Scaffolding Safety: 3 Ways to Work Safely on a Scaffold

Supported Scaffold Image

As you probably know, another national Safety Stand-Down to Prevent Falls in Construction has come and gone.

But although the Safety Stand-Down is past, the risk (and reality) of falls in construction has not.

As a result, we’re taking a closer look at some issues related to falls in construction in a series of articles. This article will focus on fall hazards related to scaffolds. Every year, falls from scaffolds lead to a large number of injuries and fatalities on the job.

In addition to this article, we’ve also put together the following ones related to falls, fall prevention, and fall protection for the Safety Stand-Down:

At the bottom of this article, we’ve included a free Fall Prevention Toolbox Talk Checklist, and it includes tips for a Scaffolding Safety Toolbox Talk. 

3 Tips for Preventing Falls from Scaffolds: Scaffolding Safety

First, let’s talk about the risk. Is there a safety risk associated with scaffolds in construction? You bet there is! Every year, construction workers experience injuries and even fatalities when falling from construction when no fall protection was used.

There’s a lot to learn about using scaffolds safely, and this article isn’t a substitute for full and proper scaffold safety training or job experience, but it IS a good start.

Set Your Scaffold on a Solid Base

If you don’t set a scaffold up properly, it’s much more likely to lead to injuries or fatalities. To work properly and safely, scaffolds must be set up with:

  • A solid base
  • Level decks
  • Posts or legs that are oriented vertically (“plumb”)

Be sure to use base plates, which are also sometimes called screw jacks, and mud sills on the base for extra support.

Finally, make sure there are screw jacks for leveling inserted into the legs of the scaffold.

This investment in time when setting up the scaffold is well worth it in terms of risk reduction.


Use Proper Fall Protection when On a Scaffold

OSHA requires that you use some form of fall protection if the working deck of your scaffold is 10 feet or higher.

The fall protection may take the form of a guardrail system or a personal fall arrest system. Just be sure to use one–it’s the law, but it’s also a very good idea for safety.

If you’ll be putting on a fall protection harness, make sure you properly inspect and wear it and use it safely. Your employer should cover all this in your fall prevention & protection training.


Be Sure a Competent Person Has Checked for Points of Scaffold Safety

Before anyone uses a scaffold, a competent person must check to see that:

  • The scaffold was constructed in a way that meets OSHA rules for access (both when workers get on and when they get off)
  • All work areas are fully planked or decked
  • Guys and ties to the building are installed properly and are in good working condition
  • Guard rails are properly installed, and/or other means of fall protection is used

Never get on a scaffold that wasn’t put up by a competent person.


Online Support Scaffolding Training

A robust and effective safety training program will take advantage of a blended learning solution that utilizes classroom-based instructor-led training, field-based training, hands-on training, written training materials, videos, online elearning courses, field-based performance support, refresher training, and more.

An online supported scaffold safety training course like the one sampled below can be a great addition to such a training

Conclusion: Don’t Fall off Your Scaffold and Help Us Reduce Fall-Related Incidents

Scaffolds are very helpful, but they also present a number of unique and potentially fatal hazards when used on the job.

Following these tips will move you in the right direction toward working with scaffolds safely. Of course, don’t stop here–there’s plenty more to learn about working safely when on a scaffold.

The free Fall Prevention Toolbox Talk Checklist below includes materials to help you lead toolbox talks on fall-related topics such as ladder safety, scaffolding safety, and roofing work safety–get it now.

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Free Download–Fall Prevention Toolbox Talk Checklist

Download this free checklist to help lead toolbox talks on fall prevention, including ladder safety, scaffolding safety, and roofing work safety.

Download Free Guide

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Jeffrey Dalto

Jeffrey Dalto

Jeffrey Dalto is an Instructional Designer and the Senior Learning & Development Specialist at Convergence Training. He's worked in training/learning & development for 20 years, in safety and safety training for more than 10, is an OSHA Authorized Outreach Trainer for General Industry OSHA 10 and 30, has completed a General Industry Safety and Health Specialist Certificate from the University of Washington/Pacific Northwest OSHA Education Center, and is a member of the committee creating the upcoming ANSI Z490.2 national standard on online environmental, health, and safety training.

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