10 Myths about scaffolding that could be the difference between life and death

10 Myths about scaffolding that could be the difference between life and death

In this blog post we are going to address and debunk some common myths and misconceptions about scaffolding. We'll also cover relevant regulations, compliance, and safety concerns.

I did not realize until doing some research, how little is known about scaffolding and particularly about scaffolding safety. As a contractor I specifically trained my scaffold crew to erect and disassemble scaffolding correctly following OSHA guidelines. Let us look at 10 myths in the scaffolding industry debunked.

Myth 1: Scaffolding is Just a Simple Structure Anyone Can Erect


Reality: Erecting scaffolding requires specialized knowledge and training. Scaffolders must understand load capacities, stability requirements, and proper assembly techniques. The lives of whoever is on that scaffolding is at stake. Recently a scaffold collapse killed a worker when steps were skipped during erection.

Regulations: According to OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) in the United States, only trained and competent persons can design and erect scaffolding. Compliance with OSHA’s standards (29 CFR 1926.451) is mandatory.

Myth 2: Safety Harnesses and Guardrails Are Optional


Reality: Safety harnesses and guardrails are critical for preventing falls, which are the leading cause of injuries and fatalities in scaffolding-related work.

Regulations: OSHA requires guardrails on scaffolds more than 10 feet above a lower level. Personal fall arrest systems are necessary if guardrails are not feasible or adequate. Personal arrest systems should be inspected regularly.

Myth 3: All Scaffolding Is the Same


Reality: There are various types of scaffolding (e.g., supported scaffolds, suspended scaffolds, mobile scaffolds), each suited to different tasks and environments. Selecting the correct type is essential for safety and efficiency. when renting or buying scaffold do your research on the types of scaffold and their use.

Compliance: Ensuring the right scaffold type involves adhering to OSHA regulations and industry standards, such as those provided by ANSI (American National Standards Institute) and CSA (Canadian Standards Association).

Myth 4: Once Assembled, Scaffolding Is Safe Indefinitely


Reality: Scaffolding requires regular inspections and maintenance. Environmental factors, wear and tear, and misuse can compromise safety. Scaffolding should be inspected at least once before the workday starts and again mid-day. Tags should be used to indicate the condition of the scaffold and signed by a qualified person.

Regulations: OSHA mandates daily inspections by a competent person before each work shift and after any incident that could affect structural integrity.

Myth 5: Scaffolding Only Needs to Be Secured at the Base


Reality: Proper anchorage and bracing are crucial at various points to ensure stability, especially at heights.

Safety Concerns: Inadequate securing can lead to scaffold collapse, endangering workers and passersby.

Myth 6: Overloading Scaffolding Is Not a Big Deal


Reality: Overloading scaffolding can cause structural failure, leading to collapse and serious accidents. There is a reason for capacity load instructions.

Regulations: OSHA sets load limits, specifying that scaffolding should not be loaded beyond its designed capacity. Workers must consider the weight of personnel, tools, and materials.

Myth 7: Scaffolding Can Be Moved With Workers on It


Reality: Moving scaffolding with workers on it is extremely dangerous and can lead to tipping or collapse. This should be a "no brainer" but unfortunately I've seen this tried by some companies more than once to "save time".

Safety Practices: Workers should always dismount scaffolding before it is moved. Mobile scaffolds should be moved only when empty and in accordance with OSHA guidelines.

Myth 8: Scaffolding Doesn't Require Ground-Level Protection


Reality: The area around scaffolding must be secured to protect those below from falling objects.

Regulations: OSHA requires toe boards, debris nets, or canopies to prevent objects from falling and striking workers or pedestrians below.

Myth 9: Anyone Can Disassemble Scaffolding


Reality: Disassembling scaffolding improperly can be as dangerous as improper assembly. Only trained personnel should disassemble scaffolding to ensure it’s done safely.

Training: Proper training ensures workers understand how to safely disassemble scaffolding without risking collapse or injury.

Myth 10: Scaffold Training Is a One-Time Requirement


Reality: Ongoing training and refreshers are necessary to keep up with evolving safety standards and practices. My company trains once a year. Its a 6 hour training course. OSHA constantly changes regulations and it is important to keep up with training to new regulations.

Compliance: OSHA requires that scaffolding training be repeated periodically and whenever there is a change in scaffold type, fall protection, or other hazards.

Additional Safety Concerns and Compliance

Environmental Factors: Weather conditions like high winds, rain, or snow can impact scaffold safety. Workers should be trained to assess and respond to these hazards.

  • Material Quality: Only use high-quality, undamaged materials for scaffolding to ensure structural integrity.
  • Documentation: Maintain thorough records of inspections, training, and maintenance to ensure compliance and facilitate audits.

By understanding and addressing these myths, ensuring compliance with regulations, and prioritizing safety, we can significantly reduce the risks associated with scaffolding work.

Jul 2nd 2024 Tiffany Tillema

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