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How do you know if scaffolding is safe to climb?

If you work in construction, the odds are good that you're going to be climbing scaffolding at least part of the time -- which means that knowing how to look the scaffold over carefully before you take a step off the ground is a life-saving skill.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), 65 percent of construction workers use scaffolds frequently. While your employer bears the ultimate responsibility for your safety if you are one of those workers, you're smart if you trust your own eyes and experience as well.

What are the most important things to look for before you climb a scaffold?

-- Is the "competent person" required by OSHA on site and in sight when the scaffold is erected? If not, that's cause for concern, because he or she should have supervised every stage of its erection.

-- Look at the pulleys, hooks and fitting that are part of the scaffolding to see if you can detect any that are damaged. Any that show signs of wear, faint cracking or rust need to be replaced before use.

-- Check the ropes. Don't attempt to use any scaffolding rope that is frayed, loose or improperly tied.

-- Is the top of the scaffold fully planked? If it isn't, you are well within your rights to refuse to use it.

-- Has the scaffold been leveled? The leveling legs should never be extended past a foot's length because that creates instability.

-- Check the wheels of any rolling scaffold to make sure that the wheel blocks are in place and the locks have been depressed. That's something that is surprisingly easy to overlook when putting one in place.

Taking responsibility for your own safety is smart because you can't win an argument with gravity -- but that doesn't relieve your employer from his or her responsibilities for your safety. If you're injured at a construction site due to a fall from scaffolding, consider contacting an attorney to discuss your case and how to obtain fair compensation for your injuries.

Source: Amerisafe, "Basic Scaffolding Safety," accessed June 16, 2017

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