Working Safely on Scaffolds


A scaffold is a temporary elevated platform or structure used to support workers, materials or both. Working on or around scaffolds can be an unsafe job for laborers. Despite the fact that OSHA has had a scaffold standard since 1971, incidents resulting in injuries and deaths continue to occur. In 1996, the scaffold standard (29CFR 1926.450-450, Subpart L Scaffolds) was revised by OSHA to simplify it, bring it up to date, and strengthen it to provide workers better protection.


Hazards associated with scaffold work include workers falling and objects falling onto workers below. A large percentage of injuries associated with scaffold accidents can be attributed to the failure of planking or supports. In fact 72% of workers injured in scaffold accidents attributed the accident to either the planking or support giving way, the employee slipping, or being struck by a falling object.

Annually in the construction industry, scaffold related accidents account for:

9% of fall fatalities; and
10,000 injuries and illnesses.

Fall hazards on scaffolds can be caused by the lack of proper guardrail systems. One study found that only 33% of scaffolds had a guardrail.

Scaffold systems that do not have built-in access systems also present a potentially serious fall hazard. Sometimes employees have to climb the cross braces of scaffold frames, if ladders or stairs are not provided. The frames were not designed as a ladder and may cause the scaffold to tip over.


To help protect workers from scaffold accidents, certain requirements must be followed when setting up, tearing down, or working on and around scaffolds.

The set-up, altering, moving, or dismantling of scaffolds must follow the manufactures specifications and be done under the direction of a competent person
Fall protection must be provided and used at heights of 10 feet or more on scaffolds. Note: this height requirement differs from the six foot threshold for all protection set in subpart M (Fall Protection).
All workers should immediately report any noticeable deficiencies to your steward, supervisor of the competent person.

Before you begin any work on a scaffold make sure you have some type of training. There are two types of scaffold training required by the scaffold standard, one for users and one for builders.

Scaffold user training- given by a qualified person, intended for people working on scaffolds to help them recognize the hazards of the scaffold being used and how to control those hazards.
Scaffold builder training- given by a qualified person, intended to help workers identify any hazards associated with erecting, disassembling, moving, operating, repairing, maintaining, or inspecting a scaffold.

Training provided to workers for one type of scaffold will not necessarily train that worker for other scaffold types.

Follow safe work practices for the use of scaffolds and the activities which take place on them, to create and maintain a safe work environment.

Do not load a scaffold above its intended load or rated capacity.
Unstable objects such as barrels, loose brick, or concrete block cannot be used to support scaffolds or planks.
Do not use work planks damaged by rot, saw marks, and cracks on a scaffold.