KXAN is reporting that a scaffold collapsed at the construction site of the 21 Rio condos in Austin (near the UT campus). All three people on the scaffold were killed.
This incident is another reminder of the critical nature of fall safety systems. Almost a year ago, in the wake of a Washington, DC construction death, I had a post detailing the need for fall safety systems in general, and scaffolding systems in particular.
OSHA has several requirements for scaffolding safety. Initially, it is critical that the scaffolding be constructed properly. OSHA has very detailed requirements for the construction of scaffolds. These requirements include:
- each scaffold and scaffold components must be capable of support four times the maximum intended load on the scaffold
- any suspension ropes must be capable of supporting at least six times the maximum intended load
- the working levels must be properly planked and decked
- scaffold components manufactured by different manufacturers must not be intermixed unless the components "fit together without force" and the structural integrity is maintained
- supported scaffolds (as opposed to scaffolds suspended from the roof) must be plumb and braced to prevent swaying
- for suspended scaffolds, there must be a normal operating brake and an emergency brake or locking pawl that automatically engages when there is an instantaneous change in momentum or an accelerated overspeed
In addition, OSHA has specific guidelines for fall safety systems, which includes a requirement that each employee on a walking/working surface with an unprotected side or edge which is more than six feet above a lower level must be protected by a guardrail system, safety net system or personal fall arrest system. The OSHA rules also specific requirements governing the guardail, safety net and personal fall arrest systems.
It is critical that contractors and subcontractors follow these requirements. Scaffolding accidents and falls almost always result in serious accidents. Thus, following these requirements is critical.