What OSHA really looks for
Simple steps to cut OSHA fines
All too often, a visit from OSHA reveals deficiencies, not only in the scaffolding, but also in the knowledge of the masonry foreman or business owner. If you’re the guy paying the fine, you should have the knowledge to prevent it. Learning ahead of time is always much, much cheaper.
OSHA issues related to scaffolding are the great majority of all OSHA citations that mason contractors receive. This article will teach you where to quickly get the information you need, and what OSHA looks for. We’ll discuss how the regulations apply to conventional frames and crank-up scaffolding.
The GCs are getting tougher than OSHAEveryone wants a safe workplace. It helps with workers’ comp rates, too, but it can get complicated when the GC’s safety people are forcing you to meet regulations that actually are tougher than OSHA’s. And, sometimes, these safety consultants are not aware that different regulations exist for different types of scaffolding.
Before working for a new GC, have a talk with his safety people to find out how their regulations differ from OSHA’s. Sometimes complying with them requires extra expense, or they restrict your men enough to lower your production figures. Find out before bid time.
For example, many GCs are requiring mason contractors to keep the wall in front of the masons at least 38 inches high, to eliminate the fall hazard. This would require twice as many board hops on frames, adding thousands in labor. However, crank-up style scaffolding works this way automatically.
How to find the regulationsThe best way to be prepared for that visit from OSHA, or your GC’s safety man, is to educate yourself now, before any citations are written, or before the GC stops work to correct problems. The internet has a wealth of information to get you started:
- The Mason Contractors Association of America has an extensive online safety library at www.masoncontractors.org. For members, there are downloadable documents as well as safety videos. This resource alone is well worth the investment in membership.
- The Scaffold and Access Industry Association has free guides at www.saiaonline.org/FreeTips.
- Independent scaffold trainers. Ask around in your area for the names of knowledgeable scaffold trainers. Take a day off to attend a basic training class, and if you feel like the trainer really knows his stuff, put his number in your cell phone. He will be an invaluable resource for answers to tough questions.
- The manufacturer of your scaffolding. The manufacturer should know every applicable OSHA and American National Standards Institute standard for the scaffolding you own, and should be able to tell you how to meet those standards. Non-Stop provides 24/7/365 tech support for safety questions.
- Bookmark this link: www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=STANDARDS&p_id=10916. As you read it, realize there are general standards that apply to all scaffolds (for instance, the use of guardrails), and then specific standards that apply only to different types of scaffolding, such as suspended scaffolds.
What OSHA is looking for: FUSESWhenever you drive up to your job, take 10 seconds to think like a compliance officer. If you can spot a problem from the street, so can he. The top 5 things they look for are Falls, Unsafe access, Struck by falling objects, Electrocution, and Scaffold collapse – FUSES.
Fall protectionLook for guardrails at 10 feet, end rails, a maximum gap of 14 inches from the platform to the work surface, no gaps more than one inch between planks (except to fit around uprights), and proper six- to 12-inch plank laps. On frames, every work level must be properly decked. Proper planking is much easier on crank-up type scaffolding. Since there is only one work platform to assemble, it climbs the tower intact, and is never removed and re-planked as you go up the wall (see Photo 3).
Unsafe accessYou must provide access to all working levels of a scaffold. That’s easy with an attachable ladder or stair tower, but be careful with extension ladders. They only provide access to one level (see Photo 4). Only erectors are allowed to climb frames that don’t meet the Integral Climbing Ladder Standard 1926.451(e)(6). All Non-Stop and other elevating towers currently produced meet this standard and are legal to climb. Safe access is built in.
Struck by falling objectsYou must contain falling objects. That means using toe boards, screens or barricading the area around the scaffold at ground level. Non-Stop makes an overhead protection system for falling object protection. A good rule of thumb: Never work under or over another craft.
ElectrocutionKeep your scaffolding and forklifts at least 10 feet away from power lines, and farther if they are carrying more than 50,000 volts – check with the power company. Another overlooked trouble area is extension cords. If you can see any single conductor, even if it’s not bare, replace it. This occurs where the jacket separates from the plug or the receptacle, exposing black, white or green wires. This is an automatic citation.
Scaffold collapsePlanks must be laid properly and have the required six- to 12-inch overhang and overlap. X-braces must be in place. You must use base plates on concrete, and leveling jacks and mud sills on dirt. Beware of muddy scaffold boards. That’s usually a sign it was once used for a mud sill, and you can be cited for that. It’s better to use a short mud sill that or pad can never be used for a scaffold plank (see Photo 1).
Be sure to use tags to indicate the state of the scaffold. Frame scaffolding must be tied in, when the base to height ratio exceeds 4:1. This is calculated differently for crank-up scaffolds. The 4:1 ratio is measured to the work platform, not the top of the tower. An untied tower can be higher than the 4:1, since there is no load above the platform. Consult the individual manufacturer for the maximum free-standing height.
Do it right, every timeWhen moving frame scaffolding from one wall to the next, you must tear it down in a safe manner, and re-erect it in a safe manner, every time you move it. Missing one component can cost you. As one man said, “It’s like a thousand-question test, and if you miss one, you fail.”
Alternatives exist. Using tower type crank-up scaffolding, your guardrails are installed once, on the one level, and travel up and down with you. It’s picked up with a forklift and moved to the next wall intact (see Photo 6). All the safety rails stay in place. This feature eliminates all dismantle and re-erection labor in your job, saving you thousands.
Terry Watts, the owner of True Bond Masonry in Shreveport, La., uses both types of scaffolding: “When the safety inspectors see our Non-Stop, they just keep walking. When we set it up, everything’s like it’s supposed to be. It’s saved us thousands in fines. It’s our frames we really have to be careful about. You miss one little brace or have your ladder in the wrong spot, and you’re sunk.”
Chad Bentley, head of a medium-sized family masonry business in Cullman, Ala., recently switched over to Non-Stop Standard-Duty scaffolding. He describes his experience, “OSHA came through here and wrote up all my competitors on frames. They came to my job, took one look at the scaffolding, and left. Everything was right.”
Originally published in Masonry magazine.
About the Author
Justin Breithaupt, Jr. is the owner of Non-Stop Scaffolding, Inc. He has been involved with elevating scaffolding and the masonry business since 1975, when his father invented a tower scaffolding system for their own masonry business. Visit www.nonstopscaffolding.com for more information on Non-Stop Scaffolding, Inc.