OSHA Scaffold Regulations

By Debbie Tolle

Each year, there are more than 4,500 injuries and 60 deaths stemming from scaffold-related incidents. OSHA regulations help ensure workers' safety. This article focuses on the main updates to OSHA scaffold regulations, which were last revised Aug. 30, 1996.


The function of scaffolding is to provide a stable platform for work that cannot be completed safely or easily from a ladder. Scaffolding is much more efficient for large construction jobs. It is possible to have more than one worker on scaffolding at different levels.


One type of scaffolding, supported scaffolds, is built from the ground up out of heavy metal, wood or both. Another type is suspended from cables. Commercial window washers are known for working on suspended scaffolds.

Capacity Requirements

OSHA now requires that scaffolds must be able to support their own weight and hold four times the maximum load requirement. This is to ensure that scaffolding will not collapse when construction material and workers are on scaffolds.


Scaffold platforms must not have more than a one-inch space between side-by-side sections when there is nothing prohibiting the regulation such as side rails. The space cannot exceed 9 1/2 inches between platforms and the upright sections when side rails are in use. This is to protect workers from falling through the space. The platforms must be at least 18 inches wide.

Guard Rails

Guard rails must be placed on all sides, or safety harnesses must be used. The rails on all open ends and sides must now be between 38 and 45 inches high. A front guard rail does not have to be used when the front of the scaffold is fewer than 14 inches from the work being done. Workers on a section of scaffolding that is more than 10 feet above another level of scaffolding must be protected by guard rails. This is to keep them from falling to the lower level.


The legs or supports of the scaffolds must be on a firm, solid foundation. Ties must be used to keep scaffolding from tipping when the height-to-base ratio is more than 4 to 1. Ties must be placed vertically every 20 feet on scaffolding less than 3 feet wide.

About the Author

Based in Oklahoma City, Debbie Tolle has been working in the home-improvement industry since 2001 and writing since 1998. Tolle holds a Master of Science in psychology from Eastern Illinois University and is also a Cisco-certified network associate (CCNA) and a Microsoft-certified systems engineer (MCSE).

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