Scaffolding for building work causes many risks to the employees. The recent scaffolding collapse incident in Sydney serves as a reminder of the hazards associated with scaffolds. The Work Health and Safety (WHS) Regulations aim to reduce risks at the workplace. The next time you use scaffolding supplies, consider the following hazards:
1. Electric Lines
Both overhead and underground lines can pose significant risks to workers. A distance of 2 to 10 feet needs to be maintained between the power lines and access structures.
2. Adjacent Structures
The scaffolding should not collapse and adversely affect the structural integrity of adjacent buildings.
3. Falling Workers
This can cause grievous injury to the victim. Catch platforms and netting need to be placed correctly to reduce the fall distance. Fall arrest systems, however, cannot be used during every phase of scaffolding work. It is advisable to consult the Safe Work Australia code for managing falling risk.
Falling can be an incredibly potent risk factor in adverse conditions such as:
- Presence of strong winds
- Rain – wet surfaces can get slippery
- Heat or glare from the summer sun
Mitigation measures need to be in place since some materials mentioned below may also pose risks of falling.
- Exposed starter bars
- Construction debris
- Vertical steel bars
4. Falling Objects
Construction sites are occupied with heavy equipment and debris. Each of the unsecured items poses a risk of falling on workers. While safety gear is an absolute must for everyone present at the site, scaffolding companies must also provide fall arrest platforms. Other measures include roofs, boundary screens and setting up of exclusion zones.
5. Collapsing Ladders
Non-industrial, extendable ladders pose a threat of collapsing under the live weight. Therefore, ladders used in scaffolding work need to be fixed and located within separate ladder bays and set on firm ground rather than on wheels. Ladders may not be used as extension work platforms on top of the scaffolding.
6. Unstable Ground Conditions
Ground subsidence due to solifluction and excavations can lead to falling over of scaffolds. Watercourses flowing in the vicinity need to be diverted to reduce the risk of ground subsidence.
7. Vehicular Traffic
Clearly visible barricades need to be erected to prevent vehicles from coming in contact with the scaffolding work.
Unnecessary projections from the scaffold must be avoided.
8. Unauthorised Access
Unattended scaffolds must be strictly prevented for unauthorised personnel. Barriers and visible warning signs must be put up to discourage unauthorised entry into the scaffolding area.
9. Improper Anchoring of Scaffolds
Anchoring scaffolding work to unstable structures can lead to a collapse of both the scaffolding as well as the anchor structure. Consult a competent person to ensure if the anchor structure can bear the projected live and dead loads of scaffolding work.
10. Inappropriate Loading
While designing the scaffold, appropriate care must be taken to make sure it can bear its own dead weight and any other live weight apart from workers. This includes the weight of tools and equipment, impact forces, wind, rain.
11. Assorted, Incompatible Scaffolding Supplies
Mixing scaffolding supplies from different manufacturers can lead to unstable joints. Structural collapse or difficulty in dismantling can ensue. Hire the services of competent, licensed suppliers to minimise the risk of substandard scaffolding quality.
Construction work is rife with hazardous situations, and one needs to be on constant vigil to maintain workplace safety. Keeping these risks in mind in your next project can help you minimise risk incidents.