Recent Scaffolding Safety Guidelines [Updated 2024]

Posted on March 13, 2024 in News

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) imposes mandatory scaffolding regulations that companies must follow. State governments can also introduce additional localized laws to strengthen safety protocols when needed. 

Scaffolding regulations at the federal and state levels tend to change over time as new legislation passes. As such, employers must actively stay on top of the evolving regulatory updates.

These rules cover all aspects of scaffolding work—from the physical construction and design to determining who provides training for employees working at height.

 Read on to learn more about the latest scaffolding guidelines as of 2024.

OSHA Safety Guide for Scaffolding

Important Recent Scaffolding Safety Guidelines

There are several important scaffolding design guidelines and safety rules that pertain to working on a scaffold:

  • Guardrails and/or fall arrest systems are mandatory when working over 10 feet up.
  • Guardrails should be between 38” and 45” high.
  • Scaffold platforms must be fully decked or planked.
  • You must secure a supported scaffolding with a height-to-base ratio of over 4:1 by guying, tying, or bracing it.
  • Scaffolds must be able to hold up to four times their maximum load.
  • A Competent person must perform an inspection before each work shift.
  • Employers must train all employees working at height on proper safety rules.
  • Do not violate clearances from electrical power lines as allowed in 1926.451(f)(6). In Virginia, the minimum clearance is 10 Feet from power lines.
  • Do not bridge two scaffolds with walkways unless designed by a qualified person.
  • Do not use the scaffold unless you and the people below are using proper falling object protection.
  • Do not use scaffolds during storms, lightning, or high winds.
  • Do not work on ice or snow-covered platforms.
  • Do not use a scaffold if it is not plumb, square, and rigid.
  • Do not alter the scaffold. A trained crew may only perform scaffold alteration under the supervision of a competent person.

These requirements for scaffolding safety come directly from OSHA standards.

Construction & Design Requirements

Scaffolding systems need to be designed and built in a certain way to be deemed safe. Different regulations apply to different types of scaffolding systems, such as supported scaffolds versus suspension platforms. However, the general premise is to ensure the structure that is installed and is being used by workers is secure and safe.

Guardrails, Midrails, and Cross Bracing

In most circumstances, OSHA requires guardrail installation on supported scaffolds at heights over 10 feet. Install guardrails between 38 and 45 inches high and place the midrails at about half that height.

When used to support the top rail for the guardrail, cross bracing should reach the required height of between 38 and 45 inches. Do not build the top rails on guardrails from steel or plastic banding. It should be sturdy enough to stop a fall.

Scaffolding Safety Requirements

Platforms

Planking installed on a scaffold must support at least four times its intended load, plus its own weight, without failure. It shouldn’t deflect more than 1/60 of its length between supports. You should build working platforms from solid wood or fabricated planks. 

Do not overload the platform with more than its intended loading capacity. Avoid extending working maximum heights by climbing guardrails or using boxes or ladders on the platform.  

Scaffolding Support/Restraints

You must use guying, ties, or other restraints when the scaffolding height-to-base ratio exceeds 4:1 to prevent it from tipping. 

Install restraints every 20 vertical feet for widths less than three feet or 26 feet for widths over three feet. Install horizontal braces at each end and no more than 30 feet apart from one end.

Scaffolding Capacity

The O.S.H.A required “factor of safety” for scaffolding design capacity is that a scaffold component and structure needs to support a minimum of four times(4X)  the intended load. All workers, materials, and equipment placed upon the scaffold must never exceed the intended load or maximum capacity, whichever is lower.

Maintenance & Upkeep

Given the risks associated with working on scaffolds, keeping them well-maintained at all times is important. Be sure to wash them down after each job and inspect the scaffolding” for broken or damaged components.

Inspection Frequency

Frequent inspections are central to maintenance and the safe use of scaffolding. A “Competent Person” as defined in the O.S.H.A. standards must inspect the scaffold at the start of every shift. They must also recheck it if anything happens that might weaken its structure. Always inspect the scaffold thoroughly after it’s moved or damaged to ensure its safety.

Scaffolding Safety Requirements

Qualified Person

A qualified “Competent Person” is someone who has received the training and education needed to perform specific tasks. This usually means they have earned a certification validating their knowledge and skill in scaffold building. 

Pedestrian Safety/Object Protection Safety

Protect bystanders and objects below with multiple layers of defense. Barricades clearly demarcate the danger zone, while overhead canopies or debris netting directly stop falling materials. This layered approach prioritizes both worker and public safety.

4 Most Common Scaffolding Safety Failures

There are four common scaffolding safety failures that you should be aware of:

  1. Overloading a scaffold.
  2. A contractor removes scaffold support members or alters the scaffold. 
  3. Bad housekeeping—leaving extra debris, which can lead to slips, trips, and falls.
  4. Unstable Base/Footing: Mudsills and Baseplates are not adequately secured or tightened.

How to Wash and Clean Scaffolding

The best way to clean/wash a scaffold is to have all the components disassembled and on the ground. Use a pressure washer to remove dirt, debris, grease, or cement splashes. Use a mild soap or degreasing agent to remove tricky oils or grease. Never use harsh chemicals that could eat away at the integrity of the metal.  

Ensure the pressure washer is at a low setting to avoid damaging components such as the scaffold boards or wooden planks. Cleaning an undismantled scaffold requires extreme caution. During pressure washing, pay close attention to prevent loosening or disengaging any components, as this could compromise safety.

Personal Safety Requirements For The Safe Use Of Scaffolding

Individuals working at height are just as responsible for their safety as their employers. That said, there are some items that employers must provide for their employees to ensure their safety.

Personal Fall Arrest Systems

Workers at heights over 10 feet must use a fall arrest system or guardrails. OSHA regulations require that one or two-point suspension scaffolds have both.

However, we recommend using guardrails and/or fall arrest systems when working over 6 feet up. You should also implement toeboards and/or debris netting to shield individuals and objects below from falling materials. Furthermore, secure all tools that could fall using tool tether lanyards.

construction worker on platform wearing fall arrest equipment

Personal fall protection systems include harnesses, belts, snap hooks, lifelines, D-rings, and anchorage points. State laws may require additional personal protective equipment (PPE). It is typically the employer’s responsibility to provide that equipment. 

Falling Object Protection

Employees must wear hard hats while on the worksite to protect them from falling objects, such as tools, debris, etc. In addition, OSHA standards require the installation of toeboards, screens, nets, or barricades to catch falling items.

Training

A qualified person must train employees on the hazards of working at height and the procedures to mitigate those risks. A competent person must also train those who assemble, move, repair, maintain, inspect, or operate scaffolds.

Employers must retrain employees who they feel lack the proficiency or knowledge to work safely. Retraining is also required if no training has occurred after changes have been made to the worksite.

Complying With Scaffolding Safety Guidelines

Of course, this is just a sampling of many scaffolding safety guidelines. Many more rules apply to specific types of scaffolds (such as suspension systems or aerial lifts). Other regulations govern access methods and requirements for employees dismantling or erecting a scaffold.

Maintaining compliance with these standards is often a matter of industry expertise. Contractors specializing in scaffolding design and erection tend to be current on these laws and regulations.

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mwb1051mwb1051 ★★★★★ Belt Built LLC is very pleased to have worked with Scaffold Solutions and PM Frank G on our US Naval Academy Project in Annapolis, Md.We had a 70' foot run of scaffolding 11' feet wide and 24' tall installed in an auditorium built in 1942, with barrel vault ceiling. No seating had to be removed, crew did a great job avoiding any potential damage. The project scope is to install new HVAC into "barrel vaulted ceiling" attic.A Great Experience, pricing, professional service, and the installation crew was excellent. I Would Highly Recommend for your scaffolding needs.Response from the ownerWe appreciate the opportunity to have partnered with you on this project! The communication, planning and collaboration between our respective teams was incredible! We take great care to provide amazing service, quality and pricing for our partners. Thanks again! Jose GodoyJose Godoy ★★★★★ Material fácil de maniobrar. No es pesado. Excelente compañíaResponse from the ownerThank you Jose! We appreciate your support Eliseo EscobarEliseo Escobar ★★★★★ Great communication, great team experienceResponse from the ownerThank you Eliseo! We appreciate your business David “Rip” HerbertDavid “Rip” Herbert ★★★★★ Response from the ownerThank you Ruff! We appreciate your business and look forward to many more successful projects together! thomas hallwigthomas hallwig ★★★★★ Working with Frank Giuliano, Yoni Tobar, and Jefferson Borro on our hospital project was an exceptional experience. Despite facing extremely tight logistics and poor access, their dedication to 100% safety never wavered. Their expertise in scaffolding and trash chute installation was evident, ensuring the project ran smoothly from start to finish.What truly impressed us was their outstanding communication throughout. They kept us informed every step of the way, addressing any concerns promptly and effectively. Their ability to navigate the challenges of the project and maintain clear communication truly blew our hats off.I highly recommend Frank, Yoni, and Jefferson for any project requiring precision, safety, and excellent communication. Five stars without hesitation!Response from the ownerThank you, Thomas! We strive to provide outstanding customer service, safety and communication on all of our projects. It was a pleasure to partner with you on this project! Ben FeeneyBen Feeney ★★★★★ Frank Giuliano (Scaffolding Solutions) is amazing! He is truly passionate about customer service and seeks to cultivate long standing relationships with his customers. I recently worked with Frank on a construction project that required a lot of his time logistics wise. He was patient, responsive and asked good questions. He went above and beyond to ensure the project was completed to our satisfaction.Response from the ownerThank you, Ben! We were thrilled to partner with you on this project! We believe that great planning and outstanding communication make for successful projects and happy customers. We always strive to exceed your expectations. Looking forward to many more successful partnerships with your team in the future! a aa a ★★★★★ I would like to personally write a Google review, though I wrote corporate and expressed the same sentiments, this needs to be made public.Frank is the most AMAZING person; he is knowledgeable, kind, honest, trustworthy, and has the most integrity and follow up. I have worked with multiple scaffolding companies for our multifamily developments within Maryland and Virginia and Scaffolding Solutions is a TEN STAR experience and business.Each commitment has exceeded our expectations. 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They provide both fair and prompt pricing when needed. Frank and his Field Supervisor, David Herbert, are very knowledgeable and professional. We have had tremendous success with Scaffolding Solutions and I look forward to continuing our working relationship for years to come.Response from the ownerThank you Matt! We appreciate your trust and confidence in partnering with us. It is truly a pleasure to work with your company. We look forward to many more successful projects working together with your team in the future! Rmb BoswellRmb Boswell ★★★★★ Working with this as Frank representing has been great experience. They paid attention to the needs I requested for support needed for an MRI. They with detailed drawings for me to approve and plan of attack the was perfect .Response from the ownerThanks Robert! We were very excited to partner with you on this important project! 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Frank is always accommodating, extremely knowledgeable and always “safety first” in his approach to our scaffolding needs. We manage heavy mechanic projects within the transportation industry for Government agencies and Scaffolding Solutions & Mr Giuliano always exceed our clients needs. We highly recommend Scaffolding Solutions & Mr. Frank Giuliano for any, commercial or residential projects, you or your company has. 5 STARS! OUTSTANDING QUALITY WORK! GREAT COMPETITIVE RATES!Response from the ownerThank you, John! We are proud to be your "access partner of choice". Looking forward to many more successful projects to come. Thank you for your business! Hal CoganHal Cogan ★★★★★ Frank and his team with Scaffolding Solutions were great! Even with last minute changes and numerous headaches the day of they still got the job done. I look forward to working with them again!Response from the ownerThank you, Hal! Our goal is to provide the best service, safety and pricing of any other access company in the DMV. Exceeding your expectations is our mission! Hann HannHann Hann ★★★★★ Frank & his team didn't meet our expectations, they exceeded them. Everyone was extremely professionally throughout the project. Communication was over the top. Couldn't have asked for more complete turnkey service. Scaffolding Solutions is top of the list for any scaffold or shoring needs.Response from the ownerThank you! The amazing partnership, friendship and teamwork we have with Hann and Hann is what we're all about. We appreciate your business! rolando Tobarrolando Tobar ★★★★★ Great work & access to all kind of work ...The best in the DMVResponse from the ownerThank you Rolando! Our goal is to provide the best service of any other access company in the DMV. Kevin TaylorKevin Taylor ★★★★★ The team at Scaffold Solutions really got me out of a bind this past week. Set-up scaffold on Saturday morning and came back Sunday morning to take it back down. Communication was great, speed and safety were excellent and price was fair. I appreciate the solid communication and follow-up from their team and they did a great job helping me get the steel installed in the elevator shaft. Thank you!Response from the ownerThank you Kevin! We were very happy to partner with you on this work and "get it done". Safety, communication, speed - and great pricing. You hit the nail on the head my friend! Diana MiraldiDiana Miraldi ★★★★★ Response from the ownerThank you for your 5-star review Diana! Giselle AllenGiselle Allen ★★★★★ I recently had my fourth floor loft terrace enclosed. Scaffolding Solutions, LLC is the only choice you need to ensure your project is successful! Frank Giuliano visited my home and assessed the area, then coordinated with the Patio Enclosure installation manager to build a custom design that was efficient for the project. 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