Beware of Scaffolding Dangers on Construction Sites
1. Beware of Scaffolding Dangers on Construction Sites
Numerous cases of scaffolding deaths are reported each year due to workers falling from
scaffolds and sustaining lethal injuries. Even falls from relatively low heights can be serious and
some may also result in death. However scaffolds are a vital and irreplaceable part of a building
site which is why workers need to learn to manage scaffold hazards better.
This incident as reported on the WorkSafe Victoria website highlights the risks involved in
scaffolding work and why awareness of safe work systems is so important:
WorkSafe is investigating an incident involving a scaffold which fell and landed on a car
at the Geelong suburb of Belmont this morning.
A shop in High Street was being demolished and while no one was hurt, it is the latest in
a number of incidents involving scaffolds or collapses arising from demolition work in
WorkSafe’s General Manager for Operations, Lisa Sturzenegger, said uncompleted,
partly demolished or damaged structures had to be properly supported as workers or
members of the public were at risk.
“Proper planning of the work and supervision of it, contractor management and ensuring
people have the right equipment for the job is essential.
“Structural collapses, including scaffolds, can be prevented and while no one was hurt
in today’s incident it produced a high-risk situation for workers and members of the
2. Risks Involved
Even workers whose job it is to erect scaffolding may fall during its erection or dismantling
process. Because the sides of scaffolding are often open, when climbing from one scaffold to
another worker can easily trip or slip. While working from any height above the ground more
than 2 meters is dangerous and can present a risk from falling, there is also the chance that
scaffolderscan fall fromincomplete scaffolds during their erection anddismantling. Scaffolders
can be exposed tofall hazards especially during the erection and removal of scaffold planks
from the open sides or ends of the scaffold and inclimbing from one lift of the scaffold to the
next lift.Workers employed to erect scaffolding should be appropriately trained and certified to
The major risk in scaffolding work is the possibility of an external fall from any of the open ends
of the scaffold. Another risk is when workers are forced to climb scaffolding in order to engage
in work from a height. Sometimes scaffold erecting staff may climb the sides of the scaffold
which is also an extremely dangerous practice.
Safe Work Methods:
To avoid workers climbing from one scaffold to another, employers should ensure an
appropriate access system is in place to assist scaffolders in gaining access from one lift to the
next. Either by installing a stairway or ladder progressively as the scaffold is put up.
Progressive erection of scaffolding is important in avoiding falls. A sequential installation method
involves erecting one bay at a time as well as installing guardrails as the scaffolding is erected.
This method ensures that workers are not required to walk further than one bay length along an
exposed edge of the scaffold thereby reducing the risk of a fall.
When dismantling the scaffolding, the reverse system can be executed. Guardrails are also
important in fall prevention and should be installed on all scaffold platforms as required by
Australian standards. By executing combination of sequential erection, progressively providing
access as the scaffold is erected and fully decking each lift, a fall hazard can be drastically
Another method of protection that can provide invaluable assistance is the safety harness.
However a safety harness should not be the only fall protection, it can aid in fall protection. In
some cases scaffolders have been using safety harnesses which were not securely anchored
and fell, resulting in injury. In other instances the workers was exposed to the fall prior to be
connected to the harness which also resulted in an injury, this needs to be avoided. The safety
harness should be properly designed so that it does not restrict the blood flow of the worker if a
fall requires the harness to hold the worker in prolonged suspension.
Many workers lose their lives due to faulty scaffolding components. Workers on suspended
scaffolds must use a fall arrest system as protection against the failure of the scaffold or its
components. Workers and supervisors implementing these systems should keep in mind that
the effectiveness of fall protection depends on its anchorage.
3. Personal protective equipment is also useful in protecting against a fall hazard. Hard hats
should be worn to protect against falling objects. Mesh, screens, intermediate vertical members
or solid panels should be used to safeguard employees and the public at lower levels.
Employers should train workers of the correct use of PPE in order for it to benefit them in the
face of a hazard.
Construction White Card Australia
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