Scaffold Safety and OSHA Requirements

What is a scaffold?  

  • Any elevated, temporary work platform used to support construction workers, their tools, and/or materials that are needed for building or renovation activities. Scaffolds are commonly made out of metal piping or wood. 

What are the types of scaffolds?

Supported scaffolds--scaffolds consisting single or multiple platforms and supported by solid, load-bearing members. The load-bearing members may be poles, legs, frames, outriggers, or other similar framework.

♦ Suspended scaffolds (two-point suspension)--one or more platforms suspended by ropes or other non-rigid, overhead support.

♦ Other scaffolds--manlifts, personnel hoists, etc.

OSHA requirements for scaffolds and fall equipment:

  • Design and Construction of Scaffolds
    The design and construction of all construction site scaffolds must conform with OSHA requirements concerning type of equipment, rated capacities, construction methods, and their use. Every scaffold and all scaffolding components must be able to support its own weight in addition to at least least four times the maximum intended load without collapse or compromising structural integrity. Every suspension rope must be capable of supporting at least six times its maximum intended load.
  • Inspection of Scaffolds 
    Employers must ensure a qualified person inspects all scaffolds and scaffolding components for any visible defects before a construction worker's use on each working shift. Scaffolds should be built/assembled, moved, dismantled/taken apart, or altered only under the supervision of a qualified person.
  • Inspection of fall equipment
    All components of personal fall protection equipment (including body belts or harnesses, lanyards, droplines, trolley lines, and points of anchorage) should be inspected by a qualified person before use. Any visibly damaged or worn equipment should be removed from working service immediately.

Scaffold accidents in the news

Type "scaffold accident" into Google and the return results for a construction worker and their family will be frightening. Many reported stories involve serious injury, including broken bones, or death; however, each day there are many similar incidents across the country which injure a construction worker that are never reported.

Common causes of injury 

♦ Falls: Construction worker falls from a high elevation, due to lack of fall protection
♦ Collapse: Overloading or instability of a scaffold, causing scaffold collapse

♦ Strikes: Falling tools, or other work materials, striking construction workers who are on the ground
Electrocution: Contact with a power line, causing electrocution to workers on the scaffolding


A Bureau of Labor Statistics study reported that 25% of construction workers injured by a scaffold accident had received no prior safety training in regard to scaffolds. More concerning is the fact that 77% of worksite scaffolds were not equipped with guardrails.

If employers and employees commit to being in compliance with OSHA standards, as many as 50 lives could be saved, 4,500 accidents could be prevented every year.

James R. Keller
Connect with me
Partner at Keller & Keller