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Scaffolding Safety Regulations

As a scaffolder or general contractor, you understand that your ability to stay safe depends upon consistent awareness and ability to take safety precautions. Take a moment and read through these scaffolding rules and regulations and make your environment safer for you and your co-workers.

These are suggested rules only, made with common practices and conditions encountered when using metal scaffolding in mind. These should not be used in lieu of local, federal, or state laws, corporate or company-instituted precautionary measures, or common sense. Instead, think of them as a supplement to those set-in-stone regulations. Employers should ensure that everyone at their company receives adequate training in such laws and company-wide rules. After training your contractors and/or remodelers, employers may post this in a prominent place for review as needed.

Before You or Your Employees Begin Work:

  • Make sure you understand state & local guidelines. If you are the site director and do not understand state and local guidelines pertaining to scaffolding construction and employee safety, check with your local authorities before starting work. If you are an employee of a contracting or scaffolding company, and do not understand these guidelines, meet with your supervisor or site director.
  • Make sure your employees follow all rules and regulations. Your team is on the front lines of workplace safety maintenance. Taking the time to educate them on the practices of the job, even if you think the rules might be universal, will pay off in the long run.


Site Managers & Directors: Basic Safety Musts

For anyone in a position of power at a scaffolding company, it is necessary to ensure that the entire site and all the equipment is secure before getting started.

Below is a checklist of all the things that need to be done before your workers can get started. Workers should also review this checklist before working to ensure that their safety is being looked after. If they notice any breach in protocol, they should notify the OSHA designated competent person on site.

  • Do regular inspections of the equipment. All equipment must be inspected before employees or contractors utilizing it. However, throughout the project, frequent inspections should always be done. If the equipment appears to be faulty or deteriorated in any way, replace it immediately.
  • Check in with scaffolding suppliers regularly. Scaffolding equipment is updated all the time to improve safety and better protect scaffolders. Keeping in touch with suppliers not only ensures that you are made aware of safety regulation changes, recalls, and upgrades, but also allows you to ask any questions you might have regarding the safety of your current equipment.
  • Check in with staff regularly. If you have fewer on-site duties because of your position, try to visit the site and check in with employees regarding their safety. They are the eyes and ears of the team and will be better able to point out new safety issues.

Safety Rules and Regulations – For Everyone On Site

Everyone at a scaffolding site has different responsibilities. However, one collective responsibility that everyone shares is sticking to the following rules and notifying superiors whenever you or others breach these rules.

At all times during the site set up, an OSHA Certified Competent Person must be on site.

Scaffolding Construction Rules

  • Provide adequate sill and use base plates for all scaffold posts.
  • Level and plumb the scaffolds as you go. Forcing braces will only result in the injury of the equipment and others. Do not attempt to force braces. Instead, wait for them to fit easily.
  • Adjust uneven grades using adjusting screws. Do not use blocking, as this is unsafe.
  • Do not erect scaffolding near power lines. If the construction area is nearby a power line, call the local power company to get advice on the best way to work in the area safely.
  • If height increase is needed, use the proper equipment and construction methods. Do not attempt to increase the height of a scaffolding area utilizing a ladder or any other unsafe method.
  • Securely fasten all braces.
  • Take adequate precautions when using enclosed scaffolding. Enclosed scaffolding increases surface area, and without the proper precautions, could make the scaffolding more dangerous in the right weather conditions.

Scaffolding Restraint Rules

  • Place and maintain anchors securely between the structure and scaffold. Anchors must be in place at least every 30 feet of length and 25 feet of height.
  • Restrain free-standing scaffolds using guying or another safe means.
  • Restrain or remove materials on scaffolding before moving scaffold.

Scaffold Planking Rules

  • Be sure to securely fasten planks to the scaffolding before using them.
  • Be sure that the planking has at least 12 inches of overlap and extends 6 inches beyond the center of support. If this is not possible, Cleat the plank at both ends to prevent the supporters from sliding off.
  • Be sure that any fabricated scaffold planks and platforms do not extend over their end supporters more than 12 inches or less than 5 inches.
  • Be sure only to use lumber that has been inspected and graded as a scaffold plank.

Scaffolding Movement Rules

  • Do not ride rolling scaffolds. If you are part of the scaffolding movement team, ensure all contractors get down from the scaffold before moving.
  • When the scaffold is not moving, a caster’s break will be applied.
  • Only move a scaffold if you have adequate help. Enough help ensures all movers can take account of their surroundings and alert others if there is an issue, such as a hole in the floor.
  • Attach casters with a plain stem to the panel or adjustment screw using pins.
  • Do not extend an adjusting screw more than 12 inches on any rolling scaffold.
  • Consider the overturning effect and try not to use brackets on rolling scaffolds.
  • Use horizontal diagonal bracing as close to the bottom as possible and at 20-foot intervals from the rolling surface.
  • Do not exceed four times the smallest base dimension of a rolling scaffold unless guyed or otherwise stabilized.

Putlog & Truss Rules

  • Putlogs and trusses should extend at least 6 inches beyond the point of support.
  • Use proper bracing when the span of the putlog or truss is more than 12 inches.
  • Seat all brackets correctly. Use side brackets parallel to the frames and end brackets at an angle of 90 degrees to the frame.
  • Do not bend or twist brackets from their normal position.
  • Only use brackets as work platforms. Do not use brackets for the storage of material or equipment. The one exception to this rule is mobile brackets, which are designed to carry material.
  • Do not cantilever or extend putlogs or trusses as side brackets unless you have considered the weight of the load thoroughly.

I am a General Contractor/Scaffolder. What’s My Part In the Workplace Safety Equation?

It is easy to place the blame on our bosses when things go wrong on-site. However, for a construction or scaffolding site to remain safe throughout the process, everyone must remain vigilant in their commitment to workplace safety. As well as following the safety rules and regulations, general contractors must make the following commitments:

  • Use all scaffolding accessories following local laws and regulations, as well as under their originally intended use.
  • Do not alter your scaffolding or safety accessories. They are made the way they are to accommodate you in the safest way possible, and even the slightest change could jeopardize your safety as well as the safety of others.
  • Do not move across scaffolding in unsafe ways. This includes, but is not limited to:
    • Climbing cross braces. If there is no safe way to cross or climb scaffolding, like an access ladder or access steps, contact your site director, boss, or OSHA competent person.
    • Working without guardrails, mid-rails, and toe boards. Before anyone can work on scaffolding, these safety precautions must be in place.
    • Do not overload scaffolding. Do not load the scaffold with more weight than is necessary. Take extra trips when needed. Excess weight becomes dangerous.

Are You OSHA’s “Competent Person”? Don’t Forget to Say “HHI”

Scaffolding companies depend upon the competency of their workers. However, OSHA designated competency is an entirely different matter. An OSHA designated competent person is someone who can make sure a scaffolding area is safe. This someone also has the authority to put a stop to (and fix) unsafe situations.

Anyone can (and should) say “HHI” to a situation, but OSHA’s competent person must always say “HHI” before starting work. Before working with any scaffolding, especially a scaffolding rental, ask yourself:

  • How does it fit together?
  • How is it secured?
  • Is it safe?

If the answer to any of these questions is unknown, do not begin work. Safety confidence is key to a well-functioning and secure workplace.