Reaching New Heights… Safety from the Ground Up

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2013 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, 69 lives were lost that year as a result of falls from scaffolds and platforms. With a bit of knowledge, attention to detail, and ongoing maintenance to keep scaffolds in excellent working order, fall-related fatalities can be significantly reduced.  Read below to learn more… 

Platforms and Decking 
Scaffolds must be fully planked or decked whenever possible. Platforms and decking planks may be made of:
  • Solid sawn wood (scaffold grade only)
  • Manufactured wood
  • Manufactured steel
  • Manufactured aluminum
Common Visual Defects
Platforms* must be free from defects, including:
  • End Splits – A separation that extends through the plank from face to face. End splits are caused by repeated exposure to wet/dry conditions. If an end split exceeds 18,” remove the plank from service. 
  • Saw Cuts, Drilled Holes and Notches – Saw cuts across the face or through the edge of the plank, drilled holes or notches will reduce the plank’s load carrying capacity. Planks with saw cuts, drilled holes or notches should be removed from service. 
  • Edge Splits – A separation of the narrow edge of the plank usually caused by forklift damage. A diagonal split may be caused by overloading. Probe the split to determine the depth; shallow weather checks are acceptable. If an open split is detected, remove the plank from service. 
  • Dents, Gouges and Depressions – Dents can indicate internal structural damage. Dropping the plank or impact from heavy objects on the plank will dent the plank. Remove the plank from service and visually inspect the plank before reuse. 
  • Face Breaks – Irregular cracks across the face of the scaffold plank. Usually a result of overloading, face cracks dramatically reduce the strength of the plank. Remove planks with face breaks from service. 
*Wooden platforms must not be painted to hide defects. 
Guidelines for Deck Spacing & Extensions
  • The space between the last plank and the uprights cannot exceed 9 inches. 
  • The space between planks cannot exceed 1 inch, except where necessary for obstructions. 
  • Platforms and walkways, in general, must be at least 18 inches wide. 
  • The ends of each platform must be cleated or restrained by hooks (or equivalent) to prevent accidental displacement, or must extend at least 6 inches over the centerline of the support. 
  • The maximum extension of the plank cannot be more than 12 inches for planks that are <10 feet long. 
  • The maximum extension of the plank cannot be more than 18 inches for planks that are >10 feet long. 
  • Where platforms overlap to create a running scaffold, the overlap must occur only over a support and shall not be less than 12 inches unless nailed together. 
The platform shall not deflect more than 1/60 of the span when loaded. Allowed deflection: 
  • 3 foot span = 0.6 inches of deflection 
  • 5 foot span = 1 inch of deflection 
  • 7 foot span = 1.4 inches of deflection 
At Donley’s, safety is our culture. Our daily goal is to operate incident free. To learn more about scaffolding/platform safety regulations, please visit OSHA.GOV.
William Powell III, or Billy as he as known to most, is a Regional Safety Manager for Donley’s, Inc. 
Learn more about Donley’s safety program.