High Lift vs. Scaffolding: A Question of Safety

There are many ways to skin a cat, as the old adage goes. More specifically, in the case of this blog, there are many different routes someone can take to get a job done. Whether you are in the construction business, repairing a problem that rests high off the ground, or just need to reach tall windows, there are multiple ways to approach the work at hand.

The two most common methods in these lines of businesses are constructing a temporary, skeletal structure known as scaffolding or using a high lift such as the one we use at Abilene High Lift.
It’s true we may be biased toward the latter, but nevertheless, for the sake of this article, we are going to focus on the former.

An estimated 2.3 million construction workers, or 65 percent of the construction industry, work on scaffolds. Protecting these workers from scaffold-related accidents may prevent some of the 4,500 injuries and over 60 deaths every year, as estimated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Protecting these workers from scaffold-related accidents would prevent 4,500 injuries and 50 deaths every year, at a savings for American employers of $90 million in workdays not lost.

With that established, the question is: what are the potential risks involved with using scaffolding? Dangers include moving scaffold components, scaffold failure related to damaged components, loss of materials and tools, being struck by falling objects, electrical shock and last but not least, the incorrect setup of the structure. Additionally, workers in the construction business who assemble and dismantle scaffolding platforms at construction sites face the risk of serious injuries or even death due to falls.

There were 88 fatalities due to employees working with scaffolding and related equipment in 2008, according to the United States Department of Labor. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) reported 54 fatalities occurred in the year 2009 from scaffolds and staging. In a Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) study, 72% of workers injured in scaffold accidents attributed the accident either to the planking or support giving way, or to the employee slipping or being struck by a falling object. All of these can be controlled by compliance with OSHA standards.

What are some preventative measures workers can take to insure they’re working safely?
Scaffolding should always be fitted with guardrails
Hard hats should always be work on site to protect against falling objects
Always make sure that harnesses are correctly and safely anchored.
Mesh, screens intermediate vertical members or solid panels should be used to safeguard employees and the public at lower levels
Workers on suspended scaffolds must use a fall arrest system as protection against the failure of the scaffold or its components

Additionally, construction companies should also note the weight restrictions on scaffolding and ensure they are under the maximum weight allowance. Scaffolding that are over weight are at risk of collapsing, injuring workers both on and under the platforms.

This is not to say scaffolding is a faulty method for getting a job done, but it does require a great deal of preparation, observation, and caution. Whether using scaffolding or a high lift, safety is always the first consideration.