Construction workers in Minnesota often use scaffolds to access their work on the job site. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has recognized the dangers of these types of workstations, and has developed rules, guidelines and standards for scaffolds.
Minnesota OSHA compliance enforces the federal scaffold rules, noting that these structures are in use by 65 percent of those who work in the construction industry. Nationwide, there are roughly 4,500 scaffold-related injuries each year, and 50 fatalities. What causes these accidents? According to the injured workers, the causes were primarily the collapse of the planking or support, a slip-and-fall accident or a falling object striking the worker. Electrocution is another major hazard that may injure or kill those working on scaffolds.
Over a five-year period, the state gave out scaffold citations for a number of different types of violations. These included:
- 175 violations involving employees working over 10 feet above the level below them without proper protection
- 33 violations for platforms that were not completely decked or planked
- 33 violations for failure to support the poles, posts, frames, legs and uprights on a firm foundation
- 43 violations for failure to follow access requirements when employees were putting up or taking down supported scaffolds
- 22 violations where no qualified supervisor was present to oversee the building, taking down, moving or modification of scaffolds
- 9 violations for hazards involving tools, equipment or materials at risk of falling off a scaffold and striking people working below it
Citations were also given for improper balance ratios, unanchored scaffolds and planking that extended too far over supports, among others.
Scaffold safety depends on employers ensuring that capacity is not overextended and there is adequate clearance from power lines. Safe employee access must also be provided, including the following:
- Direct access
Employers are also responsible for providing training for employees, appointing a qualified supervisor to oversee scaffold use and performing daily inspections.