Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Scaffold Toolbox Talks

While working more than 2 meters or more than we need to a working platform, the most common and cost-effective item that can be used is scaffolding. The versatility of scaffolding systems can present the user with many options in its design and construction but as different as the structures maybe, some primary health and safety information regarding this “scaffolding” remains the same and should be considered.

Whether you are asked to assemble or work on scaffolding, a complete and comprehensive inspection of the components and work area can greatly reduce and minimize the chances of an incident or unwanted circumstances happening. Often, incidents involving scaffolding can be prevented by completing a pre-assembly or pre-use hazard and risk assessment. As with any inspection, we should be looking for current hazards and potential hazards that may arise as the job proceeds. Such inspection and observation should include but not be limited to the items listed below. 

1. Surface Conditions: A scaffold, in most cases, needs to be set plumb and level to provide stability and to transfer the weight properly to the ground. The following items should be assessed before the scaffold is assembled:
  • Does the surface below have proper compaction?
  • Will this surface change with the weather?  Firm frozen ground can melt and soften within hours. A   scaffold that was set level in the morning can be dangerously leaning by afternoon.
  • Does the work area have a large slope? Stacking small blocks of wood or other job site scrap items can create dangerous situations. There are proper components to safely level scaffold, or consultation with a supplier may provide a different scaffold system to be used.
  • Is the scaffold being placed on a man-made structure? Take time to assess the support structure as you could be placing more weight on the structure than it can endure.
  • Is there traffic (pedestrians, vehicles, worksite equipment, etc.) in the surrounding area?
2. Overhead Hazards: Many times people forget to look up and identify overhead hazards. This is just  as important as identifying the surface hazards, and many of these hazards change as the job progresses.
  • What is the location of all overhead power lines?  Proper clearance needs to be maintained as direct contact isn’t needed for electrical shock to occur. 
  • Are there any move-able overhead cranes, overhead doors, etc.? These might not be present at the time of inspection but could appear with little warning if working in an active building.
  • What, if any work, is being conducted above? Items falling from above can seriously injure workers on a scaffold below. For example, welding roof decking can send hot sparks towards the area below.
3. Components:
  • Are the scaffold components rusted? Heavily rusted items will often not function as they were originally designed. For example, the smaller items, such as pins and clips, attached to metal frames are often the first to fail. Rust can also be a sign of a cracked or damaged weld.
  • Are any of the parts bent or damaged? Many components of scaffold systems are modular and meant to have other items stacked progressively on top. Being bent or twisted will affect how these parts stack. This can put a worker at risk when they attempt to assemble a bent section with much effort and little success.
  • Are the proper safety features installed? Many different items are used to increase safety when working on a scaffold. Before each use, we should be checking our method of access, the handrail systems and the ties used to secure a scaffold to a structure

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