Working at a height through the use of scaffolding can certainly present a number of risks, both to workers on the scaffolding and team members on the ground. However, by making sure the correct safety measures are not only in place, but are also followed, the chances of these dangers from becoming a reality are massively reduced.
In this post, we’ve highlighted a number of the risks that can threaten a construction team when working with scaffolding, as well as the business risks associated with poor safety procedures. Each of these risks can be avoided through having the correct safety measures in place and by ensuring that you and your team follows these measures to the letter.
The risks that can be avoided with proper safety measures
Falling from a height
The most obvious danger of working with scaffolding is that team members could fall from the construction. Falling from a height can cause significant injuries and, in some cases, can even be fatal. When these accidents do occur, it’s more often than not the result of poor adherence to safety protocol or irresponsible behaviour whilst working with the scaffolding.
Accidents as a result of poor planking
Another scaffold-related issue that can occur without adequate safety training, is poor planking and the injuries that come about as a result of it. If the planks that are used as part of the scaffolding structure are insecure, there’s a chance that they could slip or come away from the structure, which in turn causes the worker to fall. Poorly laid out planks could also have a slight overhang which, when stepped on, can tip and result in a fall.
In some cases, the planking used may be in too poor a condition to be considered safe, which is another reason why safety training is paramount. Poor planks can easily break when put under pressure, so it’s crucial that team members are aware of when planks are too weak to use and when they should be replaced.
Accidents as a result of poor scaffold construction
If workers haven’t been sufficiently trained on scaffolding safety, or if they fail to comply with the relevant safety measures on site, there’s a chance that the scaffolding used could be poorly constructed. Although it may appear safe at the time, when work begins and the scaffold is used frequently, there’s no telling how long it will take for the construction to collapse and cause injuries to those using it as well as those on the ground.
Injuries sustained from falling objects
Whether it’s components of the scaffolding structure or tools being used by the workers on the platform, falling objects from a height are a cause for concern in construction sites. Safety training and measures will provide workers with information on how to reduce the chances of objects falling from the scaffold platform, which in turn, will vastly reduce the chances of these incidents and injuries occurring.
As part of the standard safety measures for working at a height, employers and managers must ensure that employees are provided personal protective equipment (PPE) when working at a height. Team members should also know how to correctly use this equipment, before making use of the scaffolding on site. Doing so will prevent injuries to both the workers on the scaffolding and workers below on the ground.
Another huge risk that comes with the use of scaffolding is electrocution, when the scaffolding is erected too close to overhead electrical lines. When safety measures are in place and adhered to, there’s very little chance of these risks from occurring, as workers will understand where a scaffold can be placed without the risk of running into electrical lines.
The effects of poor safety measures on a business
Poor scaffold safety measures can not only increase the chances of injuries and fatalities on site, it can also greatly impact your business too. Accidents and injuries on construction sites have led to HSE investigations, hefty fines and much worse, all of which have been known to cause a business to close down, which could be avoided by having safety procedures in place.
Breach of the Work at Height Regulations (2005)
Any business that is thought to have possibly breached the World at Height Regulations (2005) will be investigated by HSE. These investigations will look to uncover who was at fault for the accident and injuries sustained – if the business and employer is thought to be at fault, legal proceedings will take place which will eventually lead to payouts and other potential punishments.
Fines and payouts
Fines and payouts relating to breaches of health and safety regulations can be incredibly costly. One example of an incurred fine comes from a case in 2016, when an apprentice fell from scaffolding and sustained a number of injuries. The company involved was ordered to pay £100,000 in fines along with £918 in costs. Of course, there have been other cases where fines were much more significant as well as cases where they were not as severe, but this is just an example of how failure to operate with the correct safety measures in place can affect a business in the aftermath.
Failing to comply with healthy and safety regulations, by not having the correct safety measures in place, can sometimes lead to imprisonment in the most severe of cases. A breach of these regulations is considered a criminal offence and so this is a very real prospect, if major repercussions have come about as a result of poor safety protocol.
From this guide, you can see just how vital it is to have the correct safety measures in place when working with scaffolding. Before you think about using scaffolding again in future construction work, think about whether your team has taken part in the relevant safety training and if they are qualified to carry out work at a height.
You should also spend time assessing the safety protocol and whether your team members are sticking to it, as otherwise, the consequences could fall on you and your business in the long run.