Working with scaffolding can be a very dangerous project, which is why it’s as important as ever to have a proper safety plan set for your project. Knowing and understanding what is required in order to have a safe and efficient scaffold system is important to reduce injury and risk for both staff, workers, clients and the general public. A diligent safety strategy in place means there will be less likely for any serious issues when it comes to safety. As well as this, continually checking for any safety risks and potential hazards means every possible outcome in the workplace is covered. Because of the high risk potential with scaffolding and their parts, it requires an almost obsessive attitude to ensure the safety of the equipment and staff. When looking at understanding scaffolding safety, there are a number of aspects to keep in mind.
The Correct Training
Before anyone is allowed on scaffolding or the construction site, all employees need to be suitably qualified and trained. There should be no instances where there is someone on the site that is not appropriately trained or qualified to be working on the site. Having the right education to work on and with scaffolding will mean that your workers will have the skills and knowledge required to know how to work safely on the structures. Part of the education and training undertaken will teach employees basic safety training, how to use and move around structures and scaffolding and what the best tools are to use whilst working.
Preparation of the Site and Ground
Preparation is key to a safe work site. Even with the appropriate scaffolding in place, if the ground and site is not optimally prepared for the scaffolding, the work site will not be as safe as what it could potentially be. The state of the ground and the surrounding location will affect the stability and construction of the scaffolding being used. All obstructions such as shrubs, trees, gardens, wires and different levels of elevation will all need to be cleared or taken into consideration for the site. If it is not possible to remove the obstructions, they will need to be worked into the design of the scaffolding and analysed to ensure they are not going to cause a hazard.
Respect Load Capacities
Every scaffold has a limit to its loading capabilities. The load limit is something that needs be understood by all staff members and respected. Understanding the load limit and ensuring this limit is adhered to is a good way to ensure the safety of everyone involved. It’s important to bear in mind the weight of workers, equipment and materials and ensure the weight limit is never exceeded at any one time.
Correctly Secure Scaffolding
Depending on the project and the type of scaffolding being used, the best technique for securing the scaffold is required. Scaffolding is usually stabilised by being tied or braced to the building. Because different types of scaffolding require different kinds of stabilisation methods, it’s important to understand what method works best for your project. Taking extra precautionary steps is advised as it is always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to scaffolding projects.
Use Appropriate Guardrails
Guardrails are implemented for a reason and there should be a minimum of three sides facing away from the building that are using guardrails. This is for scaffolding that is higher than three metres above the ground. With this, there should be three rails: A top rail, a mid rail and a bottom rail (toe board). Fall protection should be used at all times and if rails need to be removed in order to hoist materials, the guardrails must be promptly replaced.
Inspect and Maintain
Scaffolding and all parts of the design must be routinely inspected for any issues by a competent person, preferably an engineer or someone who has been designated in writing by an engineer. Lumber must be inspected routinely and all parts should be tested and inspected at varying intervals to ensure everything is still in good working order. Another important factor to check on is if any parts or items are corroded or damaged from chemicals. Inspect the braces, frames and other components for damage, bends or excessive wear and tear.
There isn’t much room to move on scaffolding systems as it is, so ensuring that all tools and equipment are kept in an orderly fashion and aren’t sat in awkward and difficult positions is a must. As well as tools, garbage needs to be removed as soon as possible, if not immediately, from the work area. Unnecessary items in and around the scaffolding can cause trip hazards, so it is best that it is nowhere near the working area.
Use the Right PPE
PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) includes items such as non-slip protective footwear (steel cap boots are ideal), head protection and fall protection where needed. Any person who is working on the construction site needs to be fully aware of what protective equipment is most suitable and know how to use it. As an employer, you should also enforce the correct usage of PPE and ensure all staff members are fully protected.
Work in the Right Conditions
Even when all the tools and equipment are in good working order, there are times when this isn’t good enough. Working in the right conditions is just as important as working with the correct equipment. Some weather conditions like extreme wet weather and strong winds pose their own threat when working on scaffolding. It’s important to keep an eye on the weather during the working day to ensure your staff are working in safe conditions.
When working on what can be a dangerous site, scaffolding care and safety should be one of your top priorities. Staff and visitor safety is a key component to a happy and healthy workplace. Even during times where it seems like you may be going overboard with safety procedures, the truth is that it is always better to be safe than sorry. Too many times have there been unnecessary accidents and injuries on scaffolding sites that could have been avoided with simple safety precautions.
At Uni-Span, we make safety our top priority to ensure the safety of everyone involved on a construction site. If you’d like to know more about Uni-Span and our scaffolding products, feel free to contact us today on 1300 882 825 or visit our website at http://uni-span.com.au.