Scaffolds can be adapted to stairs, ramps, and other uneven surfaces. In some instances, scaffolds may be a better and safer choice than ladders and when properly used can provide better stability and a greater work surface for workers. According to Cal/OSHA regulations, scaffolds should be provided for all work that cannot be done safely by employees standing on permanent or solid construction at least 20 inches wide, except where such work can be safely done from ladders.
Rolling scaffolds (i.e. narrow frame scaffolds) are among the most popular pieces of construction equipment. Due to their versatility, many contractors use them instead of ladders because they allow workers to maintain their balance and work more easily from the platform. A rolling scaffold has wheels and is often used as a mobile scaffold with the end frame measuring 3 feet or less in width. It is designed to be easily moved for operations such as window installation and where workers must frequently change position. However, if used improperly some of the hazards associated with rolling scaffolds can lead to personal injury or death including:
- Falls from an elevated level
- Electric shocks
- Structural failures (i.e. collapses)
Safety standards for rolling scaffolds are necessary to understand and differentiate from other scaffold standards. It is important to inspect rolling scaffolds before, during, and after each use. Always brace rolling scaffolds with cross braces, horizontal braces, diagonal braces or a combination of braces. Braces prevent collapse of the scaffold, secure vertical members together, and automatically square and align vertical members. Always pin together separate sections of a scaffold. Rolling scaffolds are designed for easy movement. With easy movement, incidents will occur if the scaffold is moved incorrectly. Lock scaffold wheels with wheel locks or equivalent means to prevent unwanted movement. Cal/OSHA requires each wheel to have a brake on it to ensure safety of employees. Stabilize rolling scaffolds before movement to prevent tipping.
Employees who ride on rolling scaffolds and employees that assist in moving employees riding on a rolling scaffolds must be trained in accordance with Cal/OSHA Construction Safety Order Tower Scaffolds and Rolling Scaffolds, Wood or Metal Standard 8 CCR §1646(i) and the requirements of the Construction Safety Orders, Section 1509 (Injury and Illness Prevention Program) to recognize the hazards associated with riding on a rolling scaffold. All training must be conducted in a manner and language which the worker is able to understand.
Employees may ride on rolling scaffolds moved by others below if the following conditions exist:
- The floor or surface is within 3 degrees of level, and free from pits, holes, or obstructions; The minimum dimension of the scaffold base, when ready for rolling, is at least 1/2 of the height. Outriggers, if used, shall be installed on both sides of staging;
- The wheels are equipped with rubber or similar resilient tires. For towers 50 feet or over, metal wheels may be used;
- The manual force used to move the scaffold shall be applied as close to the base as practicable, but not more than 5 feet above the supporting surface of the scaffold.
- Before a scaffold is moved, each employee on the scaffold shall be made aware of the move.
- No employee shall be on any part of the scaffold which extends outward beyond the wheels, casters, or other supports
In general, only trained and authorized persons should be allowed to use any type of scaffold. This training must be provided by a qualified person who recognizes the hazards associated with the type of scaffold being used and who understands the procedures to control or minimize those hazards.
Training must include how to safely:
- Use the scaffold and determine the maximum load limits when handling materials.
- Recognize and avoid scaffolding hazards such as electric shock, falls from heights, and being hit by falling objects.
- Erect, inspect, move, operate, maintain, and repair scaffolds.
Bottom Line: Rolling scaffolds can become dangerous if not used correctly so take the time to move them properly and carefully. Follow all Cal/OSHA standards and guidelines when using rolling scaffolds to ensure safety of you and those around you. Notify each employee on a rolling scaffold before moving it. Moving a rolling scaffold with employees on it, especially if they are unaware of the move, can be dangerous.
Note: This information was provided by Tim Bormann, CIH, FAIHA, The Cohen Group