Construction Site & Scaffolding Accidents

What is scaffolding in building construction?

Scaffolding is a temporary structure that’s used to provide support for materials and work crews as they construct, maintain, and repair buildings and other man-made materials. Scaffolds are most commonly used to gain access to high up areas that would otherwise be difficult to reach.

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What are the hazards of scaffolding?

Various hazards are associated when working on scaffolding. More than half of all scaffolding accidents are fall-related. Why does this happen? Let’s take a look at the various hazards of scaffolding.

Electrocution

Because scaffolds tend to be elevated the chances of coming in contact with power lines are increased exponentially. Ideally, the distance should be at least 10 feet if the voltage in the wire is less than 50 kV (kilovolts). The distance should be more than 10 feet and 4 inches for every 1 kV over 50 kV.

Bad planking

Sometimes the construction of scaffolding is done poorly. As a result, unsecured or loose planking can cause a worker to slip and fall. Planks have also been known to break when overloaded with too much weight. It’s important that scaffolds be constructed of high-quality material and thoroughly inspected before use.

Workers should also use safety measures when working on scaffolding. For example, excessive or insufficient overhang will often be used by workers to get to hard to reach places. However, standing on a position that’s overhanging may cause the plank to tip upward and pitch the worker over the side of the scaffolding.

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Getting struck by falling debris

Working in a construction zone is fraught with danger. Tools, building materials, and general debris are often left lying about the work area for the sake of convenience. If left on scaffolding these items all constitute a significant danger for those working down below.

Guardrails are one of the most essential components of a scaffold. They not only provide an extra barrier of safety for workers, but they also help to prevent building materials, tools, and general debris from tipping over the side and hitting the people working below.

How can scaffolding accidents be prevented?

Scaffolding related accidents are the leading cause of injuries and fatalities in construction sites. While there are various reasons why this happens, workers can lessen the chances of an accident occurring by taking the proper safety precautions.

Inspect scaffolding before use

Throughout the workday, scaffolding is often loaded down with heavy tools, work material, and people. Even if the weight is well within safety limits, you should always visually inspect scaffolding before every shift.

If you find a part of the scaffold that is dangerous or defective (such as a bad plank), you should immediately replace it before moving forward with the workday. Workers should also ensure that the scaffold is stable to protect themselves from falling.

Clear debris

One of the major dangers of working on scaffolding is falling debris.  All construction debris should be immediately cleared away to prevent a potential accident from occurring.

Stay organized

Workers are often loaded down with a wide variety of supplies, work tools, and equipment needed to complete their job. While these items are necessary workers should take extra care to stay neat and organized due to the limited space on scaffolds. Keeping scaffolding free of obstructions will reduce the chances of an accident occurring.

How can construction accidents be prevented?

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports that one out of every five workplace deaths is a construction worker. While construction holds more risks than other job

Hold crew meetings to discuss meetings on a regular basis

You should never take the safety standards of the workplace for granted. Holding frequent safety meetings will serve to keep workers focused and aware of potential dangers at all times.

Wear protective clothing and gear

To minimize accidents workers should wear the recommended gear and clothing to perform their jobs successfully and safely. For example, goggles, steel-toed boots, and hard hats are commonplace in many construction zones to help keep workers safe.

Workers should also dress appropriately for the weather — wide-brimmed hats will serve as protection from the sun during the summer while hooded sweatshirts under work vests will help to keep workers warm during the winter.

Exercise extra care around vehicles

Many construction site injuries and fatalities often involve vehicles. Practicing skills such as backing up large vehicles, parking, and defensive driving should be practiced on a regular basis to minimize the potential of workplace accidents.

Follow OSHA guidelines to the letter

Sometimes employees and employers alike will ignore OSHA guidelines to complete a job faster. However, doing so will increase the likelihood of an accident occurring which can lead to injury or death. If you observe OSHA violations in the workplace, you should report it to the proper authorities as soon as you can to ensure the safety of all.

Additional Resources

U.S. Department of Labor

Construction Related Accident Reports

OSHA Common Stats

Bureau of Labor Statistics

Occupational Health and Safety

Construction Safety Courses

 

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