There are many risks presented by scaffolding on construction sites. Not only can workers, tools, and materials fall from heights, but there are many other safety considerations which must be taken into account. Respecting load limits, wearing appropriate personal protective equipment, regular maintenance and inspections, along with the placement of scaffolding structures have an enormous bearing on the safety of workers and pedestrians alike.
Given the high rate of accidents and injuries in the construction industry, it’s paramount that workplace health and safety measures are strictly followed. Arguably the best approach to reduce any accidents and injuries on the construction site is to eliminate or minimise the risks associated with scaffolding. Today, we’re going to step you through the process of managing these risks.
The risk management process
The risk management process is essentially broken up into four steps:
- Identifying hazards
- Assessing risks
- Controlling risks
- Reviewing control measures
In many cases, the risks associated with scaffolding on construction sites are well-known and therefore have proven control measures which mitigate these risks. If, after identifying the hazards, any risks are already known and established, you can simply implement the controls and move on.
An essential step in this process is consulting workers and their health and safety representatives at each phase. By using the knowledge, experience, and ideas of your workers, you are more likely to identify all hazards and find the most effective way of controlling the associated risks. It’s crucial that all workers are encouraged to express their ideas and concerns about any health and safety issues so that these risks can be promptly addressed and managed.
- Identify hazards
Identifying all hazards presented on the construction site must be done before any work begins. There are several types of hazards that presents risks to workers, including:
- Physical work environment
- Equipment, materials, and substances
- Work tasks and the way they are performed
- Work design and management
While some hazards relate to the physical work environment, such as overhead power lines and noise, others relate to equipment or machine failure, chemical spills, or the toxic nature of certain substances. In any case, all hazards must be identified so that they can be assessed and controlled.
- Assessing risks
Once all hazards have been identified, assessing the risks include calculating the possibility of any injuries and what could happen if a worker is exposed to any hazards. A risk assessment may be needed to determine:
- The severity of a risk
- Whether there are any existing control measures in place
- What action needs to be taken to control the risk
- How urgent action must be taken
Whenever there is any uncertainty regarding the impact a risk has on workers or the outcome of workers being exposed to hazards, a risk assessment is needed. Furthermore, a risk assessment is also needed whenever there is uncertainty regarding how several hazards will interact with each other, and when any changes are implemented that may impair the effectiveness of control measures.
Risk assessments can be carried out to varying degrees, from consulting workers and health and safety representatives, to comprehensive risk assessments involving specific risk analysis tools and techniques recommended by safety professionals.
- Controlling risks
The best approach to controlling risks is to eliminate them altogether, however if this isn’t possible, all risks must be minimised as much as reasonably practicable. Many of the well-known risks associated with scaffolding can be controlled straight away using proven measures, while others will require in-depth planning and analysis which are then prioritised according to which hazards present the greatest risk.
When controlling risks, various options must be considered including using a combination of controls to eliminate or minimise risks in the aim of providing the highest level of protection that is reasonably practicable.
The hierarchy of risk control
Principal contractors and duty holders must work through the hierarchy of risk control when managing health and safety risks. This hierarchy ranks risk controls from the highest level of protection and reliability to the lowest. When deciding what is reasonably practicable to protect workers from hazards, the following needs to be considered:
- The possibility of workers being exposed to hazards
- The degree of harm that may result from a hazard or risk
- The degree of knowledge about the hazard or risk
- The most effective ways of eliminating or minimising a risk
- The availability and suitability of controlling risks
Only after a risk has been thoroughly assessed should the associated costs be considered, and whether a particular control measure is feasible.
Need some help?
The risks associated with scaffolding on construction sites are abundantly clear, however finding the most effective ways of assessing and controlling these risks essentially makes the difference between a safe workplace and an unsafe one. If you need any assistance with your risk management process, get in touch with the team at Uni-Span who offer consulting services in this field. For more information, phone 1300 882 825.