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#HazardSpotting: The death trap scaffold


Unfortunately, it's all too common for contractors to devise makeshift ways to get the work done. But this crew takes ill-fated ingenuity to a whole new level. In this latest #HazardSpotting post, we take a closer look at a frighteningly dangerous residential construction site. There is so much that's unsafe in this picture that it's hard to know where to start. The short scaffold has been lashed to 2x4 timbers with nylon rope. Two of the legs, in turn, are sitting on top of bricks to achieve the desired working height. What if a worker accidentally kicks or stubs his toe on these bricks? They could be knocked out of place, causing the whole improvised scaffold to fall apart. Upon closer inspection, this scaffold is only supported by three legs. The fourth has apparently been removed due to limited space. This makes the right side of the platform inherently unstable, even if it does have a 2x6 or 2x8 support jammed under it. The way the legs of the scaffold and the 2x4s are lashed together side-by-side, they can't possibly bear much weight. At the slightest provocation, they will attempt to slide down, causing the platform above to tilt dangerously. The scaffold platform, of course, is nothing more than a flat surface. It doesn't have a railing or any kind of fall restraint built into it. Holding everything in place are long boards, angled at roughly a 45 degree angle and shoved into the bottom of the scaffold platform on one end. "Anchoring" the other end is a pair of garden rocks - hardly a secure arrangement. How do workers get up and down from the scaffold? Using the ladder next to it. Even that doesn't look well suited for its purpose - this is a v-shaped ladder that has been folded straight, not an extension ladder. Notice how the space between the legs gets wider as you move up to the top of the ladder? According to OSHA, the legs of an extension ladder must overlap by 3 ft. on any ladder up to 36 ft. in height. This ladder may be safe, but I wouldn't want to bet my life on it! A straight-frame extension ladder would be much safer. Picture a worker climbing this ladder. Most likely, he will be carrying materials or tools, which will increase the weight this ladder must bear. If the hinge point in the middle of the ladder fails, he will fall face first onto a hard concrete floor. On the other hand, if he survives the climb up this makeshift ladder, he has no handholds to steady himself - only the cinderblock wall in front of him. As he transitions to the scaffold platform, he will be placing the majority of his weight on only two of the improvised legs, which could cause them to collapse. Egress from this scaffold looks even worse. The worker would have to swing a leg over the scaffold bar that's about 1 foot above the platform, and place one foot on the ladder - once again with little or nothing to hold onto to steady himself. This could cause the unsecured ladder to tip to the left, and the worker could take an unceremonious tumble to the ground. Overall, I think it's safe to say that this crew has a serious deathwish! #HazardSpotting is a community safety initiative that helps raise awareness about dangerous workplace safety violations, developed by MySafetySign.com and supported by VISTA Training, Inc. Interested in related products? See: Scaffold Safety Handbook Photo courtesy of IBEW 725

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