In December 2009, 5 workers fell off the scaffold they were working on at an apartment building in Etobicoke, Ontario. The accident resulted in four deaths with the fifth suffering serious injuries because these workers were improperly protected: the four were not wearing lifelines and the lone survivor donned a malfunctioning one.
Unfortunately, this accident could have been prevented if safety practices were employed while working on a scaffold. The Occupational Health and Safety Act (OSHA) outlines specific duties for employers, supervisors and workers in maintaining an accident-free job site. Below are five basic guidelines for scaffolding safety:
1. Proper Training
It is mandated by law that operators be properly trained in the design amd operation of scaffolding. The training should cover safety practices, comprehensive fall protection training, erection and dismantling procedures and other lifesaving processes.
2. Respect Load Capacity
Ensure that the scaffold is strong enough to carry the load it is designed for to avoid its collapse. Never overcrowd a scaffold not overload it with equipment and materials.
3. Use Guardrails
If used 10 feet above ground, guardrails must be supplied on the three sides of the scaffold which faces away from the building. Guardrails must be composed of a top rail, a mid rail and a toeboard.
4. Conduct Inspection and Maintenance
Scaffolding must be regularly inspected by the supervisor and by a professional— an engineer or a person designated in writing by the engineer. If any components of the scaffold is broken or damaged, these must be immediately replaced. Check frames, braces and other parts for bends, damages, rust, and signs of wear and tear. Motors, platforms and wire ropes must also be inspected for chemical corrosion.
5. Use Proper PPE
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) must be utilized at all times, particularly when working at heights. This should include head protection, non-slip protective footwear and fall protection such as safety harness secured to a solid structure.
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