September 21

Mitigating Facility Maintenance Risks: Scaffolding Use

Facility cleaning crews are responsible not only for the maintenance of the interior of a complex, but also the outside. Grounds teams who specialize in maintaining the outside of the building have some risks that are unique to their interior cleaning counterparts. The most notable of these unique risks is their use of scaffolding to work on the outside of a building.

The misuse of scaffolding can have some very serious consequences. We highly advocate against facility cleaning crews going above three stories, as they most likely lack the correct equipment and expertise to ensure employee safety. In situations that require exterior work above three stories, it’s best to call in construction crews with the equipment to do the job safely. However, even using scaffolding below three stories has inherent risks.

Some of the risks of utilizing scaffolding include:

Collapse
One of the greatest exposures of using scaffolding is running the risk of the structure collapsing. Improper setup can result in a structure collapse which is a devastating accident. Double checking all cross braces and joints to make sure they are secure can mitigate this risk heavily. Human error is mostly what contributes to a collapse, so double checking all support components is a must.

Falls
Falls from scaffolding can cause serious injury, even if it’s only from the first level (8 to 10 feet) on the scaffolding. As mentioned before, collapse can contribute to fall risks, but the risk is still there without collapse being a factor. The use of railings on scaffolding structures can work wonders in preventing falls. The team at MaintenancePro has seen that most fall accidents from scaffolding occur because workers assemble the structure and don’t install safety rails in order to save time.

Setup and Breakdown
Assembly and breakdown of scaffolding can be a dangerous task because it often requires (if it goes up more than one story) a worker up top and one on the ground. Smaller cleaning operations may not have the equipment to lift the brackets so it will be done by hand. Should the bracket be dropped in lifting it up, the worker on the ground can be injured. Also, if the brackets are not yet set up there can be no safety railings set up yet (because they’d be in the way of where the brackets need to be placed) so the worker up top is standing at height without fall protection.

Damage to Building Exterior
As with any other work on job sites, there is always the risk of property damage. Damage to the exterior of a building is most likely to occur during the set up or breakdown of scaffolding. Should assembly or dis-assembly go sour, a bracket or cross brace could be dropped or mishandled and break windows or damage the building exterior.

Collapses, falls, assembly and dis-assembly, and exterior building damage are all exposures that come with the use of scaffolding. There are ways to help and mitigate these risks like double checking braces, setting up safety rails, and using the proper equipment for setup and breakdown. However, accidents do happen even under the most stringent precautions. Should they occur, it is important to have an insurance policy in place that is designed with the needs of facility maintenance crews in mind.

For more information, visit MaintenancePro.

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