Many things can go wrong when working on scaffolding and falls from high places are usually serious. However, working on a scaffold can be safe and straightforward when everyone follows safety procedures.
The Australian Work Health and Safety Act (WHS) advise following a risk management process to control health and safety risks effectively. This consists of the following steps:
For example, if you are working near power lines, the hazard is electricity and the risk is electrocution. In this example, the control measure is to place the scaffolding far enough away from the power lines so that there is no risk of it touching the power lines. Continue to review the worksite in case any new hazards arise.
Train your workers and keep them up to date with current occupational health and safety requirements. Workers must know how to design and operate scaffolding and the training covers important safe work practices, fall protection, erecting and dismantling procedures and many other lifesaving details.
Ensure a competent person inspects the scaffolding and supporting structure before use, before resuming work after an incident such as strong winds or storms, after repairs and at least every 30 days.
Check the scaffolding braces are secured in place or tied to a building, that it is level, the base is solid, cross members are level, locking devices and ties are secured properly, decks, planks and guardrails are installed and secure. Inspect the braces, frames and any other components to make sure there is no damage, excessive rust, bends or wear. Don’t forget to check for damage caused by chemicals or corrosive substances.
Thoroughly test and check suspended platforms, including the connecting pins and plates, welds, trusses, beams, stirrups and the working surface. Check the platform and if any piece is broken or damaged, replace it immediately.
Wear head protection, fall protection and non-slip safety shoes. Scaffolding should have guardrails on at least three of the sides facing away from the building. There should be a top, mid and bottom rail. Should you need to remove any of these guardrails while loading materials, replace them straight away. Never rest anything on the guardrails.
One of the things that can go wrong during the design stage is failing to consider all of the loads the scaffolding may bear. It could collapse if overloaded, so don’t overload it with equipment or put more workers than it can handle onto the platform.
Reduce the risk of tools falling down from scaffolding by storing tools and materials properly. This is also safer for those working on the scaffolding. Remove any waste materials or debris from the platform immediately, or place them into a container.
Do you need scaffolds?
Ezypak is compact, lightweight and has no detachable parts. One person can assemble, transport and use it, and it fits inside a small or medium van or ute.
Razadeck is a folding scaffold, powered by an internal spring mechanism that provides access up to four metres. A single-piece design without any loose components, it fits into a ute or station wagon.
For more information about Australian standards, Safe Work Australia provides a scaffolding work code of practice for common types of scaffolds.