Maintaining Pedestrian Safety with Scaffolding Work

When you’re doing any construction work in a public space, whether building, renovation or making repairs you need to consider not only your safety but those of passersby.

Accidents happen, despite our best efforts; tools and materials fall from scaffolding and even small objects can cause serious injury from height. Then you’ve got people unexpectedly walking to scaffolding and so on..

The OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) has identified “struck by object” as one of the “fatal four” construction accidents — the four deadliest type of injuries at job sites — along with falls, electrocutions, and caught-in/between accidents.

  • Struck-by-object was the second most common cause of death, after falls
  • On average, there were two fatal struck-by-object accidents per week

If the pavement is not closed from access then extra safety measures can be used on the scaffolding to help ensure the safety of pedestrians.

What the NASC (National Access & Scaffoldong Confederation) says:

In their document “Guidance on Protection of the Public” the NASC outlines some of the main scaffolding hazards and risks to the public:

  • Transport (risk of scaffolding vehicles injuring pedestrians);
  • Work at height during scaffolding operations (with risk of falling scaffold tubes, boards and fittings);
  • Work at height during building works (other trades working on completed scaffold with risk of their materials
  • falling e.g. bricks);
  • Pedestrians (risk of personal injury walking into scaffolding structures).

The NASC add:

“Clients, main contractors, designers, users (e.g. other contractors on site who will use the scaffold) and scaffold contractors have a duty to consider and control the risks to the general public as early as possible, at the enquiry stage, planning stage (i.e. planning,
pavement license, traffic management, segregation, hoarding, lighting, signage, etc) and throughout the life of each project.”

How to make Scaffolding More Safe for Pedestrians

1. Debris Netting

One of the most common methods of minimising risk to the public from scaffolding work is to install netting to reduce the chance of debris falling to the ground.

Even small items such as nuts, screws and bolts can cause injury to passers-by and workers below. A scaffolding net is one of the simplest, cost-effective ways to protect pedestrians and workers from the risks of work on scaffolds.

Scaffolding Netting

2. Pedestrian Canopy

Similar to netting, pedestrian canopies help to protect members of the public from falling debris but importantly dust exposure which is not caught by netting.

There are a range of activities using wood and stonework which can create fine dust particles that are not nice or even harmful for pedestrians to breathe in.

Not only does a canopy protect against dust exposure but it can have the added benefit of reducing noise pollution from the work-site, which netting does not.

3. Scaffolding Chute

A scaffolding chute is a fully enclosed “tunnel” that allows waste to be deposed of safely into a skip below. This can significantly help to reduce the chance of waste being dropped from the scaffold onto workers or pedestrians below.

These waste disposal chutes can be customised to different lengths and sizes depending on your requirements. They are very robust and capable of withstanding heavy loads of brick, stone and similar debris.

Some construction sites may benefit from multiple chutes for the same project.

Scaffolding Rubbish Chute

4. Shrink Wrap

Shrink wrap offers a tight, complete protective barrier around the whole of a scaffold structure; it can help protect workers from strong winds and protect against falling debris. Shrink wrap can be used to completely weatherproof your construction site.

This scaffolding safety feature is also an effective way to help protect windows, siding and other building components that may be vulnerable at times.

5. Foam coverings & end caps

Any good scaffolding company should cover scaffolding poles at ground level with brightly coloured foam coverings. If poles stick out horizontally they can also be covered with end caps.

Scaffolding should clear to spot for pedestrians and drivers. If you have scaffolding erected in a public space and the poles are not covered or end caps stick out into the street, speak to your scaffolding firm as soon as possible. Foam covers and caps can also pull away if damaged, knocked etc.. It’s important to be vigilant and maintain public safety as much as possible. This means checking and maintaining the scaffolding site as the work takes place.

Scaffolding Pedestrian Safety
Undercover Scaffolding at FOLCA Vaccination Centre

Any good scaffolding company should take these measures to protect people in a public space. But it doesn’t hurt to make sure before work takes place. And be sure to question things. If you think safety could be improved, speak up and tell your scaffolding company so they can work with you to make safety better.

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