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OSHA has special standards covering scaffold safety

Construction workers in Connecticut face more dangers on the job site than workers in most other industries. Consistently, year-in-and-year-out, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports that more construction injuries and deaths are the result of falling from heights than any other type of on-site construction accident. In a typical year, as high as 40% of all fatal construction accidents result from falling from an elevated workspace, including scaffolding.

The need for safe scaffolding and railed roof platforms is so critical that OSHA has implemented specific regulations regarding their construction and maintenance on the job site. This blog post will highlight a few of the special regulations that are often overlooked, frequently resulting in construction worker fall injuries and deaths in Connecticut and around the U.S.

OSHA general requirements

Weight: One of the most important regulations regards the required amount of weight scaffolding must be able to support. Under Section 1926.451(a)(1), each component of a scaffold must be able to support a minimum of four times (4x) the weight for which it has been rated by the manufacturer. The weight requirement includes workers, equipment and materials.

Standing platform: Under provisions of OSHA Subpart L (Scaffolds), §1926.451(a) of the General requirements, the walking planks on a <10 foot scaffold may not extend beyond the vertical support elements of the frame by more than 12 inches unless the cantilevered extension meets the (4x) weight requirements. If the plank extends more than 12 inches, there must be a safety railing preventing the worker from walking onto the cantilevered overhanging section. If the scaffold is >10 feet, the cantilevered platform boards may extend up to 18 inches, with weight and railing requirements the same.

Scaffold legs and footing support: §1926.451(c)(2) mandates that base plates must be used at all times to support frame uprights. Concrete blocks no longer suffice.

"Riding" a scaffold in motion: Scaffolds designed with castors to facilitate moving while remaining erect are commonly referred to as "Perry" or "Baker" scaffolds. Under section 1926.452(w)(6), the castors must remain in a locked position while the scaffold is in a stationary work position while one or more workers are on the platform. The wheels may be unlocked for movement but "riding" is permitted only when the force pulling or pushing the scaffold is applied no higher than five feet above the supporting base plates. Furthermore, the ground or floor surface must be level within three degrees and free of obstructions, holes or surface defects that hinder the smooth movement of the castors.

These are just a few of the most common OSHA violations that result in scaffold accidents causing fall injuries and deaths to construction workers in Connecticut. The full OSHA regulations regarding scaffold safety can be found at OSHA Standards Number 1926.450.

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James L. O’Rourke, ESQ
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