According to the Ontario Ministry of Labour, “Falls are the number one cause of critical injuries and deaths of workers at construction sites in Ontario.” To keep workers safe, employers must assign a competent person to identify all hazards associated with the use of scaffolding and effectively control or eliminate these hazards. Workers must be trained in scaffold safety, including the proper use of scaffolding and the procedures to safely perform their work while working on or around scaffolding. Workers who are erecting or dismantling scaffolding must be competently trained to do so.
Before workers access any scaffolding, a pre-work inspection must take place. A competent person must ensure that all scaffolding, staging and ladders are CSA approved and all required handrails, mid-rails and toe-boards are in place and secure. They must also ensure that the scaffold lumber is in good condition and free of decay, that scaffolds higher than 4 ½ metres are engineered scaffolds, and that the legs are planted on a firm foundation and the scaffold is level. The scaffold should also be inspected for bent hardware, poor welds, and rusty sections. The scaffold planks must meet specific specifications. The planks should be a minimum of 75 millimetres (or 3 inches) or the configuration must be 50 millimetre (or 2-inch) planks with 15 millimetre (or 5/8 inch) plywood sheets on top.
The scaffold must be designed to withstand the required load capacities of workers, equipment, tools and materials and should not be overloaded. The scaffold surface should also be kept as neat and clean as possible to prevent slip and trip hazards. Any deficiencies must be reported to a supervisor and remedied before anyone is allowed to access the scaffold.
All workers must wear the necessary personal protective equipment, including hard hat, non-slip safety boots, safety glasses, and fall protection, as required. Workers requiring fall protection must be trained in its use.
The area beneath the scaffolding should be roped off to warn others of a potential hazard and, specifically, to prevent accidental entry. Workers must never cross under a roped-off area, unless permission is received from all persons who have installed the ropes. Ropes or barricades should be set up a minimum of 2 metres from the hazard; whether it is scaffolding or an open hole. If rope cannot be placed further than 2 metres from an open hole, install a solid barricade. The ropes and barricades are to remain in place until the work is completed and the area is safe to enter.
Despite the dangers of working on and around scaffolds, work can be done safely and with zero harm if procedures are followed and warnings are heeded. Be safe out there!