Preventing Exposure to Ladder and Scaffold Accidents
Ladder and scaffold accidents are some of the most common accidents in the construction industry. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the majority of construction workers are involved in working from scaffolds (65%).
OSHA also indicates what the top hazards are that result in scaffold accidents.
OSHA lists the number one hazard for scaffold accidents as falls. The following hazards often result in falls:
- Lack of guardrails
- Improper guardrail installation
- Failure to use personal fall arrest systems when indicated
- Lack of proper access to the scaffold work platform
When a 24-inch vertical change to an upper or lower level exists, OSHA requires scaffold access such as secured ladders, stair towers, ramps, etc.
OSHA has established standards for the minimal level of protection. Even so, many general contracts require 100 percent fall protection for workers who are working at heights of six feet or higher or on scaffolds.
Scaffolds must be inspected daily to ensure they are secured and stable. However, the first step in preventing scaffold collapse is during initial scaffold construction. Vital factors to consider during scaffold construction are the weight of materials and workers and the scaffold weight itself. To ensure foundation stability, the scaffold plank placement, the scaffold’s distance to the work surface, and tie-in requirements are also crucial to consider.
Being struck by materials falling from scaffolds is another serious hazard for workers. It is also a danger for pedestrians. Tools or materials can and do fall from platforms. Preventative measures include installing toe boards or netting on work platforms that can catch falling objects before they reach lower work areas or the ground. Another safety precaution is to erect barricades that physically prevent individuals from walking under work platforms. Caution of Danger tape can be useful as well, but sometimes people ignore or disregard it. The best methods are plastic mesh or barricades.
Whatever method is used, workers onsite must be aware that overhead work is in progress.
OSHA requires a 10 feet distance between scaffolds and electrical hazards. If this isn’t possible, then the options are either de-energizing the electrical source or having the power company properly insulate it.
New York Scaffolding Law Protection
Because of the inherent dangers in working with scaffolds and working at higher elevations, New York State passed the scaffolding law. As a result, NY workers are provided with greater legal protection in ladder and scaffolding accidents than workers in other states.
For more information, please see our Ladders and Scaffold Accidents page.