A construction company president received this picture in an email from his customer inquiring about the look of a wall on a new office building. When the company president saw the picture, he forwarded it to the company Safety Director. The employee on the left of the picture is standing on scaffolding erecting a concrete pillar form. The scaffold is almost 20 feet tall, exceeds the 4:1 height to base ratio, and is not restrained. In addition, there are no midrails or ladder access for this worker. This scaffold was not erected or inspected by a competent person. An employee (center of picture) is standing on the 3rd floor of a building with no guard rails in place or other fall protection. Note that his toes are over the edge and he is leaning outside the building. On the right side of the picture is a forklift picking up two people (only one visible in this picture) on a pallet. The forklift is sitting on a berm embankment to gain access to the higher parts of the structure. The operator is the site superintendent. The one visible person on the pallet is not an employee, but the superintendent’s 16-year-old son. They were cleaning the wall of excess material.
The worker on the scaffolding could have fallen from the scaffold, which had no safe access and inadequate guard railing. The worker leaning out the 3rd floor window could have fallen over 20 feet to a hard-packed dirt surface. This worker had previously broken his arm, sued the company because of his injury, and won a judgment against the company. The two people on the pallet could have fallen or been thrown from the forklift when it was moving or extending to position the people closer to the wall.
What Should Be Done Differently
In general, no scaffold shall be erected, moved, altered or dismantled unless under the supervision and direction of a competent person. A scaffold must also be inspected by a competent person before each work shift or more often if you suspect any damage from wind, overloading or equipment contact. Employees shall have safe access at all working levels. Any construction worker exposed to a fall greater than six feet must have fall protection; a guard rail system, safety net system, or a personal fall arrest system. The workers on the pallet were exposed to a fall, and you should NEVER lift someone up on the forks of a lift truck unless they are in a properly designed personnel basket on a lift that is rated for that purpose. Finally, using under age workers for construction work is a dangerous practice. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division does not allow young workers to operate most equipment or to be employed in occupations that have been declared hazardous by the Secretary of Labor.