Scaffold Collapse in Raleigh NC kills 3, injures at least one other

A scaffold platform fell from a construction site in Raleigh North Carolina yesterday as workers for the scaffolding company were  dismantling it.  The scaffold platform was 11 stories up and crashed into the Charter Square Project below. It is thought that four workers were on the scaffold at the time. Another workers was thought to be in the portable toilet when a piece of the scaffolding crushed it.

It is unclear at this time who was killed and where they were at the time of the accident.

Part of the scaffolding crashed through the glass wall of the building across the street, sticking out and hanging over the street below.

The collapse occured as employees of Associated Scaffolding were working on dismantling the mast climbers which is used to get workers up and down on the scaffold.


Four Rescued from Collapsed Scaffolding

In Fort Lauderdale, FL this past Monday, when a scaffold collapsed, 3 workers were left dangling and a 4th fell, buried under a pile of scaffolding.

Check out the video from the SunSentinel news website:


Incidentally, although the news report doesn’t mention it you can see the hanging worker standing in the trauma suspension strap to keep the blood flowing. That, in addition to the fire and rescue, also saved his life.

The Basics of Scaffold Safety (Part 4)

Protection from debris and falling objects

  • Workers should always wear a hard hat where there is danger from overhead objects falling.
  • There must be a 3 1/2 ” toe board to keep objects, tools, etc… from falling off the scaffolding.
  • Debris netting can also be used, especially when there are objects that are over 3 ½” tall
  • Pedestrians should be kept clear of scaffolding. If the scaffolding is in a public area, walkways should be set up to divert them away from the scaffolding whenever and wherever possible. If pedestrians still will be going under or near scaffolding, debris netting must be used to protect them from falling objects.

Protection from Electric Power Lines

See the “Working Outdoors around Electricity” post for a complete breakdown of the safety rules regarding scaffold work and overhead power lines.


For Further Information

Much of the information for this section of “The Basics of …” series (go to and click on the various sections to view and download the other sections) has been taken from documents and web pages available on the following websites:

The Basics of Scaffold Safety (Part 3)

Fall related issues with scaffolding

Falls from scaffolding can occur in one of several ways:

  1. While getting on or off of the scaffold
  2. While installing and putting up the scaffold
  3. While working on the scaffold

OSHA mandates that whenever a worker is more than 10 feet off the ground on a scaffold he must be protected from falls either with a Personal Fall Arrest System (PFAS) or with guardrails.

Personal Fall Arrest Systems is covered in a separate document (see the fall protection section of our website to download “The Basics of Fall Protection“) so we will focus on the guardrail part of the mandate.

OSHA requires the following for scaffolding guardrails:

  1. Guardrails must be installed on all platforms that are less than 18″ wide.
  2. Guardrails must be installed along the side of the exposed edge as well as on the ends of the working platform.
  3. Guardrails must be 38″ – 45″ in height.
  4. There must be a midrail between the top of the guardrail and the platform.
  5. Toeboards must be at least 3 ½ ” tall

The Basics of Scaffold Safety (Part 2)

Guidelines for scaffolding

OSHA sets the following guidelines for scaffolding:

  1. Inspecting the scaffold – A competent person MUST inspect the scaffold before each shift and/or after any changes to the scaffold (“Changes” can be the result of weather, impact, damage, etc… Any time that the nature of the scaffold might have changed, an inspection is required).
  2. Scaffold Access – If the platform is over 2 feet off the ground (or whatever level you are erecting the scaffold) than a means of access (ladder, ramp, hoist) must be provided. The means of access cannot be more than 14″ away from the scaffold.
  3. Weather related issues – Ice and/or snow must be removed before workers are allowed to use the scaffold. Only the personnel that is working to remove the snow and/or ice is allowed on the scaffold until the snow and/or ice has been removed and the scaffold is safe to work on. Additionally, OSHA mandates that you workers are not allowed to work on scaffolding during storms or high winds unless the competent person says that it is safe to do so.
  4. Electrical Issues – Scaffolding is to be kept at least 10 feet away from overhead active power lines for power lines over 300 volts and 3 feet for power lines under 300 volts.

Erecting and checking the scaffolding

  1. Scaffold must be on a firm foundation
  2. Scaffold must be able to support at least 4 times the intended weight. For hanging scaffolds, the flexible supports must be designed to hold at least 6 times the intended weight.
  3. The scaffold must be level
  4. Vertical posts and frames must be vertical and they must be braced to prevent swaying.
  5. If a scaffold is more than 4 times as high as the base is wide, it must be tied to supports.
  6. Only unpainted wooden planks are to be used for the platform. This is so that visual inspection will detect any cracks.
  7. Ten foot planks must extend at least 6″ beyond the end of the support but no more than 12″
  8. The gap between planks on the platform can be no more than 1″

The Basics of Scaffold Safety (Part 1)

Drive through any major city and, wherever construction is taking place, you will see cranes and scaffolding. Scaffolding allows workers to do what they need to do at the right height without having to expose them to unnecessary risk. Scaffolding can, however, be a hazard unless it is set up used properly. OSHA estimates that 60 people die each year from scaffold accidents. A proper understanding of scaffold “how-to” and safety is essential.

OSHA defines a scaffold as: “an elevated, temporary work platform” which, of course, includes a number of different structures.

  1. A supported scaffold – This is the scaffold that most of us visualize when we are talking about scaffolding. This is a “structure” that is put together from the ground up. Platforms of wood or whatever else is approved, is supported with rigid beams, frames and/or poles.
  2. A suspended scaffold – Unlike the supported scaffold which goes from the ground up, the suspended scaffold is suspended from the top down. The working platform are essentially “hung” with flexible (rope, wire, etc…) from an overhead support.
  3. Lifts – This “scaffold” (we don’t usually think of this type as a real scaffold per say) is movable. In this category we include “cherry pickers”, forklift baskets and boom trucks.

Identifying the hazards

  1. Collapse or failure – if the scaffolding has not been properly installed, put together correctly and/or test adequately, there is a danger that one or more parts of the structure will fail. This may be a vertical frame or support that wasn’t adequately attached or welded, it may be a plank that was rotting or cracked or any number of other structural failures.
  2. Debris and falling objects – Because the nature of scaffolding work is “tiered” there is an increase danger of overhead debris, tools, etc… falling from the platform or work area overhead.
  3. Electrical Hazards – Because scaffolds are most commonly erected around buildings that are supplied with electrical power, there is the added danger of electrocution from overhead power lines.
  4. Slips and Falls – Because scaffolding work is work that is elevated, workers are in danger of slipping and falling off the scaffolding. Basic issues of fall protection and fall arrest come into play with this particular form of hazard.

Scaffold and Ladder Safety Training Seminar

The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), in conjunction with the NAHB Research Center, has developed a 2-1/2 hour seminar for builders, trade contractors, supervisors, and workers. This training program focuses on identifying scaffold and ladder hazards in residential construction, as well as providing student attendees an understanding of the OSHA scaffold and ladder regulations and safe work practices to prevent fall-related injuries and deaths.


When: Friday, August 14, 2009

Instructor: George Middleton

Where: Bellevue, WA

Company: Master Builders Association

Host: Andrea Morrison


Phone: 425-460-8219


When: Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Instructor: George Middleton
Where: Olympia, WA
Company: Olympia Master Builders Association
Host: Sally Darrow
360-754-0912 x25

More information and scheduled dates (outside of WA) are available on the NAHB website here.