Crank-Up Scaffolding Safety
Crank-up scaffolding safety reaches new levels, when a few simple rules are applied.
By Jim Cook
Crank-up scaffolding gives masons a game-changing opportunity to work more efficiently, but you should always practice safety to avoid accidents and OSHA fines.
Crank-up scaffolding may be the perfect scaffold solution for masons. Because crank-up scaffolding doesn’t require masons to hop boards, more time can be spent laying brick and less time setting up a workspace. Also, since masons can easily adjust crank-up scaffold platform heights, they can work at levels that require a minimum of stooping and reaching. These advantages allow masons to lay 20 percent to 30 percent more brick – and run a much lower risk of back injury – than masons using traditional scaffolding.
“It’s like you’re paying a guy for eight hours of work and getting 10,” says Justin Breithaupt Jr., owner of Non-Stop Scaffolding Inc. in Louisiana.
Like any other scaffolding system, crank-up scaffolds pose risks, and masons need to observe solid safety practices to mitigate these hazards. Scaffolding violations were the third most commonly cited OSHA standard for fiscal year 2016, and regularly appear in OSHA’s annual top 10 list of most frequently cited violations. The most commonly cited scaffolding violations involved fall protection, access, planking, and guardrails.
Regarding fall protection, masons using crank-up scaffolding need to ensure they have guardrails in place when working at heights of 10 feet or higher. Guardrails must be installed as required by OSHA. A key advantage of crank-ups is that guardrails are only assembled once, in contract to the constant disassembling and reassembling that takes place on traditional scaffolds.
Providing safe access to scaffolding is also a critical safety concern. Crank-up scaffolds can be lowered for platform access, and many products also have climbable towers with access buckets or platforms to provide safe, OSHA-compliant access. Clint Bridges, VP of Tennessee-based EZ Scaffold, advises against using ladders leaned against the platform for access.
“If someone has changed the height of the platform, it can cause a change in the pitch of the ladder and result in a fall,” Bridges says.
Breithaupt says ensuring proper board installation also is necessary to prevent injury on crank-up scaffolding. OSHA requires that planks extend 6 to 12 inches past the center of support. Planks must also lap one another by at least 12 inches. Walkboards should also be no farther than 14 inches from the wall. Boards should be regularly inspected to ensure they are sound.
Crank-up scaffolding products differ from manufacturer to manufacturer, and learning the right way to operate the product you’re using is important. Thoroughly acquaint yourself with manufacturer safety guidelines.
“Not only does proper training show them how to do it right and what to look for, it gives them a mindset of the importance of safety,” says Bridges. “The customers I have with the best safety programs are some of the most successful contractors. Coincidence?”
Zach Everett, safety director for Texas-based Brazos Masonry, says using crank-up products as intended by manufacturers is key to preventing injuries.
He adds that quite a few masons have been injured trying to free-spin crank handles to lower them instead of using them properly.
Regular inspection of crank-up scaffolds is important for safe use. Inspect your scaffolding prior to each use to ensure towers are plumb and on a solid foundation. Check boards before each use to assure that the scaffolding is tied in as recommended by product safety guidelines. Inspect the winch and the cables used on crank-up scaffolds before each use, too.
It’s paramount that you stay abreast of changes in OSHA rules and regulations. Everett says masons should keep new changes in OSHA rules regarding silica on their radar, as this can impact crank-up scaffolding operations and safety. OSHA’s new silica regulations, for example, were enforced Sept. 23. A full understanding of the rule is of utmost importance.
Everett says the new rules require vacuum equipment to be present on some scaffolding, taking up valuable real estate on platforms and potentially creating a tripping hazard. Working with OSHA and product manufacturers will help masons find ways to prevent new rules from becoming new risks.
Everett’s final advice to masons: “Do it right, believe in safety, and don’t cut corners.”
Jim Cook is a freelance writer based in Dothan, Ala. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.