Posted On: August 3, 2023

Scaffolding Hazards: What are the Main Causes of Deaths and Injuries?

Scaffold-related accidents cause 4,500 injuries and over 60 deaths per year. Scaffolds are used by approximately 65% of construction workers, so it's critical to understand how to stay safe and have the proper set of scaffolding safety standards in place.

Read on to find out the most common scaffolding hazards and what OSHA is doing to combat them.

What Is a Scaffold?

A scaffold is a temporary structure typically used in construction, renovation, or maintenance projects to support workers, materials, and equipment at elevated heights. It provides a safe and stable platform for workers to perform tasks such as building, painting, repairing, or accessing higher areas of a structure. Scaffolds are practical and essential on most construction sites, but if proper safety precautions aren't followed, they can pose major risks.

Scaffold Use in Construction

Scaffolding increases the risks on a building site. Dangerous scenarios such as falls, flying objects, and unstable structures endanger workplace safety. OSHA's construction scaffolding requirements make working on or near scaffolding safer.

In 1996, the Bureau of Labor Statistics found 25% of scaffold accident-injured employees had not received scaffold safety training. To prevent this from happening again, OSHA increased training standards, requiring professional trainers to educate workers on hazards and manage them effectively. We’ll go more into OSHA regulations later in the article.

Common Scaffolding Hazards

It's essential for any construction company that their employees can securely work at heights thanks to well-built scaffolding systems. They do, however, carry a number of risks, such as the potential for falling, injury from a falling object, or collapse.

It's crucial to be aware of these scaffolding hazards and take the required precautions to reduce them in order to increase safety. The following are some of the most typical scaffolding risks.

Construction Deficiencies

The most common reason for scaffolding-related deaths is defects in scaffolding construction. If scaffolding is not correctly installed and the problem is not found during a pre-shift inspection, it poses a serious risk to worker safety. Always build scaffolding according to code, and check it for faulty or loose parts before using it. If a scaffold is unsafe, don't use it.


Electrocution is a fatal hazard that accounts for 18% of scaffolding-related deaths. A hazard exists when there is a power source close to employees or equipment. Even if you are working alone, always lock and tag out the power source. You must exercise extreme caution when working with or near a power source. It is your responsibility to understand your company's lockout/tagout policy.

Climbing Scaffolding

Another severe risk is climbing up and down a scaffolding platform rather than using safety equipment like ladders. Employees may also delay clipping into fall protection until they reach the platform. Both can result in falls, injuries, and death.

All fixed ladders with a top height of more than 24 feet above the lower level require fall protection. The user's harness must be no more than 9 inches away from the anchorage point. The lifeline must be strong enough to withstand a 500-pound drop from 18 inches. It is vital to be prepared for any potential falls.


Falls account for 10% of all scaffolding accidents and more than 50% of deaths in the construction industry. According to OSHA, platforms should not be higher than 20 feet. Even a single foot above this height limit could have severe and fatal results.

Falling Objects

Even small objects falling from large heights can cause serious injury or death. For the safety of employees working below, scaffolding must always be assembled with all guardrails and toe boards. Employees should always remember to wear the proper PPE.

Structure Failure

Collapse or structural failure can be avoided during assembly by following the manufacturer's instructions and OSHA requirements. Daily and weekly inspections will also help detect potential dangers. Equipment in good condition that has been examined, load tested, and used safely should not fail.


Faulty scaffolding assembly accounts for 8% of scaffolding-related deaths. To prevent accidents and falls, ensure safety precautions during assembly and removal. Install guardrails and full platforms at each level, and fasten ladders after each level to reduce the risk of ladder use.

OSHA Regulations for Scaffolding

OSHA has general safety rules for scaffolding. Everyone, including employees and employers, must adhere to all safety regulations. By doing so, employee safety is prioritized, which has a good impact on the workplace safety culture.

Scaffolding Use and Movement

Never move the scaffold while someone is on it unless it is specifically designed to do so. Only qualified and experienced persons should install, move, disassemble, or adjust scaffolds, even if it is under the supervision of a competent person.


Examine scaffolding before and after each shift to ensure structural integrity. If deficiencies are identified, stop use and repair broken or weakened sections immediately. If it can't be repaired, remove the scaffold from service.

Always Comply With Scaffold Limits

Scaffolding can have three different maximum load ratings: light, medium, and heavy duty. Remember the maximum allowable weight for the scaffolding you're employing. Never overload scaffolds or scaffold components, as this may result in scaffold damage or harm.

Fall Protection

Employees working on scaffolds above 10 feet must use fall-prevention devices. The type of fall protection depends on the scaffolding. If you're unclear, consult a supervisor or employer. Repair or replace broken or weakened sections immediately. If problems are discovered during inspection, remove the scaffold from service.

Safety Training Benefits

Those who are unaware of all the risks associated with working at heights will fail to take precautions. The key to preventing accidents is training. To ensure this, managers can spend time daily discussing safety regulations with their staff. Enforcing these standards helps reinforce employees' commitment to safety and prevents accidents.

Scaffolds pose many risks, but they can be mitigated with the right techniques, equipment, and training. When scaffolds are properly built, inspected on a regular basis, and everyone follows proper safety practices, you can reduce accidents and injuries.

Check out our Scaffold Safety Training Course by following this link.

Individual Course

OSHA Scaffolding Safety Training (Construction)

Duration Hours: 1

Work safely on suspension and supported scaffolds by learning § 1926 Subpart L.


What is Scaffold Safety in Construction Training? This course provides the information you need to work safely on scaffolding. We'll cover the different types of scaffolding and relevant OSHA safety requirements. You'll learn the OSHA directives for suspension and supported scaffolds. We'll also discuss safety measures, including guardrails and personal fall arrest systems. Who should take Scaffold Safety in Construction? If you work on scaffolding, you need this course. It fulfills your training...

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