Scaffolding hazards: get prepped before heading out on-site

Tips for keeping safe while working at a height

What to expect when you hire scaffolding

Whether fixing a roof, renovating your dream home or building a multi-storey housing development, you may consider hiring scaffolding for your residential, commercial or construction project.

Residential scaffolding

Hiring a scaffolding system for your next domestic project will help you complete the job faster and more efficiently. You can expect the scaffolding to be delivered, erected, dismantled and removed from the site once you've finished. Most residential scaffolding is made for external walls and soffits but can also be used for gutter installation and roof-edge protection.

Construction scaffolding

Tailored construction scaffolding is used for renovations and construction work on complex design-build projects, particularly in areas that are out of reach and require more safety precautions. The amount and type of scaffolding depend on the specific requirements of each project.

Commercial scaffolding

Commercial scaffolding is for large-scale structures such as multi-storey corporate buildings that require scaffolding erectors who can meet the extra height and safety requirements. And depending on the scale of the project, indoor scaffolding might also be needed.

Six major types of scaffolding hazards

There are many types of scaffolds, but six hazards are usually associated with them all.

Here's a list of the everyday risks of working at heights:

Risk 1 – Falling from a height

This is the most widely recognised danger in scaffolding and is the most significant cause of serious injury (and, unfortunately, sometimes death). Falls usually happen due to missing guardrails, incorrect installation and failure to use personal-fall arrest systems.

As with all scaffolding hazards, full scaffolding risk control is the best way to minimise (or eliminate) the potential for falling. Your team will need proper access to their scaffold work platform (such as a secured ladder or stair tower) and proof that all equipment has been correctly installed and assembled.

Risk 2 – Scaffolding collapse

Another potentially fatal risk happens when a scaffold is not put together and installed correctly. This could include a loose bolt, a section that needs more adequate support or a miscalculation of the weight load that a platform can hold.

Even the most perfectly constructed scaffold should be checked regularly to ensure no defects have come into play. The slightest inaccuracy can put your whole team and people around a work site at risk.

Risk 3 – Ineffective safety equipment

Appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) is always necessary when working on scaffolds, including hard hats, sturdy, no-skid work boots and tool lanyards. Without these items, the risk of injury and accidents can be significantly higher. Consider all the safety equipment you're currently using on the scaffolding. Check harnesses, handrails and safety nets. Are they still fit for purpose?

Risk 4 – Unexpected or challenging weather

You can't control Mother Nature, but you can be prepared should the weather unexpectedly change for the worse. Scaffolding should be thoroughly inspected to ensure its secured correctly and additional supports added if required. If the weather conditions are too dangerous – heavy rain, sleet, ice, snow, strong winds – then work should stop until it's safe to resume.

Risk 5 – Falling objects or materials

People working on the scaffold aren't the only ones exposed to significant hazards. For people walking under or around scaffolding, there's a risk of falling materials, tools and other objects that could cause serious injuries. However, preventative equipment like netting or shrink-wrapping can help separate activity on different scaffold platforms and stop objects or materials from falling to lower-level work areas.

Risk 6 – Electrical hazards

There are several electrical hazards when working on scaffolds, mainly around power lines. There are rules for maintaining an appropriate distance between scaffolds and live power lines to ensure worker safety. Workers may also need to weld, cut or perform other electrical work while on a scaffold. When scaffolds are metal, the risk of electrocution is significantly higher.

Other scaffolding risks:

  • Planks that slip or break. Build scaffolds, including platforms, for durability and skid resistance.
  • Rolling scaffolds. Avoid moving the scaffold while workers are still on the platform.
  • Overloading scaffold platforms. Be mindful of where heavy equipment is placed. Give scaffolding plenty of clearance.
  • Climbing up and down scaffolding. Use appropriate ladders or lifts to move up and down the structure.

Scaffolding safety checklist

With the most common scaffolding hazards in mind, here are some measures you can take to safeguard yourself and your team.

Get to know local regulations

We believe everyone working with scaffolding is responsible for being familiar with and understanding local regulations and laws. Following these guidelines is critical to prevent serious injury and death.

Sidewall Scaffolding follows WorkSafe NZ’s Best Practice Guidelines for Scaffolding in New Zealand.

Regularly evaluate potential hazards

Circumstances can change quickly, so constant vigilance when working at heights is essential. Inspect the area and equipment regularly so potential hazards don't go unnoticed.

Install proper guards

Guard rails, toe boards, barricades and other guards can prevent falls or injuries from falling objects. Ladders or stairs should also be installed. Rails or poles should not be used to move up or down the scaffold structure.

Respect load limits

Different scaffolding designs and materials will have various weight capacities. Know how much weight a scaffold structure can hold and don't exceed the limit. Too much weight puts the platform at risk of cracks, breaks or collapse.

Use consistent parts

When constructing a scaffold, mixing and matching parts built for different loads or made by different manufacturers can compromise an entire structure. So, when hiring scaffolding, check that the company uses the highest-quality, compatible products.

Appropriate training

Anybody working on scaffolding needs to have adequate knowledge and training about the types of scaffolds, possible hazards and safety measures. They should also be able to perform daily inspections to check for flaws, dangers and other issues.

Work with a reliable, trusted scaffolding company

A reputable, qualified scaffolding company will do everything it can to mitigate risks. This includes using professional scaffolding contractors, experts in design and installation who check their scaffolds regularly and can prove their staff have up-to-date training and appropriate safety qualifications. Most importantly, they never cut corners and always adhere to local guidelines around the safe use of scaffolding.

For more information or a project quote, contact Sidewall Scaffolding – our team would love to speak with you.

Partner with us

Get a quote for your project

For a free quote or to discuss your safe access needs, give us a call, send us an email, or better yet fill this form. We would be happy to hear from you.

LayherHeliconSite Safe