At the end of each fiscal year, OSHA shines a light on its enforcement activities by releasing its list of the top ten most cited standards for the period. Leading the hit parade in 2007, was 2005 and 2006’s front-runner, scaffolding (29 CFR 1926.451), weighing in at a hefty 7,592 violations (as of October, 2007).
But lying beneath the surface of this statistic is a far more complex interplay of violations. According to the January-March 2008 edition of Safety Bulletin, published by SafetyResources.com, the top five sections of this standard that were cited include:
- 1926.451 (g)(1) – Failure to provide fall protection
- 1926.451 (e)(1) – Failure to provide proper access
- 1926.451 (b)(1) – Failure to ensure adequate platform construction
- 1926.451 (c)(2) – Failure to properly support scaffolding
- 1926.451 (g)(1)(vii) – Lack of personal fall arrest or guardrail systems
If employers had focused their compliance efforts on these sections of the standard, they could have not only reduced worker’s compensation costs by lessening their employees’ exposure to some extremely serious workplace hazards, but they would have also significantly reduced their risk of receiving a citation.
Reducing exposure under this standard begins with having a “competent person” inspect scaffolds. OSHA clearly defines this individual as one who:
- Has been trained to understand the requirements of scaffold standard 29 CFR 1926.451.
- Is able to identify scaffold hazards.
- Has the authority to take immediate action to correct defects and eliminate hazards.
This person is obliged to inspect the scaffold after it has been built, before it is used, and periodically during its usage. The term “periodically” is deliberately meant to be vague because the frequency of the inspections is determined by a number of factors such as the type of scaffold, weather conditions, how much usage it receives, how old it is, and how often sections are added, removed, or altered.
These factors influence how quickly safety-related defects can possibly develop. However, the term “periodic” is also meant to imply that inspections take place frequently enough so that problems are discovered before they become a threat to your employees’ safety.
OSHA also mandates that scaffolds be inspected for signs of defects before every shift. They should also be inspected after any event that could undermine their structural integrity.
To make inspection easier, Business & Legal Reports, Inc (BLR) compiled a checklist that they published in the April 25, 2008 edition of their email newsletter Safety Daily Advisor:
- The scaffold does not block exits, egress, paths, fire alarms, and fire suppression systems.
- The scaffold is erected at a safe distance from power lines.
- Ladders, stairs, ramps, etc. provide safe methods for accessing the scaffold.
- The scaffold is plumb and level, and resting on stable footing and a firm foundation (including base plates on supported scaffolds).
- Diagonal cross bracing is used to support the scaffold’s legs.
- All required guys, ties, or bracing is installed to maintain the scaffold’s stability.
- Working level platforms are fully planked between guardrails, and secured to prevent movement.
- Scaffold platforms are at least 18 inches wide.
- Indoor scaffolds are made of fire-retardant wood or other suitable materials.
- The scaffold’s platform is free of debris and slipping/tripping hazards.
- Guardrails are firmly in place on all open sides/ends, where required.
- Toe boards, screening, area barricades, or canopies are installed to provide adequate protection against falling objects.
- Personal fall arrest systems are provided for all employees when they are working more than 10 feet above a lower level.