Working on scaffolding might seem like an adventurous job, but it does come with risks. Those platforms can be pretty high up, and no one wants an accident waiting to happen! That’s why there are strict rules about inspecting scaffolds to keep you safe. Let’s look at who’s allowed to check those structures and what they need to look for. You might be surprised how in-depth these inspections get.
Who Gets to Be the Scaffold Inspector?
OSHA (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration) says only a specially trained person called a “competent person” can inspect scaffolds. Sounds fancy, but what exactly does it mean?
A competent person is someone who really knows their stuff when it comes to scaffolding hazards. They have specific training on different types of scaffolds and their components. The competent person is qualified to identify dangerous conditions and immediately take action to fix them. They have the authority to stop work if a scaffold is not safe to use.
Inspecting scaffolds can be this person’s full-time job or just one of their responsibilities. Common examples of competent people include:
- Construction supervisors
- Scaffolding erectors
- Safety managers
- Lead carpenters
The key requirements are proper training, knowledge of OSHA standards, and skills to find and correct hazards. They must also regularly check work conditions to protect everyone on site. Make friends with your competent person – they have your safety in mind!
What Kind of Inspections Does OSHA Require?
Scaffold inspections are mandatory before each work shift. The competent person has to check any scaffolding that will be used during the upcoming shift. If no one is using a particular scaffold that day, it doesn’t need inspection.
OSHA also requires scaffolds to be inspected after anything happens that could affect its structural integrity. For example, high winds, being hit by equipment, or even heavy rain could warrant another look.
At minimum, all scaffolds must be inspected once per week, even if no one is using them. Better safe than sorry!
For any problems found during an inspection, the competent person has to document both the issue and the corrective action taken. OSHA sees inspections as high priority based on the level of risk. The bigger the potential hazard, the more urgent the inspection.
Let’s look closer at all the parts the competent person checks when inspecting a scaffold.
Giving Scaffolds the Once-Over
When competent people do their inspections, they check over the entire scaffold from top to bottom. Here are some of the main components they keep an eye out for:
Footings and Foundations
The base of the scaffold must sit on solid, even ground or footings strong enough to support the weight. If the ground is soft or sloped, that’s a no-go.
Poles, Frames and Uprights
These vertical structural supports cannot be damaged or bent. The competent person checks that they are spaced correctly and the joints are staggered.
Platforms and Planks
Scaffold decking needs to completely cover the platforms with no gaps. The planks must be in good condition with no cracks or rot. They inspect for adequate support underneath.
Railings and Toe Boards
Both guardrails and toe boards must be installed along platform edges to prevent anything from falling off. They check the top rails and mid rails are at the right heights.
Braces and Couplers
All brace connections must be secure. Couplers attaching poles also get inspected closely for defects.
Ties and Anchors
They verify enough ties are connecting the scaffold to the building or structure. The ties need to be tight to prevent swaying or movement.
Ladders, stairs and entry ways to platforms require inspection too. They must provide safe passage without compromising the scaffold.
This covers the major areas, but competent people check all the nooks and crannies in between too!
Doing Your Due Diligence
Part of the competent person’s duty is being very thorough during an inspection. Here are a few other things they keep in mind:
- Check the scaffold was erected correctly for the intended use, following manufacturer specifications.
- Verify safe access to all platforms, with nothing blocking ladders or stairs.
- Watch out for too much load on working platforms from heavy equipment or debris.
- Make sure fall protection and perimeter gates are in place.
- Document any defects like damage, leaks or missing parts.
- Ensure platforms are fully planked and stable for workers.
It’s the competent person’s responsibility to conduct a visual inspection of the entire scaffold inside and out. They need to get up close and personal with each section!
Why Go Through So Much Hassle?
You might wonder why scaffold inspections need to be so frequent and detailed. Here are some excellent reasons:
- Prevent collapse, falling objects and other hazards
- Protect workers on the scaffold as well as anyone below or nearby
- Meet OSHA regulations and avoid violations
- Identify and correct defects BEFORE scaffolds are used
- Reduce injuries, hospitalizations and fatalities
- Lessen liability and legal exposure for employers
- Lots of things can jeopardize scaffold stability
- Reinforce the importance of meticulous scaffold safety
Proper inspection means fixing issues immediately. Letting even small problems go can have disastrous consequences. Detailed inspections might take time, but they save lives!
Don’t Ignore the Competent Person!
What happens if scaffold inspections fall by the wayside? Unfortunately it often leads to serious incidents:
- Scaffold collapses causing traumatic injury or death
- OSHA fines and citations for regulatory violations
- Lawsuits, legal fees and increased insurance costs
- Reputational damage for the company responsible
The competent person really is your friend! Their inspection expertise keeps the job site safely constructed. Make sure to report any concerns as well. Working together fosters a culture of scaffold safety for everyone involved.
Who Is Authorized To Inspect A Scaffold? You Know Now!
- OSHA mandates only competent people can inspect scaffolds
- Competent people are specially trained to identify hazards
- Scaffolds must be inspected before each shift and weekly
- All components get checked thoroughly during inspection
- Detailed inspections prevent collapse and worker injury
- Ignoring problems leads to citations and expensive outcomes
The competent person plays a crucial role in keeping scaffolds safe through excellent inspection skills. We all want to go home unharmed at the end of the workday. Following OSHA standards provides that peace of mind.
Now that you know the scaffold inspection rules, help spread the safety mentality onsite. It could save someone’s life! Want to get even more in-depth on construction hazards? Check out safety training to take your knowledge to the next level. Let’s keep each other protected.