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Safety in the Workplace: Scaffolding and Electrical Safety

When working in a construction zone, the safety of the workers is paramount. The United States Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has developed certain workplace safety rules that need to be followed in every case. In a situation where a worksite is unsafe, or a worker believes there is a hazard or OSHA violation, an employee can file a complaint with OSHA. This can be done online, over the phone, or by fax or mail. A worker can file the complaint on their own, or have a representative file the complaint on their behalf.

Scaffolds and electricity, when used improperly, are two areas of construction that can lead to serious injury, or even death. Here are some basic rules to follow to keep you and your fellow workers safe.

Scaffolding Safety Basics

As a preliminary matter, scaffolds should be erected on sound footing. If there are parts of the scaffolding that are damaged, they should be removed and replaced. Scaffolding should not be altered from its original configuration. All scaffolding has limits regarding the amount of weight they can hold, and how high they can reliably be constructed. These limits should be known and heeded by employees on the work site. Scaffolds should not be erected within 10 feet of power lines. Similarly, scaffolds should not be moved to within 10 feet of power lines.

Before workers use the erected scaffolding, it should be planked in its entirety. While scaffolding is being used with workers on the scaffolding, the scaffold should not be moved horizontally. The exception to this rule is for scaffold that has been specifically designed to be mobile while erect.  However, in that case both the workers moving the scaffold and the workers on the scaffold must be trained in the proper procedure for movement.

Scaffolds need to be clear of snow, ice, leaves, and other slippery materials before workers use the scaffold. For the workers’ safety, workers should not use scaffolds in periods of high wind or other inclement weather. When a properly trained person who is competent to do so determines working on scaffolds remains safe, despite the weather, work may continue. Workers should not themselves, nor should their employers ask them to, use buckets, boxes, stacks of materials, barrels, or ladders, or other types of makeshift platforms to increase the height of the work area on a scaffold. Workers and employers alike are also cautioned that the scaffold is not a storage area. Care should be taken to make sure extra materials do not accumulate on the scaffold platforms as work goes on over time.

Electrical Safety Basics

Maintaining electrical safety habits is critical to the health and safety of workers on the job. While it may seem obvious, it bears repeating: OSHA requires that work on existing hot electrical circuits, as well as new electrical circuits, shall not commence until all sources of power are shut off and grounds are attached. This is not advisory – it is compulsory. Additionally, there must be a Lockout / Tagout system that is in place. This means that the dangerous energy source is not only shut off, it is isolated and rendered inoperative for the entire time the work is being done. The system must be designed to prevent another worker from inadvertently turning the power back on while work is being done. Additionally, all electric tools must separately be properly grounded. The only exception to this rule is where the electrical tool in question is the type that is double insulated.

Electrical cords and cables should be inspected regularly. Cords and cables that are damaged, worn, frayed, or show other signs of weakness should be replaced promptly and without delay. When using extension cords, care should be taken to protect the extension cords from damage on the work site. Be mindful of things like sharp corners and other objects that could damage an extension cord.  All extension cords used at the work site should have grounding prongs. Multiple plug adapters have no place on a construction site and should not be used.

The electrical tools and equipment used on the work site should also be maintained in a safe condition. Electrical tools and electrical equipment should be inspected regularly, to determine if there are defects present. When defects are discovered, these tools and equipment must be removed and replaced. When using portable electric tools or appliances with extension cord sets, the extension cord sets should be the three wire type, specifically designed for hard or extra hard service. You should see some of the following letters imprinted on the casing of the extension cord:

  • S;
  • ST;
  • STO; or
  • SO.

Workers and employers are reminded that protective devices and protective systems are designed to keep workers safe from electrical energy. These devices should be in place, and respected. Under no circumstances should an employee bypass the protective device or protective system. Even workers who are not electricians should locate power lines, including overhead electrical power lines, for their safety. Scaffolds, ladders, materials and other equipment should never be within ten feet of electrical power lines.

What to Do If You or a Loved One Has Been Injured or Killed Due to an Unsafe Workplace

If you or a loved one has been hurt or killed due to a workplace injury, you may be entitled to compensation for your losses. This could include reimbursement for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and funeral expenses. There is no need to simply wonder if you might be entitled to damages.

Please contact the experienced work injury claim attorneys in Atlanta of Bader Law Firm, LLC if you have been injured on a construction site or other workplace to discuss the unique facts and circumstances of your individual case. You may have a cause of action against your employer. However, be advised that there are time limits and other rules governing your case. You do not have the luxury to fully recover and then determine if you have a cause of action. Call us today.

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