Working at Heights – Scaffolding. Working at heights puts employees' lives at great risk. Maximum concern should be given to scaffolding, to identify functioning, malfunction scaffolds and those that need repairs or total disposal immediately.
Considering that scaffolding is a structure made up by joining many items together, employers should not take chances by assuming they can identify proper and improper scaffolding by just looking at it. Each joint and element has to be carefully examined.
It all starts with the area where scaffolding is going to be erected. It is important that the surface is inspected to see if it can with-stand the pressure and forces that will be exempted on it if the scaffolding is erected. The firmness of the base is essential. Companies should be discouraged from mounting a scaffold in a sloppy area as this will contribute to the instability of the structure which will eventually lead to its collapse. Scaffolds should be mounted on a flat and level surface to ensure maximum balance. A spirit level should be used to determine this.
The base plates of a scaffold determine the steadiness of the whole structure. Companies should ensure that the base plates of their scaffold are sound and in good condition. The base plates should be the right size for the polls because, if they are not firmly fitting, the whole structure will wobble and cause employees to fall off contributing to injuries.
Scaffolding is held together by bolts and nuts. During a risk assessment an inspector should check if all bolts and nuts are firmly tightened. He should practically check them. Also, the bolts should be checked if they are in good condition and free from rust.
The ledgers used when employees move up a scaffold, should be closely assessed too. A risk assessment should establish if they still serve their purpose and can still withstand the weight of employees without bending or showing signs of breaking. Rusting ledgers should be replaced immediately to reduce falling hazards.
No matter how much scaffolding may look safe, an incident is still possible. Employers therefore should ensure that they provide catch nets around their scaffoldings, where possible. The nets can prevent employees from getting seriously injured if it happened that they fell off the structure, or employees on the ground from getting struck by falling objects.
The risk assessment should determine if scaffolding does not only pose a safety hazard for those working from it, but also for those on the ground around it. Companies are required to mount barriers or boundaries to prevent people from entering the area where a scaffold is erected.
As the planks are prone to rotting and wearing out, especially if they are constantly exposed to harsh weather conditions, it is essentially that they are inspected to establish if they don't pose a risk of breaking thereby attributing to a falling incident.
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