Scaffolding safety

Fall protection and scaffolding always seem to top the list of most-cited OSHA violations. What should I keep in mind when it comes to scaffolding, especially for small but hectic jobsites?

Responding is Mike Mumau, president, Kee Safety – North America, Buffalo, NY.

In the construction industry, workers really are the most valuable asset, and this makes worker safety a top priority. This is the reason OSHA and ANSI guidelines exist. So to help contractors stay proactive about scaffolding safety, we’ve compiled a few important tips:

Slow down or consider efficient building alternatives

Speed often is of the essence when it comes to construction projects, so the issue is figuring out how to build something quickly without putting workers at risk.

The answer is to work at the highest level of efficiency so as not to sacrifice safety for speed, and techniques and tools are available to help you do so. For smaller jobs, invest in cost-effective, alternative safe access platforms if you believe you don’t have the time for full scaffolding. A safe alternative to makeshift scaffolding will allow workers to use both hands to work and, therefore, be more efficient on the job. It also will provide a protected safe access area to separate workers from hazards or falls, improving overall safety without taking extra time.

Keep your workplace organized

Slip, trip and fall hazards account for the highest number of safety violations – an easy way to avoid both citation and injury is to encourage worksite organization. Tripping is an especially dangerous mishap when it happens on or around scaffolding. The easiest way to avoid this hazard is through either systemization of tool placement or equipment that facilitates an easy and out-of-the-way organizational system.

Another safety benefit to tool organization is that it can reduce the likelihood of knocking tools from scaffolding or platforms, which can then injure those working below, waste time and damage tools.

Identify hazards

Evaluate both the site and project to figure out what the most likely hazards could be, and think about potential solutions before construction starts.

Are you working near overheard power lines? Then make sure your scaffolding is constructed far enough away. Are you going to need to move your scaffolding during the project? Analyze the game plan before you erect a time-consuming scaffolding piece, or have an easy-to-construct/move alternative handy.

Are you awkwardly hoisting materials such as windows to a second floor or roof? Consider systems with hoists to lift these into place so workers don’t have to scramble dangerously up ladders while carrying them.

Review the site

It is important not only to identify hazards but also to review the worksite during construction. If you keep an eye out for potential problems, they can be caught and avoided before they arise and you can keep the project from encountering time-consuming pitfalls.

Quick reviews by informed workers can keep things running smoothly and help maintain the safety of a project site as workers get more comfortable on the job and inadvertently neglect safety in favor of speed.


Scaffolding safety all comes back to an effort to be as efficient as possible, rather than simply working fast. Anytime a worker has to compromise safety to work is a problem. Luckily, with the right training, safety seminars and equipment, it is an avoidable issue.

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