Scaffolding on construction sites


Wednesday, April 12th, 2023

Scaffolds are temporary structures that are used to perform work at heights. Although scaffolds are essential tools in the construction industry, if they are not used properly, they represent a certain level of risk for the safety of workers. That's why it's important to know the safety regulations and standards in effect for construction work in Quebec.

The Construction Safety Code (CSC) is the primary safety standard governing the use of scaffolds on construction sites. According to the CSEC, scaffolds must be constructed, installed and used in such a way that the structure is stable and remains safe.

Regular inspection of scaffolds is essential. Before each use, it is therefore necessary to check the working condition of the scaffolds. All components must be in place and used according to the manufacturer's instructions.

What are the risks associated with the use of scaffolds?

The main risks related to the use of metal frame scaffolding are

  1. The overturning or collapse of the scaffolding due to;
    • The collapse of a support;
    • Deformation or breakage of a damaged element of the scaffolding;
    • The absence of an anchor or stay;
    • The impact of wind on the structure if a canvas covers the scaffolding;
    • The weight of the materials exceeds the maximum rated load of the scaffold.
  2. Falls from height;
    • During the assembly of the scaffolding;
    • When accessing the scaffolding;
    • When the floor does not have the required width;
    • In the absence of a guardrail;
    • When receiving materials on an upper landing without wearing PPE.
  3. Falls from the same level;
    • Caused by a slippery or cluttered floor.
  4. Scrap materials;
    • From an upper floor on people on the ground;
    • From a higher workstation to a lower workstation, when jobs are overlapped.
  5. Other risks;
    • Electrification or electrocution due to approaching overhead power lines;
    • Contact between machinery and scaffolding
    • Carbon monoxide poisoning when a combustion heater is used in a canopy scaffold

What are the rules to respect?

Here are some safety rules to follow when installing and using scaffolding:

  • Seating shall be made of stamped planks and shall rest on a level and even floor.
  • Scrap wood and other construction waste may not be used for seating.
  • Use the vertical locks to hold the metal frames together.
  • The scaffold floors must be resistant and non-slip and of sufficient width.
  • Scaffolds must be equipped with guardrails to prevent workers from falling.
  • Anchor the scaffold to the building or use guy wires.
  • Access to the scaffolding must be done in a safe manner either by using a ladder, a staircase or from inside the building.
  • Make sure to respect the approach distances to overhead power lines.

Workers who use scaffolds must be properly trained and supervised to ensure their safety. It is important that they wear the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) when working on scaffolds. Workers can be trained in the proper use of PPE. As with all work sites, helmets, safety boots and eye protection are required. The use of a safety vest is strongly recommended and becomes mandatory if there is machinery in the work area. A safety harness may be required when installing or dismantling the scaffolding.

Workers should also be aware of the risks associated with using scaffolds. The most common hazards include falls, slips and trips. Don't forget tothe risk of collapse of the scaffolding which is a tolerance of 0. Collapse of a scaffold can occur when too much material is placed on it or when heavy equipment is installed. A scaffold is designed to support a maximum load, and workers should be aware of this limit.

Scaffolding over 18 meters high must be planned by an engineer. The plans and installation procedures must be transmitted to the CNESST before the beginning of the assembly.

The importance of reporting

If there is any doubt about the safety of a scaffold, it is important to report it immediately to the foreman, superintendent or health and safety coordinator (HSC) of the site. Any incident or accident related to the use of scaffolding must be reported.

In conclusion, the two main elements for the safe use of metal frame scaffolding are a good knowledge of the safety regulations and standards in effect in Quebec and appropriate training for workers.

For more information on the safe and lawful use of scaffolding of any type, please contact your prevention consultant.