Everything You Need to Know About OSHA Scaffold Safety

scaffold safety

WorldExecutivesDigest.com | Everything You Need to Know About OSHA Scaffold Safety | When it comes to major construction projects, or projects that involve buildings that are multiple stories high, using a scaffold is one of the safest options. If you are unfamiliar with the term, scaffolding includes temporary metal or wooden structures that construction workers use to reach high places that require maintenance.

When done right, scaffolding is a safe and effective tool in any worker’s kit. When done wrong, however, scaffolding can be dangerous. Indeed, improperly built scaffolds are one of the top causes of injury to construction workers around the country. That is why the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) came up with a set of rules and standards for scaffolding which, when followed, ensure both your safety and the safety of your team.

About OSHA

OSHA is in charge of protecting all workers across the United States. To do so, the agency sets federal standards for general industry, construction, and shipyard employment. OSHA is basically the FDA for being safe at work.

OSHA Scaffolding Guidelines

OSHA has set a number of key provisions for the safe construction and use of scaffolds. These include the following:

Guardrail Height

As of today, the top-rail height of any scaffolding’s guardrail must be between 38 inches (0.9 meters) and 45 inches (1.2 meters). If your scaffolding were constructed before the year 2000, though, they may be a minimum of 36 inches.


The same height rule applies to cross bracing: That is, if you use cross bracing at a scaffold’s top rail, then the cross brace must be between 38 inches (0.9 meters) and 45 inches (1.2 meters).


Employers must train employees on how to safely use scaffolding. This rule, unfortunately, is one of the more ambiguous ones. Common sense tells us that employers should have a process that covers training in multiple areas of safety. OSHA has regulations that, if not met, could lead to the company being fined or shut down. To avoid those consequences, employers should require that all employees go through training and that they acknowledge (in writing) that they have been adequately trained and about the potential dangers of things like improperly constructing or using scaffolding.

Fall Protection 

Any worker on a scaffold higher than 10 feet must have either a guard rail or fall arrest system available to protect him or her from injury. The exception is those working on scaffolds that are either single-point and two-point adjustable suspension scaffolds—these people must be protected by both a guardrail and a fall arrest system.


There must be midrails built about halfway between the scaffold’s toprail and its platform. They, in other words, must be in the middle of the scaffolding.


Platforms have to be fully and completely planked or decked. You cannot have missing or loose planks on your scaffolding. These can lead to workers tripping, falling, and getting seriously injured.

Ties and Braces

If the height-to-base measurement of your scaffold is greater than 4:1 then it must be secured by guying, tying, bracing, or the equivalent. This is very important because, if done improperly, the scaffold can tip or fall over.


After any kind of incident, whether major or minor, all scaffolding must be inspected and checked for problems. This should be a detailed review and not simply a “once-over.”


Scaffolds must be able to support at least 4 times the maximum intended load and suspension scaffold rigging must be able to support at least 6 times the maximum intended load.


Footings should be secure, level, and capable of supporting whatever load is on the scaffold.

Erecting and Dismantling

There must always be a competent person present whenever a scaffold is being built or taken down. 


Remember that when it comes to using a scaffold, you should never cut corners. While ignoring some or all of OSHA’s guidelines may save you time in the short-term, the long-term costs of doing so can potentially be enormous. So, be smart and keep yourself and your employees safe with secure, up-to-standard scaffolding.