5 tips for working safely with scaffolds
There are many considerations that need to be made as part of construction site safety, but the proper use of scaffolding is often one of the most common.
After all, scaffolding is an integral part of any construction environment, so providing the necessary training to workers will help make sure OHS safety obligations are met at all times.
Following a few simple procedures can make the difference between operating a safe and compliant construction site and one that puts the security of its workers and others at risk.
Regardless of whether you are using fixed or mobile scaffolding, you need to follow the same safety procedures at all times.
Here are five tips you need to pass on to your employees to ensure they are using equipment in the safest way possible.
1) Choose the right scaffolding for the job
There are different types of scaffolding available, with each one benefiting from certain features that might make it better for the job than others.
Having a sound knowledge of scaffolding options is important, as this will help you decide which type to erect and ultimately ensure the safety of your workers.
If, for example, you select scaffolding that is too light duty for the job at hand, your workers could be put at risk and find the structure collapses from beneath them.
Light duty scaffolding is usually considered suitable for work such as painting and carpentry and can handle up to 225kg.
Medium duty, on the other hand, is more appropriate for general trades work and can cope with weights up to 450kg, while heavy duty scaffolding is best for weights up to 675kg.
If you are bricklaying, concreting, carrying out demolition work or any other jobs that involve heavy impact forces, heavy duty scaffolding is usually the best option.
2) Carry out a risk assessment
Risk management procedures are something that every construction site manager is likely to be well acquainted with – and scaffolding is no exception.
Being aware of risks before they can become a problem gives construction workers the opportunity to take steps to mitigate them, either through putting safeguards in place or providing additional training.
It is important to bear in mind that hazards can change over time – as a construction site develops, new challenges may start to emerge that mean the initial plan needs to be altered.
Regularly assessing the condition and position of scaffolding is a crucial element of this procedure, as it helps builders ensure they are following OHS procedures.
3) Undergo proper training
Regardless of whether a worker is tasked with constructing scaffolding or is simply using it as part of their job, it is essential to make sure they have received the right training.
Companies also need to make sure they are keeping up to date with the latest changes to safety legislation – once a training course is completed, this is far from the end of their education.
Laws are changing all the time, so staff may find they need to go on additional courses to ensure they are using the most up-to-date strategies for safety.
4) Ensure the safe construction of scaffolding
Scaffolding is only going to offer the safety features it is intended for if it is constructed properly – make sure anyone who is tasked with this job has the necessary training to undertake it.
Trained staff need to be used when the scaffolding is more than four metres high, as anything below this is less likely to pose safety risks to construction workers.
The same goes for if the scaffolding is altered in any way – this cannot be carried out by anyone, they must have undergone the right training to complete the task in a competent manner.
Structures also need to be made so that safe access can be maintained to the site. Significant problems may arise if workers are unable to reach critical safety points.
5) Encourage common sense
As with most construction site environments, making sure all workers adopt a common sense approach is the best way to ensure their safety.
For example, if scaffolding platforms look unsafe or incomplete, it is best that they are assessed by a trained expert before use.
The same goes for if there are any physical defects – although they may seem non-descript at first glance, they could actually lead to structural problems that might jeopardise the security of the scaffold.
Workers should also avoid making any changes to the scaffolding that have not been pre-approved, in case it jeopardises the safety of the platform and could result in harm to others.
When constructing scaffolding, it is important to avoid overhead power lines – the general rule is that it should be at least six metres away, while electrical cables should never be fixed to the structure.
Leaving loose items on scaffolding is usually advised against, not least because they can easily fall on people and lead to accidents.
As a result, it is recommended that catch platforms and safety screens are installed wherever possible and that workers are discouraged from being untidy while on the structure.
Making sure staff keep track of each other when up on the scaffolding is another good idea – a few extra pairs of eyes can help ensure people are working safely and identify any hazards that may not have been noticed.
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