Enforcement and Inspection

OSHA Enforcement and the Scaffolding Standard: Can Your Worksite Pass Inspection?


By BLR Founder and CEO Bob Brady

OSHA continues to concentrate inspection efforts on industries and standards where there is the greatest likelihood of severe injury and death. The construction industry is one of those often targeted, and last year scaffolding led the list of most frequently violated standards.

Last year there were more than 9,000 violations of the construction industry scaffolding standard (29 CFR 1926.451) and over $9 million in penalties.

The emphasis of the scaffolding standard is on the structural soundness of the scaffolds themselves. Unless they are built according to OSHA standards with proper safeguards and unless they are inspected and maintained properly, accidents and serious injuries are bound to happen.

Common hazards associated with all scaffolds include:

  • Falls from elevation caused by lack of fall protection
  • Collapse of the scaffold caused by instability or overloading
  • Falling tools, work materials, or debris that injure workers
  • Electrocution, principally due to proximity of the scaffold to overhead power lines

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Section-by-Section Analysis

Let’s look at the most common scaffolding standard violations now, section by section.
§1926.451(g)(1)—Failure to provide fall protection
1,379 violations
Fall Protection. The fall protection requirements for employees installing suspension scaffold support systems on floors, roofs, and other elevated surfaces are set forth in subpart M of this part.

§1926.451(e)(1)—Failure to provide proper access
1,259 violations
When scaffold platforms are more than 2 feet (0.6 m) above or below a point of access, portable ladders, hook-on ladders, attachable ladders, stair towers (scaffold stairways/towers), stairway-type ladders (such as ladder stands), ramps,  walkways, integral prefabricated scaffold access, or direct access from another scaffold, structure, personnel hoist, or similar surface shall be used. Cross braces shall not be used as a means of access.

§1926.451(b)(1)—Lack of adequate platform construction
1,149 violations
Each platform on all working levels of scaffolds shall be fully planked or decked between the front uprights and the guardrail supports.

§1926.451(f)(7)—Competent persons
584 violations
Scaffolds shall be erected, moved, dismantled, or altered only under the supervision and direction of a competent person qualified in scaffold erection, moving, dismantling, or alteration. Such activities shall be performed only by experienced and trained employees selected for such work by the competent person.

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§1926.451(g)(1)(vii)—Lack of personal fall arrest or guardrail systems
580 violations
For all scaffolds not otherwise specified in paragraphs (g)(1)(i) through (g)(1)(vi) of this section, each employee shall be protected by the use of personal fall arrest systems or guardrail systems.

§1926.451(c)(2)—Lack of adequate firm foundation
541 violations
Supported scaffold poles, legs, posts, frames, and uprights shall bear on base plates and mud sills or other adequate firm foundation.

§1926.451(g)(4)(i)—Guardrail systems
506 violations
Guardrail systems shall be installed along all open sides and ends of platforms. Guardrail systems shall be installed before the scaffold is released for use by employees other than erection/dismantling crews.

§1926.451(f)(3)—Proper inspection of scaffolds and scaffold ropes
388 violations
Scaffolds and scaffold components shall be inspected for visible defects by a competent person before each work shift and after any occurrence that could affect a scaffold’s structural integrity.

§1926.451(g)(1)(i)—Personal fall arrest system required for certain employees
 219 violations
Each employee on a scaffold more than 10 feet (3.1 m) above a lower level shall be protected from falling to that lower level.

Note: The information cited here are for violations of the scaffolding standard for construction. However, even if your business operates under general industry regulations, similar hazards exist, and similar precautions should be followed for safety’s sake.

Tomorrow, we’ll suggest ways to avoid citations of the scaffolding standard and make sure you are in compliance.

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