Common Scaffolding Risks
by Mike Viola
Scaffolding is an essential component of most construction projects. Not only do they provide support to workers and their tools while on the job, they also make it easier for personnel to access areas of the structure that would otherwise be difficult to reach. As important and as widely used as scaffolds are, common scaffolding risks exist on any construction site. This is especially true if important safety steps are neglected. Scaffold risk is a reality in the workplace, with 10,000 workers in the construction industry being injured every year. What’s even more concerning is that many of these accidents can be prevented.
Nearly half of scaffolding accidents can be prevented by implementing proper safety practices into daily work life. In the event of an accident, insurance protection is paramount to your client’s business. Accidents are always a possibility, and insurance coverage ensures that your client is covered against costly damages. You may be wondering what are some of the risks that scaffolding insurance can cover.
Let’s explore some of the most common scaffolding risks:
Slips and Falls
Falls account for almost half of all scaffolding accidents. Falling is a significant risk because it can result in fatalities, especially from high structures. Falls can also be very costly to your client’s business due to high medical costs for treatment of injured workers. If the fall results in a fatality, compensation to the worker’s next of kin will also be a significant cost. Any worker on site is at risk of falling if proper safety practices are not enforced.
The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) requires that all scaffolds be equipped with fall protection. Any scaffold that is 10 feet above the ground should have a fall arrest system, guard rails, or proper safety straps for all workers on the platform. To reduce the risk of falls, make sure you comply with OSHA safety guidelines regarding the use of scaffolds.
Another common scaffolding risk is bad planking. This refers to planks that are either unstable, unsecured, or of insufficient size. Planks are the main platform upon which workers walk on the scaffold. If they’re unstable, anyone can easily slip and fall off the scaffold. Bad planking often happens due to poor scaffold design techniques, use of the wrong materials, or poor maintenance of the scaffold over time.
In order to prevent scaffolding hazards related to bad planking, make sure the right materials and design techniques are used for all planks on the structure. For example, the right grade of lumber needs to be used to uphold the load even under inclement weather conditions.
To adhere to scaffolding safety, make sure the manufacturer has carried out all appropriate stress tests on the plank material before purchase and assembly. In addition, all planks on the scaffold need to be properly secured when in use. Finally, make sure all planks are not overhanging the main structure and that proper maintenance is done before every use of the scaffold.
Scaffolds not only sustain the load of workers, they also act as platforms for placing equipment and debris. As a result, falling debris is another risk that you should be aware of and take precaution against. Of all scaffolding accidents that commonly occur, falling debris is part of the 72% of accidents related to slips and falls.
Debris of many different sizes can easily fall and strike workers or other personnel on the construction site. However, you can also prevent falling debris accidents from occurring by following OSHA guidelines. For example, guard rails, stable planks and proper scaffold assembly can prevent objects from slipping and falling off the scaffold.
A risk that many companies tend to overlook is the risk of electrocution from scaffolds. Workers who are operating at elevated heights are often near overhead power lines. The close proximity of these power lines presents the risk of electric shock, especially when the scaffold is made of metal. Workers are often at risk when setting up the scaffold, moving it, or while working with certain tools near the lines.
To mitigate the risk of electrocution, ensure that all workers are at a safe distance from all power lines. The scaffold should be at least 10 feet away from all power lines of 50 kV (every additional kV requires a distance greater than 10 ft 4 inches). Additionally, the scaffold itself should be insulated against electric shocks, and all panels should be locked together to allow any incoming electricity to be grounded.
Another scaffolding risk that tends to be overlooked is the risk of poor scaffold assembly and preparation. Assembly covers everything from ensuring the integrity of the outer frame to ensuring the planks are stable. There should be proper leveling of the scaffold as well as the installation of adequate ladders and stairways.
Poor scaffold assembly is a common scaffolding risk because there are many components that go into the final structure. If the assembly is done in a rushed manner, important safety steps may be overlooked and result in accidents. To make things easier during assembly, keep a detailed checklist that personnel can follow when erecting scaffolding.
Poor Personnel Training
There are many accidents that occur on-site due to workers who weren’t aware of proper safety standards. This often occurs because some workers may not have been adequately trained on OSHA regulations. To reduce the risk of human error resulting in scaffolding hazards, make sure all workers are adequately trained before using the scaffold.
Scaffolding risk prevention is the best way of avoiding common accidents on the construction site. This includes complying with regulatory standards, providing adequate training to personnel, and exercising caution at all times. In addition to proper safety practices, you should also make sure that you’re insured. With insurance protection, you can mitigate the extent of out of pocket expenses you would otherwise have to incur.
In a specialty market such as this one, having an insurance underwriter is a necessity. A specialty underwriter can analyze the unique risks that you face and provide a clear financial assessment that meets your business framework. Working with an underwriter also puts you in a position to enjoy coverage in multiple scenarios that you may not have considered.
If you’re looking for an insurance underwriter, Ascinsure is ready to be at your service. With over 30 years of nationwide experience in serving this specialty market, we know the risks that you’re likely to face and how you can protect your business. Our scaffold-specific insurance coverage takes multiple factors into consideration to provide an assessment that works for you. Contact us today to get started.