How to use a trestle scaffold safely

September 30th, 2011

Trestle scaffolds are a common cause of accidents in the construction workplace, and require special attention when developing risk management plans. There are steps you can take at each stage of the job that will ensure you minimise risk and keep safe.

Before you start
Looking for hazards prior to commencing work sounds like an obvious step but is often overlooked in a busy workplace. The simple act of identifying potential risks and addressing them before starting can save large amounts of time by avoiding disruptions during work. A good place to check is the working platform itself, and whether the foundation, brace and support is adequate. Also look for slip and trip hazards as well as broken or damaged parts of the scaffold. Ensure a competent person has erected the scaffold, with appropriate access and to a safe height.

On the job
Once workers are on the scaffold, do not attempt to move the structure. Follow the risk management process at all times, implementing safe work procedures and accessing relevant information if unsure of a procedure. At no point during work should anyone climb the braces or frames, or attempt to pass another worker on a 2-plank platform. Monitor weather conditions throughout the process and cease work immediately if high winds or rain develops.

Keep the work platform clear of debris, maintain good lighting and ensure no-one enters the area directly above or below the scaffold structure. Do not throw material from the scaffold, or have another worker throw any materials up to the platform. Try to avoid repetitive twisting and lifting, or lifting above shoulder height. Maintain awareness of the location of overhead powerlines, and take regular breaks to maintain focus and rest the body.

Once the job is completed, ensure a qualified worker dismantles the scaffold appropriately, as incorrect dismantling can damage parts. Maintain no-go zones until the scaffold has been completely removed, as there is still the risk of falling objects during this time.

Ensure all details of the work completed, any incidents that occurred and equipment used are recorded as part of the risk management process. This information is essential for continuing to develop an effective risk management plan, as technology and equipment is constantly changing. It will also ensure any appropriate maintenance required is completed before the scaffold structure is used next.

While safe procedures may seem time consuming, avoiding time in court or recovering from an accident justifies the extra five minutes ensuring the work procedures being used are safe and appropriate.