Scaffolding Safety Tips

10 Must-Know Scaffolding Safety Tips

Safety first is a term used across a wide spectrum of occupations in many and varied situations and locations. Whether you are working on a two-storey building or a residential/commercial high-rise, ignoring scaffolding safety can be very costly, resulting in serious injury or fatality!

10 Must-Know Scaffolding Safety Tips

TIP #1: Your Checklist

  • Has a Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS) been prepared for the scaffolding – as a ‘high risk construction work’ project this is a legal requirement
  • Are the nearby power lines greater than 4m away from the scaffolding system?
  • Have you assessed all potential site hazards prior to scaffolding erection and addressed with adequate scaffolding safety controls?
  • Are the footings level, rigid, and able to support a loaded scaffold?
  • Check the conditions of scaffolding components prior to use
  • Check the foundation is adequate to support scaffolding
  • Check baseplates/jacks are fully secure

TIP #2: Rogue Employees

In many instances ‘rogue employees’ have been recognised as a negative influence in scaffolding safety.

Employees such as these often operate with no regard for work health and safety standards (WHS). They will disregard the Australia and New Zealand Standards (AS/NZS) established by state and national government bodies such as Work Cover NSW and Master Builders Australia.

By using unsafe work practices and not complying with scaffold safety standards they greatly increase the risk of incidents on residential and commercial building sites.

Prevention here is integral, Scaffolding contractors must ensure their fully qualified scaffolding employees with all their tickets up to date.

Tip #3: Secure the Scaffolding

Secure the Scaffolding - SkelScaff

To ensure safety, brace or secure the scaffolding to a building. By wrapping the scaffolding system in a shade and chain mesh this will act as protection from the elements and prevent building materials from falling from the scaffold.

The scaffolding could easily get blown over if it is not effectively secured. Australian and New Zealand (AS/NZS) Standards have determined that any scaffolding must be braced securely to prevent movement that could dislodge and destabilise the scaffold. This is basic scaffolding safety.

Tip #4: Handrails

Handrails - SkelScaff

For the purpose of ensuring scaffolding safety, the design should incorporate handrails on at least three sides. The handrails must face away from the building if the scaffolding is over 3m from the ground.

In addition, bottom (toe board), mid and top rails are required. In cases where it’s necessary to remove any of the handrails, such as when hoisting materials, then they must be replaced at the earliest opportunity!

Ensure that workers have a 1m handrail around them at all times.

Tip #5: Tidiness Equals Safety

When working on a scaffolding system its important to keep the workspace free from any obstruction.

Maintenance and Inspections - SkelScaff

Tools, debris and waste materials must not be stored or left on scaffolding, as it is a safety hazard that may cause someone to trip and fall.

Tip #6: Maintenance and Inspections

Routine inspections are crucial for scaffolding safety.

In the case of a suspended scaffolding platform - SkelScaff

In the case of a suspended scaffolding platform, the following components must be checked:

  • Welding points and connecting pins
  • Working surfaces and beams
  • Quality and strength of the timber used
  • Braces and frames
  • Couplers and beam clamps
  • Motors, wire ropes and platforms (for signs of damage or corrosion)

Tip #7: Keeping your Balance

Balance, or lack of it, is a critical safety issue for any scaffold worker. Therefore, it is essential to keep the scaffolding in perfect operational condition, based on AS/NZS Scaffolding Standards.

This helps minimise the risk of workers losing their balance and falling from the structure. In the case of swing stages, it is crucial for there to be an adequately weighted counterweight.

Workers must stay alert when working on a scaffold, as any sudden movement, or over-reaching from the platform, could cause them to lose balance.

Tip #8: Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Personal Protective Equipment is a significant factor for scaffolding safety, and one that includes non-slip footwear and head protection. In addition, fall protection is required, in the form of a safety harness.

In various instances, safety regulations dictate that the harness can be linked only to a suspended platform or scaffold if all or any part thereof offers more than one independent means of support.

Furthermore, the platform or scaffold must be configured in such a way that the failure of one support factor will not cause a part or the complete platform or scaffold to collapse

Tip #9: Prevent Internal Falls

For workers on a scaffold, there is always the risk of internal falls during the erection stage. Fortunately, safety can be enhanced by the full decking of each lift.

This is achieved by placing a full deck of planks at each lift and the positioning of planks on the next lift from a standing position on a full decked platform.

As an added precaution, leave each lift full decked and in place until it is to be dismantled.

Before dismantling a lift, clear lift of all building material and then the planks are safely and efficiently removed from a standing position on the next lower full decked platform.

Tip #10: Know the Risks

It has been determined by the AS/NZS Standards that scaffolding work is a high-risk occupation, for which workers are required to be appropriately licensed.

For the purpose of scaffolding safety, this type of work is separated into 3 levels:

  • Basic
  • Intermediate
  • Advanced

This categorised system recognises the differences in risk levels and the techniques needed for different types of scaffolding, with “Safe Work Method Statements” (SWMS) required for all high-risk construction work.

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