by Frederike Berg
Risk assessment scaffolding – 7 steps to follow
When working at height, such as on scaffolding, it is important to know and minimise the potential hazards. This involves carrying out a risk assessment to identify and document the potential hazards on the site and take appropriate measures to reduce their impact. This will ensure that you take sufficient precautions to meet legal requirements and keep your team safe.
The steps you need to take during your risk assessment vary depending on local regulations. For example, the Federal Guild of Scaffolding (Bundesinnung Gerüstbau) in Germany provides a comprehensive 7-step plan. These steps include:
- Step 1: Identify work areas, activities and responsibilities, taking into account the operating conditions
- Step 2: Identify the hazards
- Step 3: Assess the hazards
- Step 4: Determine protective measures against falls from scaffolding and other hazards
- Step 5: Implement and document protective measures
- Step 6: Check the effectiveness of all protective measures
- Step 7: Update the risk assessment regularly
Step 1: Identify work areas, activities and responsibilities
To properly identify the hazards in your work area, the first step of every risk assessment must be to determine the respective work areas, the work to be carried out and the responsibilities. While doing so, the operating conditions must be taken into account.
Step 2: Identify the hazards
One of the most important steps of a risk assessment is the identification of hazards. These hazards can be divided into
- workplace-related hazards
- activity-related hazards, and
- person-related hazards.
But what does that mean in practice? Every workplace has its own specific hazards. For sure, there are different hazards in industrial plants than on towers or bridges. Workplace-related hazards can arise
- from lighting and climatic conditions
- from the height of the scaffold, which affects the severity of possible injuries in the event of a fall,
- from high-voltage power lines close to the scaffold,
- or from the scaffold being in the swivel range of a crane.
Certain machinery or equipment, but also monotonous movements during work, can cause activity-related hazards. The latter is also related to the person-related hazards that can arise from physical and mental overload.
The risk assessment must also identify who is affected by these hazards. This could be the teams working on the scaffold, the scaffolders assembling and dismantling the scaffolding, or third parties such as passers-by.
Step 3: Assess the hazards
Once the hazards have been identified, the next step is to systematically evaluate them. This involves evaluating the potential risks they pose and their severity. This creates the basis for the next step of the risk assessment, in which you decide how you can reduce or even eliminate them.
Step 4: Determine protective measures against falls from scaffolding and other hazards
Following safety rules and procedures, regular inspection and maintenance of your scaffolding and regular safety training for your team are important precautions you need to take to reduce the hazards of working on the scaffold. Further protective measure you might want to take incluse safety equipment (e.g. work gloves, hard hats, safety glasses) and PPE (e.g. safety belts and harnesses). The rule here is that collective protection equipment (CPE) such as railings and safety nets always take precedence over personal protective equipment (PPE).
Step 5: Implement and document protective measures
Once you have determined the appropriate protective measures for your work area, it is important not only to implement them, but also to document them. Proper record-keeping is essential to track the safety measures put in place, so that your team can be made aware of these measures and to ensure that they are applied consistently throughout the project.
Step 6: Check the effectiveness of all protective measures
As the project progresses, it is essential that you continuously monitor and review the effectiveness of the protective measures in place. Regular checks ensure that safety measures remain effective and help address new hazards that may arise during the project.
Step 7: Update the risk assessment regularly
A risk assessment must evolve with changing conditions, so it should be updated as needed to reflect the current state of the project. This includes changes in work areas, tasks, or any new hazards that may emerge.
Following these 7 steps in your risk assessment, provides you with a good basis for establishing and maintaining occupational health and safety on your work site. For more information and best practice in scaffolding safety, click through to our scaffolding blog.
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