Scaffolding can help to significantly reduce health and safety accidents, but it doesn’t eliminate them. Accidents can and still do happen on scaffolding. This often involves slips and trips in bad weather conditions, from spillages, or complacency, and commonly debris falling to the ground.
These accidents are mostly preventable with the correct health and safety measures in place. With that in mind here are 10 of the most common health and safety mistakes people make when using scaffolding.
It’s simple, but common sense should always be used when working on any scaffolding platform. This can include:
When working as part of a team on a scaffold there is often limited space. With other workers and equipment moving about the platform everyone must work effectively as a team to help reduce the risk of preventable accidents.
Scaffolding platforms don’t hold unlimited weight. It’s important to be sensible with the space and the number of materials loaded. This also helps to ensure that materials don’t fall over platforms onto people below. Depending on the type of scaffolding you have, your maximum load may be different. Speak to your scaffolding supplier to find out what the maximum load is.
The HSE (Health and Safety Executive) states that scaffolding should be inspected by a competent person
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) says: “All scaffolding inspection must be carried out by a competent person whose combination of knowledge, training and experience is appropriate for the type and complexity of the scaffold. Competence may have been assessed under the CISRS or an individual may have received training in inspecting a specific type of system scaffold from a manufacturer/supplier. A non-scaffolder who has attended a scaffold inspection course, e.g., a site manager, could be deemed competent to inspect a basic scaffold structure.”
The HSE says that scaffolding bays should have adequate fall protection, preferably gates. Security gates are not a requirement but that does not mean they are not necessary. Access gates can help to prevent falls from people and/or equipment/material; they can also help to protect other people, including children, who might climb the scaffolding without authorisation.
One of the UK’s top rated and Kent’s #1 rated scaffolding companies – Blitz Scaffolding says: Not all scaffolding companies install security gates on scaffolding as standard, make sure that yours does.
Scaffolding netting is not a health and safety requirement; it’s an extra investment to a construction project, but it can provide numerable increased safety benefits to users and those around the structure.
Materials left on scaffolding overnight, or indeed during the day, (especially close to the edge), can be an understandable danger if it falls from wind, or otherwise. The material could also be forgotten about or missed and cause a slip hazard or be knocked below on-top of someone. Avoid wherever possible leaving material on-top of scaffolding bays.
It’s easy to become complacent when working on scaffolding. Workers can assume that the platform will help keep them safe, but this is not a guarantee. Accidents can and do happen on scaffolding, and this is especially true when workers are tired, low in morale and not thinking as clearly.
Slips and trips have been the predominant cause of injury for 16 years in a row; according to a National Access and Scaffolding Confederation report in 2021.
Blitz Scaffolding has posted a helpful guide on wind and working on scaffolding.
Rain makes scaffolding platforms slippery, scaffolding unstable and make working conditions significantly tougher.
Compounded dirt, mud and rain for instance can create slippery conditions and at height a small slip can soon become a lot worse.
The best thing to do in adverse weather is to avoid using the scaffolding altogether. This isn’t always favourable, potentially delaying a project, but safety should always be a number one priority.
If scaffolding is used in adverse weather, always sweep away stagnant water, ice, snow and leaves before working.
Construction workers who aren’t trained for use with scaffolding are often unaware of the common dangers, how to use correct fall prevention and how to work safely. All people who work on scaffolding should be competent, and if being trained should be supervised by a competent person.
Like other professionals in the construction industry, knowing your job site and equipment is important to prevent problems and injuries. Those who are not trained for scaffolding often do not understand how fall protection works, their immediate surroundings, or common sounds of danger.
Failing to identify the potential hazards is an all-to-common mistake that builders make when using scaffolding in their construction projects. Issues such as potential inclement weather, and the effects of such, the adequacy of the scaffolding, and the equipment used, risks of electrocution, the risks of too many workers on the scaffolding at one time, too much equipment or materials.
Before the scaffolding is used, a risk assessment should be considered to help identify potential hazards. Ideally an assessment of the potential risks would also be considered before the erection of the scaffolding to ensure safe design.
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Guest post – Blitz Scaffolding