Guide For Scaffolders

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Working at heights accidents are usually serious and often result in disabling injuries and even death.

Many of us assume that working at heights injuries and fatalities occur as a result of falls from high buildings and structures but they often occur from falls of only two to four metres.


At the end of this talk you will know:

·         how to correctly use ladders, scaffolds and mobile work platforms; and

·         the use of fall restraint equipment.

Portable Ladders

The most commonly used and abused equipment for working at heights is the portable ladder.

Ladders should only be used as a means of access from one height to another.  They are not designed to be a work platform but can be used to carry out light tasks, providing a three-point of contact is maintained with the ladder at all times.

Accidents with ladders often occur because of poor positioning.  Ladders should be positioned on a firm, level surface at an angle of 75 degrees.

You should never position a ladder:

·         in front of outward opening doors;

·         against a window pane; or

·         on top of boxes, loose bricks or concrete blocks to gain extra height.

“What are some of the things you should and should not do when using a ladder?”

When using a ladder you should:

·         always face the ladder when climbing up or down it;

·         only move up or down the ladder one rung at a time;

·         always keep a three-point of contact;

·         keep your body centred within the ladder stiles; and

·         climb down from the ladder if you need to reposition it.

You should never:

·         use a ladder in high winds unless in an emergency;

·         stand any higher than 900 mm from the top of the ladder;

·         straddle the top rung;

·          “rock” or “walk” the ladder to reposition it; or

·         carry tools or equipment in your hands while climbing the ladder.


Scaffolding is a temporary work platform used for working at heights.  There are various types of scaffolds that can be used but they all have some common safety requirements.




“What safety features should scaffolds be fitted with?”

To stop people and equipment falling from scaffolds that are 2 metres or more above the ground, they must be fitted with:

·         guard rails between 900mm and 1100mm high,

·          a mid rail no less than 450mm from the floor of the scaffold;

·          a work platform which is at least 450 mm wide;

·         a 200 mm high toe board around the edge of the platform (to stop tools from falling on workers below);

·         scaffold planks and kickboards that are secured and lashed at both ends; and

·         access ladders that are securely lashed to the scaffold.


·         To ensure that scaffolds are constructed properly any scaffold that is four metres or higher must only be erected, modified and inspected by a certified scaffolder.

Never alter or modify any scaffold unless you are a certified scaffolder.

A scaffold must be fitted with a tag at every access point to show:

·         who erected the scaffold;

·         when the scaffold was erected and last inspected; and

·         the load rating of the scaffold.

Never work on any scaffold, four metres or higher, which is not fitted with a valid scaffold tag.

“What should you do to prevent slip, trip and fall accidents on scaffolds?”

When you are working off a scaffold you should always:

·         keep the walkways free of obstacles, tools and equipment;

·         keep scaffold platforms free of grease and mud;

·         climb from one level to another using the provided ladders; and

·         use a crane, hoist or winch to carry materials or equipment up to and down from the scaffold.

You should never:

·         exceed the safe working load of a scaffold;

·         leave tools on railings or near the edge of the platform;

·         stand on the hand rail or mid-rail to reach the work; or

·         work from a scaffold which has defective or missing planks and rails

Mobile tower scaffolds are used to do light-weight work and where there is a need to frequently move the work platform from one point to another.  When working from a mobile tower scaffold make sure:

·         it is no higher than three times the smallest base width;

·         the outriggers are fitted;

·         the caster brakes are locked on; and

You must be off the scaffold while it is moved.

Only use this type of scaffold on level, surfaced areas.

Mobile Work Platforms

Boom-type elevating work platforms and scissor lifts are used as an alternative to mobile scaffolds.

Providing you have been adequately trained there are no restrictions on using scissor lifts.

You are allowed to work from the basket of a boom-type elevating work platform but only certified operators are permitted to operate the controls and position the bucket.

“What are the safety precautions you must follow when working from an elevating platform?”

When using an elevating work platform you should:

·         barricade under and around the elevating work platform to prevent other people being struck by the boom;

·         place all tools and equipment in bags or buckets to prevent trip hazards and items falling out;

·         only enter or exit the basket via the gate;

·         keep the basket gate closed and locked while working from inside the basket;

·         wear a full body harness attached to a designated anchor point located inside the basket; and

·         keep the front of the basket within 300 mm of the work area to prevent reaching over the basket edge.

To prevent you from being electrocuted, mobile work platforms must be kept clear of live electrical power lines.

“What are the safe working clearances you should keep between a work platform and overhead power lines?

You must not allow any part of the platform to get within:

·         2 metres of electric distribution wires on poles;

·         6 metres of electric transmission wires on towers.

You should never exceed the safe working load of the basket which is:

·         200 kg for a fibreglass basket; and

·         250 kg for a steel basket.

To prevent the work platform tipping over it should not be positioned too close to excavations. You should make sure:

·         the work platform is setback at least one metre from the edge of the excavation for each metre of excavation depth; and

·         the outriggers are fully extended and packed.

Forklift cages

Specially designed forklift attached personnel cages can be used for access to heights providing the cage is built to Australian Standards and is fitted with proper guard rails and an access gate.

You must make sure the forklift cage is:

·         correctly positioned onto the forklift tines; and

·         locked into position so it cannot slide off the tines.

You must:

·         always wear a full body harness attached to an anchor point located inside the cage;

·         never stand on the forklift tines; and

·         never use a forklift pallet as a work platform.

Fall Arrest Equipment

Fall arrest equipment should be worn whenever there is a risk of falling from heights.  It must be used:

·         when other means of protection, such as guard railing, is impractical; and

·         to provide additional protection.

The main reason for using fall protection equipment is to limit the distance of any fall and minimise the risk of injury.

“How does a safety harness prevent you from falling?”

safety harness stops the fall and spreads the shock over a large area of the body.  This enables the fall to be stopped or arrested without causing bodily injury.  However, themaximum free-fall distance allowed is two metres.  Free-fall distances greater than this can result in bodily injury.

The safety harness must be attached to:

·         a strap or belt lanyard which has a built-in shock absorber; or

·         a self-retracting lanyard which has a built-in inertia brake.

The other end of the lanyard must be attached to a static line or anchor point.

The length of the lanyard and the position of the anchor point determines the amount of free-fall.

 What should you check to make sure your safety harness will effectively arrest your fall?”

When using a safety harness you must:

·         check the harness for any signs of wear or damage to the fabric and stitching;

·         check the lanyard is firmly attached to the harness;

·         connect the lanyard to a static line or a secure anchorage point;

·         make sure the anchor point is positioned above where you are working and not below;

·         if you are using a strap or belt lanyard ensure there is a minimum of slack in the lanyard so that you cannot fall any further than two metres;

·         report any faults immediately; and

·         Do not use faulty or damaged equipment.


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