Platforms are the work area components of a scaffolding system. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requirements for scaffolding safety come from the Code of Federal Regulations. Specifically, 29 CFR 1926.451 outlines the construction, safety and training requirements for scaffolding systems used at a construction site. To assist employers and employees alike, OSHA printed "Publication 3150, Scaffold Use in Construction" and "Publication 3100, Crane or Derrick Suspended Personnel Platforms" to consolidate and simplify the regulation.
Each scaffolding system component is rated for a maximum weight by the manufacturer. To meet OSHA safety requirements, the platform must be able to support its own weight plus at least four times the intended load. The load includes workers, equipment, building materials and tools.
Scaffolding platforms are required to be planked as completely as possible. The gap between the planks and the uprights cannot exceed 1 inch.
Suspension and Supported Platforms
Suspension scaffolds have platforms suspended by ropes or cables, either from a rooftop, crane or derrick. The most common type of suspension scaffolding system is called a two-point, which is similar to a window washer's scaffold. These platforms have to be secured to avoid swaying. All workers on these platforms are required to wear fall-protection gear.
Supported scaffolds are set on the ground and have platforms supported by a system of legs, posts, crossbeams and frames. Some are built with wheels and can be moved around the worksite. These scaffolding systems are required to be built on a firm surface, leveled and braced to help prevent movement. Guardrails and fall-protection gear are required if the platform is more than 10 feet high.
Workers must be able to access the scaffold platform safely. A supported scaffolding system has attachable ladders, stairs and ramps. Workers are prohibited from using the frame work to climb to the platform.
Fall protection includes guardrails and personal fall-arrest systems. Workers are required to wear harnesses and lifelines while on the platform. Lifelines have to be secured separately from the scaffolding support lines that prevent swaying and from the suspension ropes the scaffold hangs from. If the scaffolding falls, the workers will not.
If the platform is not at least 18 inches wide or is more than 10 feet above the ground, guardrails must also be used.
Employees must be trained prior to working on a scaffolding system by personnel qualified to identify and minimize hazards. Employees involved in the assembly, repair or maintenance of scaffolding systems are required to be trained by an instructor qualified in the proper procedures for those activities.
Greg Epperly retired in 2002 from the United States Army after 20 years in calibration electronics. He has been writing professionally since 1985. He has written various calibration and electronics training materials, and numerous operational and quality-control procedures. Epperly has a Bachelor of Science in management studies from the University of Maryland.