When construction workers need to access areas high above the ground, chances are they use a scaffold. The elevated platforms are designed for temporary work and consist of three primary types:
- Suspended scaffold. These may have single or multiple platforms hung by ropes or other flexible overhead supports.
- Supported scaffolds. These platforms are erected using load-bearing legs, poles, outriggers and frames as supports.
- Personnel hoists and manlifts. These have moving parts like a machine or vehicle but actually are another version of a supported scaffold.
Those working with scaffolds on the job are required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to receive training from a qualified person. This teaches workers to recognize hazards and learn how to minimize and control them. Potential hazards to scaffold workers include:
- Falls from scaffolding when safety precautions like tying off are ignored
- Collapses due to overloading and unstable loads
- Struck-by accidents, such as when tools fall or debris rains down on workers from above
- Electrical conduction from power lines above the workers
Under the definitions of OSHA, a “qualified person” must have a certificate, professional standing or degree. They must also be experienced, trained and knowledgeable.
While the majority of scaffolds are temporarily used to either erect or dismantle a structure, some are a more permanent part of the work area. Such would be the case of the scaffold rigging used by those washing the windows of skyscrapers.
In all cases, the employer has the duty to make sure that each piece of equipment meets or exceeds safety standards and is not broken or defective. Employers must also ensure that workers receive proper training in the safe use of scaffolds on the job.
If you were injured in a scaffold accident, you may be able to pursue a workers’ compensation claim or personal injury lawsuit.
Source: Occupational Safety and Health Administration, “Overview,” accessed July 29, 2015