Construction site safety is a concern for all those who work on or manage construction projects. Risks of injury are increased when jobs require workers to use ladders or scaffolding. Studies show that thousands of injuries and close to a hundred deaths occur each year due to unsafe work practices at elevated heights.
Understandably, California requires employers to educate their employees on job safety while working on a construction site, especially at heights. Our goal, at John M. O'Brien & Associates, is to advance the cause of safety for those working at or visiting construction sites.
Scaffolding is a structure that is erected to help workers perform tasks at elevations that are easily accessible with a ladder. It also provides workers with a temporarily raised pathway allowing them to move about and work in multiple elevated locations. While scaffolding is useful and often necessary on a construction site, it can also be dangerous if strict safety practices are not followed. Here are a few tips to help prevent injuries while working on scaffolding:
- A scaffold must be sound and durable. It should not only carry its weight, but four times the maximum intended load.
- Unstable objects must not be used to support scaffolds or planks.
- Scaffolding must be equipped with guardrails, midrails, and toeboards.
- A scaffold's accessories such as brackets, braces, screw legs, trusses, or ladders that are damaged or weakened must be immediately repaired or replaced.
- A "competent person" must inspect the scaffolding and, at designated intervals, reinspect it.
- Rigging on suspension scaffolds must be examined by a person, who is competent, before each shift and after any occurrence that could affect the scaffold’s structural integrity.
- Synthetic and natural rope used in suspension scaffolding must be protected from heat-producing sources.
- Employees are to be instructed regarding any possible hazards including that of using diagonal braces as fall protection.
- The scaffold should be accessible with use of ladders and/or stairwells.
- Scaffolds must be at least 10 feet from electric power lines at all times.
Contractors and construction site superintendents should strictly adhere to these safety practices and make sure that their employees are educated as to the proper safety regulations while working on scaffolding.
Ladder safety is another important topic because ladders are commonly used not only on construction sites but also as standard household tools.
Those who are unfamiliar with using ladders often overlook some basic safety measures. By contrast, those familiar with working on a ladder can become too comfortable and ignore safety practices.
Here are some helpful tips for avoiding injury when using a ladder:
- Always ensure that the correct ladder is used for any given task.
- Visually inspect a ladder before use for any defects such as:
- Structural damage, split/bent side rails, broken or missing rungs
- Grease, oils, dirt or other contaminants that could cause slips or falls
- Make sure that ladders are the proper size to reach the work area safely.
- Mark or tag damaged or defective ladders for repair or destroy them immediately.
- Never load ladders beyond the manufacturer's rated capacity.
- The manufacturer’s load rating should support the weight of the user in addition to the materials and tools that will be used while working on the ladder.
- Avoid using ladders with metallic components near electrical work.