program as we know it today.  But the foundation for that program was being laid through the development of 35 mm slide shows (remember those) and the Codes of Safe Practice.  Just as now, members donated countless hours to the SIA for the sake of those who use scaffolds.  There is no way to measure the effectiveness of those efforts since we only measure injuries and deaths and scaffolding still shows up on the “Top Ten” in OSHA fatality statistics.  But one has to wonder where we might be without the efforts of those early members who contributed so much to the industry.

It is a comfort to see a reinvigorated membership improving the safety of the industry.  Back in the early ‘80’s, frame scaffolds dominated the market.  Systems scaffold was a relatively new product and aerial lifts were in their infancy, at least compared to today.  Scaffold erector fall protection was just beginning to become an issue for the industry.  At that time the bigger issue was getting the scaffold users to use guardrails; some things never change.

Denver has changed since the early ‘80’s too.  We were known as a “cowtown” to some, the “QueenCityof the Plains” to others. Coloradohas added over a million folks to its population since 1983, greatly changing the size and feel of the city.  We have the Sixteenth Street Mall, which didn’t exist at the last convention.  The present convention center didn’t exist either.  There was a convention center but we tore it down because we didn’t like it.  I can’t promise perfect weather but it usually is pretty nice in July.  Besides, you can always head to the mountains if it gets too hot in the city.  (For those of you from locales that have an elevation less than 4000 feet, you’ll appreciate the lack of humidity—we have a law that doesn’t allow it to go above 50%.)

For those of you who like gambling, Colorado has a couple of towns not too far up the canyon that lets you leave money for us but my suggestion is don’t bother—just give me the money and I’ll save you the trip.  Just kidding, I don’t want the Chamber of Commerce to be mad at me.  Go to Blackhawk and Central City and gamble.  Take the “Oh myGod Road” out ofIdahoSprings up into Central City.  The drive is a thrill and a gamble.  When you get to Central City go gamble at the tables.  It may be low stakes but its fun.  (Russell and Gregory Gulches, where Central City is located, are where the big gold finds of the 1850’s occurred.   In fact, Central City is known as the “Richest Square Mile on Earth.”)   Or, if you don’t like the idea of gambling, try out driving the Lariat Trail up to Buffalo Bill’s grave.  The view of the city from Lookout Mountain is fabulous.  The road starts out in Golden, the gateway to the west, and home of the world’s largest brewery, Coors.  Speaking of beer, Denver is also home to more micro breweries than anywhere else in the country which, of course, should keep a few of you occupied for the entire convention.

If you like hiking, we have lots of opportunities.  If you are adventurous, try tackling a fourteener-we have 52 of them.  These are mountains over 14,000 feet high.  Not so adventurous?  Then drive to the top ofMt.Evans, one of the fourteeners and the highest paved road inNorth America. You can say you did a fourteener; I won’t tell.

By the way, we have lots of construction going on.  Admire how we do scaffolds inDenver.  They are unique because they are always much taller than the rest of the scaffolds inNorth America; we start out a mile high!  Welcome to theMileHighCity, theQueenCityof the Plains, and the host city for the Scaffold Industry Association 2008 Convention; we the proudColoradomembers of the Scaffold Industry Association are pleased to have you.  Let’s continue what was started in California in 1973, added to in Denver in 1983, and goes on today, better than ever!

Still Developing?

By | Aerial Lifts, OSHA Standards & Regulations, Resources, Scaffold Components, Scaffolding | No Comments

One new development is in the manufacturing of scaffolding components, particularly scaffold frames and systems scaffolds.  In the past, manufacturing has generally occurred inNorth Americafor most supported and suspended scaffold components used inNorth America.  Now, as with other manufactured products, most scaffold component production has shifted to countries with lower manufacturing costs.  Is this good for the industry or is it bad?  It depends on who you talk to. On the one hand, cheaper equipment costs mean better competition.  On the other hand, cheaper costs may suggest lack of quality.  (I wonder how manufacturing would have developed if OSHA, and others, had enforced 29 CFR 1926.451(a)(1) for the past 10 years.  That’s the regulation that says all scaffolds shall have a 4 to 1 safety factor, requiring the employer to know the strength of his/her scaffolding.

On a brighter note one promising development is in the relationship between the Scaffold Industry Association, SIA, and the US federal Occupational Safety & Health Administration, OSHA.  An alliance has been established between the two entities to promote access safety in the construction industry.  This alliance, a couple of years in the making, provides a common platform to share ideas and formulate strategies that will encourage better workplace practices for scaffold users.  This is another positive step in the evolution of access safety, an evolution that started with the establishment of both OSHA and the SIA in the 1970’s.

Another evolving development is the continuing growth of the SIA training program.  I had the opportunity to visit one of the training classes at the SIA Committee Week and it was a genuine pleasure to see the progress that has been made.  What an evolution this program has experienced since Committee Week inAlbuquerquein the mid ‘90’s when the concept was first proposed.  While it’s been a long road, the fruits of the labor are paying off handsomely.

A development that isn’t new but continues to manifest itself in clever and disturbing ways is the harassment of professional scaffold erectors concerning fall protection.  The extremely well written regulation regarding erector fall protection (29 CFR 1926.451(g)(2) is being abused, interpreted and mutilated, all cloaked in the sanctity of safety.  Let’s call this folly for what it is – a misunderstanding by misinformed individuals who haven’t worked in the shoes of an erector, perceiving that erectors, and by association the entire access/scaffold industry, just don’t care about safety.  This isn’t to say that the industry hasn’t dragged its’ collective feet in the past nor that all erectors are perfect.  However, based on my experience, this industry has invested more time, energy, money, and expertise in developing new strategies, products, knowledge and commitment to reduce the risks inherent with scaffold erection and use in the past decade than any other sector of the construction industry.  Unfortunately all this effort is being undermined by well meaning (I hope) but ill informed personnel who do not understand the bigger picture.  What a waste.  Professional erectors and professional scaffold companies are not the problem, they are the solution.

Enough of the negative thoughts.  Some (whoever they are) may think that a 70 year old product isn’t going to encourage new developments.  When put into perspective, scaffolding, whether its frame, system, suspended, aerial lifts or some derivative thereof, will continue to spawn new developments since access in construction will always be required.  It may be in the components or it may be in related areas such as engineering, assembly, inventory control, accounting or employee productivity.  We may not know what the development will be, but you can be sure there will be new development-look for it!

Promising Future

By | Aerial Lifts, Resources, Scaffold Components, Scaffolding | No Comments

One new development is in the manufacturing of scaffolding components, particularly scaffold frames and systems scaffolds.  In the past manufacturing has generally occurred in North America for most supported and suspended scaffold components used inNorth America.  Now, as with other manufactured products, most scaffold component production has shifted to countries with lower manufacturing costs.  Is this good for the industry or is it bad?  It depends on who you talk to. On the one hand, a cheaper equipment cost means better competition.  On the other hand, cheaper costs may suggest lack of quality.  (I wonder how manufacturing would have developed if OSHA, and others, had enforced 29 CFR 1926.451(a)(1) for the past 10 years.  That’s the regulation that says all scaffolds shall have a 4 to 1 safety factor, requiring the employer to know the strength of his/her scaffolding.)

On a brighter note one promising development is in the relationship between the Scaffold Industry Association, SIA, and the US federal Occupational Safety & Health Administration, OSHA.  An alliance has been established between the two entities to further access safety in the construction industry.  This alliance, a couple of years in the making, provides a common platform to share ideas and formulate strategies that will encourage better workplace practices for scaffold users.  This appears to be another step in the evolution of access safety, an evolution that started with the establishment of both OSHA and the SIA in the 1970’s.

Another evolving development is the continuing growth of the SIA training program.  I had the opportunity to visit one of the training classes at the SIA Committee Week and it was a genuine pleasure to see the progress that has been made.  What an evolution this program has experienced since Committee Week inAlbuquerquein the mid ‘90’s when the concept was first proposed.  While it’s been a long road, the fruits of the labor are paying off handsomely.

A development that isn’t new but continues to manifest itself in clever and disturbing ways is the harassment of professional scaffold erectors concerning fall protection.  The extremely well written regulation regarding erector fall protection (29 CFR 1926.451(g)(3) is being abused, interpreted and mutilated, all cloaked in the sanctity of safety.  Let’s call this folly for what it is – a misunderstanding by misinformed individuals who haven’t worked in the shoes of an erector, perceiving that erectors, and by association the entire access/scaffold industry, just don’t care about safety.  This isn’t to say that the industry hasn’t dragged its’ collective feet in the past nor that all erectors are perfect.  However, based on my experience, this industry has invested more time, energy, money, and expertise in developing new strategies, products, knowledge and commitment to reduce the risks inherent with scaffold erection and use in the past decade than any other sector of the construction industry.  Unfortunately all this effort is being undermined by well meaning (I hope) but ill informed personnel who do not understand the bigger picture.  What a waste.  Professional erectors and professional scaffold companies are not the problem, they are the solution.

Enough of the negative thoughts.  Some (whoever they are) may think that a 70 year old product isn’t going to encourage new developments.  When put into perspective, scaffolding, whether its frame, system, suspended, aerial lifts or some derivative thereof, will continue to spawn new developments since access in construction will always be required.  It may be in the components or it may be in related areas such as engineering, assembly, inventory control, accounting or employee productivity.  We may not know what the development will be, but you can be sure there will be new development-look for it!

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.