Jan 9, 2024

OSHA's Top 10 Most Cited Violations: Scaffolding

Key Takeaways:

  • Scaffolding is crucial in construction but can pose hazards without proper safety measures.
  • Design and construction must be carried out by qualified personnel, supporting its weight and intended load.
  • Regular inspections and maintenance are required, supervised by a competent person.
  • Proper assembly and disassembly under supervision and following guidelines is essential.
  • Lack of fall protection, insufficient training, overloading, and inadequate planking are common violations that can lead to workplace incidents.
  • Comprehensive training programs covering assembly, disassembly, usage, inspections, and fall protection are crucial.
  • Regular inspections and prompt repairs are essential for identifying defects.
  • Adhering to OSHA standards, addressing common violations, and fostering a safety culture transforms scaffolding into a reliable tool.


Scaffolding is a staple in the construction industry, providing a platform for workers to perform tasks at various heights. However, improper use and inadequate safety measures can transform this essential tool into a potential hazard. As we continue our journey through OSHA's top 10 most cited standards, our focus turns to scaffolding in the construction industry. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into OSHA's standards for scaffolding safety, explore common violations, and provide insights into creating a safer work environment for construction professionals.

Understanding the Importance of Scaffolding Safety:

Scaffolding serves as a critical component in construction projects, enabling workers to access elevated areas efficiently. Despite its simplicity, scaffolding-related incidents contribute significantly to worksite accidents. Recognizing the importance of scaffolding safety is paramount to fostering a workplace culture that prioritizes the well-being of construction workers.

OSHA's Standards for Scaffolding Safety:

Scaffolding Design and Construction:

OSHA mandates that all scaffolds must be designed, constructed, and erected by qualified and trained personnel. This includes ensuring that the scaffold can support its own weight and at least four times the maximum intended load.

Inspection and Maintenance:

Regular inspection and maintenance are crucial to ensuring the safety and integrity of scaffolding. OSHA requires a competent person to inspect scaffolds before each work shift and after any occurrence that could affect the structure's integrity. In this context, a competent person refers to someone who is able to identify existing and potential hazards within a workplace.

Proper Assembly and Disassembly:

Scaffolds must be erected, moved, dismantled, or altered under the supervision of a competent person. Following manufacturer guidelines and OSHA regulations during assembly and disassembly is essential for preventing accidents.

Platform Construction and Access:

Scaffold platforms should be fully planked and have a secure means of access. OSHA specifies that platforms must be at least 18 inches wide, with no more than a 14-inch gap between adjacent planks.

Common Violations:

Despite OSHA's clear guidelines, scaffolding-related violations persist in the construction industry. The following are common violations identified during OSHA inspections:

Lack of Fall Protection:

Fall protection is a frequent violation, particularly when working at heights exceeding 10 feet. OSHA requires the use of guardrails, personal fall arrest systems, or other means to prevent falls.

Insufficient Training:

Workers often lack adequate training on scaffold use and safety procedures, leading to violations. Proper training programs are crucial to ensuring that workers understand the risks associated with scaffolding and know how to mitigate them.

Overloading of Scaffolds:

Exceeding a scaffold's maximum intended load is a serious violation. Proper training on load capacities and regular inspections can prevent overloading incidents.

Inadequate Planking:

Using damaged or insufficiently sized planks on scaffold platforms is a common violation. Regular inspections and maintenance are essential to identify and replace defective components.

Creating a Safer Work Environment:

Ultimately, creating a safer work environment begins with awareness, followed through with a comprehensive training program that accounts for all its workers. First, workers should be made aware of the potential dangers associated with scaffolding, what frameworks are in place to mitigate them, and how to go about their tasks safely and effectively. Once a foundation of awareness is established, the onus is on everyone to develop and adhere to a comprehensive training program that addresses all the potential risks of scaffolding.

Comprehensive Training Programs:

Implementing thorough training programs for all workers involved in scaffolding operations is essential. Training should cover assembly, disassembly, proper use, inspection procedures, and fall protection measures.

Regular Inspections:

Establishing a systematic inspection process ensures that any defects or hazards are promptly identified and addressed. Defective scaffolds should be immediately taken out of service until repairs are made.

Adequate Fall Protection:

Ensuring that fall protection measures are in place and used correctly is crucial. This includes guardrails, personal fall arrest systems and safety nets, depending on the specific conditions.

Clear Communication and Signage:

Clearly communicating guidelines for scaffold use and placing visible signage reinforces safety practices on construction sites. This is particularly important for indicating load capacities and proper usage instructions.

Supervision and Accountability:

Site supervisors play a critical role in enforcing safety protocols. Regular supervision and holding workers accountable for following scaffold safety procedures contribute to a culture of compliance.


Scaffolding is a fundamental element in the construction industry, enabling workers to efficiently work at various heights in their projects. By adhering to OSHA's standards, addressing common violations, and fostering a culture of safety through education and accountability, construction sites can transform scaffolding into a reliable tool for success.

About the Author

Addison Moore
Director of Marketing at Contractor Compliance

Addison has spent the last four years learning from and participating in the Health & Safety community. He has travelled to numerous EHS conferences, trade shows and events with the intention of helping organizations with their contractor management programs. Addison is also responsible for curating the collection of white papers, case studies and eBooks that provide real world insights into the workforce safety space.

Recent Articles