John Newquist can spot scaffolding violations from his car. As a former OSHA area director in Peoria, IL, and a longtime employee at the agency (1983-2012), all it takes him is a quick glance while driving past a jobsite.
Newquist and his colleagues want workers to be more aware of the dangers associated with scaffolds, as well as be able to spot violations. For employers, experts who spoke with Safety+Health agreed that training and a small financial investment provide the easiest path to compliance under OSHA’s Scaffolds Standard (1926.451).
Scaffolding hazards are most prevalent in construction, according to OSHA, which estimates 2.3 million people – about 35% of workers in the industry – perform tasks while using the equipment. The agency also states that around 4,500 construction workers are injured in falls from scaffolding each year.
NIOSH data shows that, in 2016, 60 construction workers died as a result of a fall from scaffolding, making up nearly 20% of all fatalities in the industry that year. An agency fact sheet issued in April notes that 86% of falls from scaffolds occur in the construction industry.
‘Lack of training’ an issue
Over the past decade, the scaffolding standard has ranked as high as No. 1 and as low as No. 3 on OSHA’s annual Top 10 list of most frequently cited violations. The annual number of violations, however, has declined over this period – to 3,228 in fiscal year 2019 (ranking No. 3) from 9,056 in FY 2010, when scaffolding held the top spot.
What’ll it cost?
The price of safety in regard to scaffolding is “inexpensive when compared to an array of potential OSHA fines,” said Newquist, who added that the cost is about $100 a foot.
“Each employer shall furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees.”
– Section 5(a)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970