Earlier in March, a judge delivered his verdict on a high profile case involving the death of three Texas workers that occurred five years ago. The workers fell to their deaths 100 feet from above when the mast climber they were in collapsed, according to a Durability and Design (DnD) magazine. News reports revealed that the three workers were installing an exterior insulation finishing system (EIFS) when the incident happened.
One of the issues raised by the case, DnD magazine noted, was whether the mast climber system used by the deceased was rightfully categorized. A certain set of requirement should apply to it if it were to be classified as a scaffold, or an aerial lift. The company, American Mast Climbers, appealed that scaffold standards (29 CFR 1926.451) do not apply to their system, and that “Aerial Lift” does (29 CFR 1926.453). Although both standards didn’t iterate any requirement governing “mast climbers”, the ruling judge maintained that the mast climber was indeed a scaffold, because it wasn’t mounted on a vehicle like aerial lifts.
Companies can avoid costly legal pitfalls like this and spare the lives of workers if they would have thoroughly examined the provisions of OSHA’s scaffold standard. What conditions have to be met for a certain platform to be considered a scaffold? What safety procedures and training do workers need before stepping onto these platforms? Found below is a condensation of OSHA’s scaffold standard (29 CFR 1926.451) that emphasizes on what employers and employees have to take note of when working with scaffolds:
Devices that support suspension scaffolds like outrigger beams, hooks and clamps should be supported by surfaces that can carry four times the load placed on it by the scaffold per se. (1926.451(d)(1)) Said scaffold support equipment should be made from structural metal and should be kept secured and immobile. (1926.451(d)(2)) They should also be made from wrought iron or a metal of similar strength (1926.451(d)(5)(i) and be secured by tie-backs at a right angle fronting the building 1926.451(d)(5)(iii).
Wire suspension ropes should not be reused after they’ve been repaired. Like any other equipment, they should be inspected before use by a qualified and trained person. (1926.451(d)(7)) Ropes, in general, should be replaced if any kinks, knots or damages are found on them. (1926.451(d)(10))
Scaffolds and anything mounted or linked to them (e.g. bolts and supporting devices) should be inspected before use by a competent person. (1926.451(d)(3)(i)) Also, only engineers who specialize in scaffold design should design scaffold platforms, connections and the like.
Only materials classified as counterweights should be used to anchor suspended scaffolds. 1926.451(d)(3)(iii) Construction materials like hollow blocks, bricks and felt rolls should not be used as counterweight. The counterweights should be secured to outrigger beams to prevent the working platform from tipping accidentally (1926.451(d)(3)(iv)) and should not be removed unless the whole scaffold will be disassembled. (1926.451(d)(3)(v))
Check out OSHA’s quick card on how to inspect supported scaffolds here. For further information on safety tips, visit our blog section regularly. For in-depth knowledge on scaffolds, enroll in our OSHA 10 or 30-hour outreach training courses for the construction and general industries.