OSHA scaffolding requirements have been in place since the agency's inception. In fact, OSHA's first set of scaffolding regulations was issued in 1971, shortly after the agency was established. These regulations were designed to improve the safety of scaffolding operations and reduce the risk of worker injuries and fatalities.
Since then, OSHA has updated and revised its scaffolding requirements several times to keep pace with changes in the industry and new technologies. The most recent update was made in 2016, when OSHA published a final rule on walking-working surfaces and personal protective equipment (PPE) that included significant changes to the scaffolding requirements.
In this article, we will provide an overview of OSHA scaffolding requirements, including the general requirements for all scaffolds, specific requirements for supported and suspended scaffolds, fall protection, safe distances from energized power lines, and training and certification requirements.
OSHA Requirements for Scaffolding
As per the OSHA Scaffold General Requirements (1926 Subpart L), there are regulations for all scaffolds in terms of design and construction, stability, capacity, and access.
- Scaffolds must be designed by a qualified person and constructed in accordance with that design. They must be stable and capable of supporting their own weight, plus four times the maximum intended load. Scaffolds must also have proper access, which may include stairways, ladders, or ramps.
- Specific requirements for supported scaffolds include platforms, guardrails, and bracing. Platforms must be fully planked and have a minimum width of 18 inches. They must also be able to support four times the maximum intended load. Guardrails must be installed on all open sides and ends of platforms that are more than 10 feet above the ground or floor level. Bracing is required to provide additional stability to the scaffold.
- Specific requirements for suspended scaffolds include suspension ropes, tiebacks, and platform construction. Suspension ropes must be made of materials that are strong and durable enough to support their own weight, plus six times the maximum intended load. Tiebacks must be installed to prevent the scaffold from swaying or tipping. The platform must be fully planked and have a minimum width of 18 inches. It must also be able to support six times the maximum intended load.
- OSHA also requires that workers who use scaffolds receive proper training and certification. Training must cover the hazards associated with scaffold use, as well as the proper use, inspection, and maintenance of scaffolds.
- Regular inspections and maintenance of scaffolds are also required to ensure their continued safety and stability. Inspections must be conducted by a competent person, and any defects or deficiencies must be addressed promptly.
Non-compliance with OSHA scaffolding requirements can result in serious consequences, including penalties and fines.
As cited in OSHA’s E-tool 29 CFR 1926.451(g)(1)(i) through (vii), scaffolding work has the following requirements for fall protection:
- Boatswain's chairs, catenary scaffolds, float scaffolds, needle beam scaffolds, or ladder jack scaffolds require a personal fall arrest system (PFAS) to protect employees.
- Single-point or two-point adjustable suspension scaffolds require both a PFAS and a guardrail system for protection.
- Crawling boards (chicken ladders) require a PFAS, a guardrail system (with a minimum 200-pound top rail capacity), or a three-fourth inch diameter grabline or equivalent handhold securely fastened beside each crawling board.
- Self-contained adjustable scaffolds need a guardrail system (with a minimum 200-pound top rail capacity) when the platform is supported by the frame structure. When the platform is supported by ropes, both a PFAS and a guardrail system (with a minimum 200-pound top rail capacity) are necessary for protection.
- Walkways located within a scaffold require a guardrail system (with a minimum 200-pound top rail capacity) installed within nine and one-half-inches of and along at least one side of the walkway.
- Employees performing overhand bricklaying operations from a supported scaffold must be protected by a PFAS or guardrail system (with a minimum 200-pound top rail capacity) from all open sides and ends of the scaffold, except at the side next to the wall being laid.
- For all scaffolds not specifically mentioned, each employee must be protected by a PFAS or guardrail systems.
- A competent person is defined as one who can identify existing and predictable hazards in the surroundings or working conditions that are unsanitary, hazardous, or dangerous to employees and has authorization to take prompt corrective measures to eliminate them.
It's important to note that falls from scaffolds are a leading cause of injuries and fatalities in the construction industry. Employers and workers must take all necessary precautions to prevent falls and protect themselves from harm.
Safe Distances from Energized Power Lines
According to 29 CFR 1926.451(f)(6), workers must maintain a safe distance from energized power lines when working on scaffolds.
OSHA requires that the minimum safe distance between scaffolds and power lines be 10 feet for power lines up to 50 kV, and 10 feet plus 0.4 inches for each additional 1 kV for power lines over 50 kV. Employers must ensure that scaffolds are not erected, moved, or altered in a manner that causes any part of the scaffold to come closer to energized power lines than the minimum safe distance. Employers must also ensure that workers are trained to recognize and avoid hazards associated with working near power lines.
OSHA regulations require that insulated lines be treated as if they are energized, unless they have been tested and proven to be de-energized. Workers must maintain a safe distance of at least 10 feet from insulated power lines.
OSHA regulations require that workers maintain a safe distance from uninsulated power lines, as they are always considered energized. Workers must maintain a safe distance of at least 10 feet from uninsulated power lines
It's important to note that contact with energized power lines can result in serious injury or death.
Training and Certification
Training and certification are crucial components of OSHA's scaffolding requirements. Here is an overview of what is required:
Employers are responsible for ensuring that workers who use scaffolds are properly trained. OSHA requires that training cover the hazards associated with scaffold use, as well as the proper use, inspection, and maintenance of scaffolds. Training must also cover the nature of any electrical hazards, fall hazards, and falling object hazards in the work area. The training must be provided by a competent person and must be in a language that the workers understand. The training must also be documented and the documentation must be retained by the employer.
OSHA does not specifically require certification for scaffold users, but it does require that workers be trained and competent to use scaffolds. Certification programs are available through various organizations and can provide workers with the knowledge and skills needed to use scaffolds safely and effectively. Certification may be particularly useful for workers who specialize in scaffold erection or who supervise scaffold use. Certification can also be helpful in demonstrating to employers that a worker has the necessary skills and knowledge to use scaffolds safely.
Scaffolding can be a hazardous work environment if not properly designed, installed, and maintained. The OSHA regulations provide a framework for employers to ensure that workers are protected from falls and other hazards associated with scaffolding. The OSHA scaffolding requirements have significantly contributed to a safer working environment in the construction industry.
1. How often should scaffolding equipment be inspected?
OSHA requires that all scaffolding equipment be inspected before each work shift and after any occurrence that could affect the scaffold's structural integrity. Additionally, a competent person must perform a more thorough inspection at least once every 7 days.
2. Can employees work on scaffolding during high winds or other adverse weather conditions?
No, OSHA prohibits employees from working on scaffolding during high winds or other adverse weather conditions that could affect the scaffold's stability. Employers must ensure that the scaffold is secured and stable before allowing employees to work on it.
3. Are there any height restrictions for using scaffolding?
OSHA does not have any specific height restrictions for using scaffolding. However, employers must ensure that the scaffold is designed and erected by a competent person and that it can support the weight of the workers, tools, and materials without tipping over or collapsing.
4. Can employees use ladders to access scaffolding platforms?
Employees can use ladders to access scaffolding platforms as long as the ladders are secure and the platform is within reach. However, OSHA recommends that employers provide stairways or ramps instead of ladders when the scaffolding platform is more than 2 feet above or below the point of access.
5. Do OSHA scaffolding requirements apply to all types of scaffolding?
OSHA scaffolding requirements apply to all types of scaffolding, including suspended scaffolds, supported scaffolds, rolling scaffolds, and all associated components, such as planks, frames, and braces. Employers must ensure that all scaffolding meets OSHA standards and is erected, used, and dismantled safely.