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What construction workers need to know about scaffold safety

Iowa construction workers should know that they face a high risk of receiving a potentially catastrophic injury when working on or near scaffolding. As FindLaw points out, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration estimates that 65 percent of construction workers have jobs that require them to frequently work on scaffolds, lifts, hoists or tall ladders.

Constructor Magazine adds that per data from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics’ Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, 72 percent of worker scaffolding injuries are the result of one of the following:

  • The scaffold’s support or planking gives way
  • The worker slips and falls off the scaffold
  • An object falling from the scaffold strikes the worker
  • The worker has unsafe scaffold access

OSHA oversight

OSHA oversees the scaffolding industry, and all employers, supervisors and workers involved in scaffold work must adhere to OSHA’s regulations therefor, including those pertaining to the scaffold’s design, construction and inspection. Each scaffold and each of its component parts must support not only its own weight, but also four times its maximum intended load. Each suspension rope must support a minimum of six times its maximum intended load.

Prior to each shift, an employer must require a designated competent person to inspect every scaffold and its component parts to ensure that there are no visible defects. After this inspection, no scaffold should be erected, moved, altered or dismantled except under the direct supervision of the competent person.

In addition, the competent person must inspect all personal fall protection equipment before usage, including the following:

  • Body belts
  • Harnesses
  • Droplines
  • Lanyards
  • Trolley lines
  • Anchorage points

Personal responsibility

Construction safety experts recommend that in addition to always wearing their safety equipment, workers make it a practice to pay attention to their surroundings at all times. When walking underneath a scaffold, they should keep their entire bodies underneath the plank(s) above their heads. They likewise should resist any urge to stick out their heads to view whatever is going up or down the scaffold. Finally, workers should immediately report any scaffolding problems they observe or incur to their supervisor.

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