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Top OSHA Workplace Violations – Scaffolding, General Requirements, Construction – Regulation 29 CFR 1926.451

Scaffolding, General Requirements, Construction

Regulation 29 CFR 1926.451

Enforcement from Oct 2018-Sept 2019

Total citations: 3,400

Total inspections: 1,680

Total proposed penalties: $10,485,196

Most Frequently Violated OSHA Standard Ranking – Number 3

Industries most often violating the scaffolding in construction standard:

Specialty Trade Contractors $8,401,079 (in proposed penalties)

Construction of Buildings $1,507,877

Fabricated Metal Product Mfg. $285,956

Heavy and Civil Engineering Construction $53,720

Merchant Wholesalers, Durable Goods $49,650

Administrative and Support Services $34,133

Performing Arts, Spectator Sports and Related Industries $15,370

Support Activities for Transportation $11,602

Wood Product Mfg. $10,394

Educational Services $10,000


The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) reported 54 fatalities occurred in the year 2009 from scaffolds and staging. In a Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) study, 72% of workers injured in scaffold accidents attributed the accident either to the planking or support giving way; or to the employee slipping or being struck by a falling object. All of these can be controlled by compliance with OSHA standards.

What are scaffold platform construction requirements?

Each platform must be planked and decked as fully as possible with the space between the platform and uprights not more than 1in (2.5cm) wide. The space must not exceed 9½-in (24.1cm) when side brackets or odd-shaped structures result in a wider opening between the platform and the uprights. [29 CFR 1926.451(b)(1)]

What are the requirements for scaffold planking?

Scaffold planking must be able to support, without failure, its own weight and at least four times the intended load. [29 CFR 1926.451(a)(1)]

Solid sawn wood, fabricated planks and fabricated platforms may be used as scaffold planks following the recommendations by the manufacturer or a lumber grading association or inspection agency. [29 CFR 1926 Subpart L Appendix A(1)(b) & (c)]

Tables showing maximum permissible spans, rated load capacity and nominal thickness are in 29 CFR 1926 Subpart L Appendix A(1)(b) & (c) of the standard.

How wide does the work area need to be on scaffolding?

Each scaffold platform and walkway must be at least 18 inches (46 cm) wide, guardrails and/or personal fall arrest systems must be used. [29 CFR 1926.451(b)(2)]

Are guardrails required on all open sides of scaffolding?

The standard requires employers to protect each employee on a scaffold more than 10ft (3.1m) above a lower level from falling to that lower level. [29 CFR 1926.451(g)(1)]

To ensure adequate protection, install guardrails along all open sides and ends before releasing the scaffold for use by employees, other than the erection and dismantling crews. [29 CFR 1926.451(g)(4)(i)]

Guardrails are not required, however:

What materials are unacceptable for guardrails?

Steel or plastic banding must not be used as a toprail or a midrail. [29 CFR 1926.451(g)(4)(xiii)]

Using Aerial Lifts

The major causes of injuries and fatalities involving aerial lifts are falls, electrocutions and collapses or tip-overs. Aerial devices include boom-supported aerial platforms, such as cherry pickers or bucket trucks, aerial ladders and vertical towers (OSHA regulates scissor lifts as mobile scaffolds, not as aerial devices). Safe work practices for aerial lifts include:

  • Ensure that workers who operate aerial lifts are properly trained in the safe use of the equipment. Test the controls and inspect the aerial lift before use each day. Make sure that all controls are clearly marked as to their function.
  • Never override hydraulic, mechanical or electrical safety devices. Maintain and operate aerial lifts according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Always stand firmly on the basket floor. Do not sit or climb on the edge or rails of the basket. Never use planks, boxes or other items inside the basket to extend your reach.
  • Ensure that all wheels of an elevated lift are on a solid base. Use outriggers, if provided. Set the brakes and use wheel chocks when on an incline. Do not exceed the load limits of the equipment. Allow for the combined weight of the worker(s), tools and materials.
  • De-energize and lockout/tagout aerial lifts before performing any maintenance or repairs.

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