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Ladder and Fall Protection While Painting

Ladders – Introduction

Ladders are a framework consisting of two parallel side pieces (rails) connected by rungs on which a person steps when climbing up or down. There are many types of ladders, each designed for a specific purpose and climbing conditions. OSHA Standards 1926, Subpart X defines and governs the use of portable, fixed, and job-made ladders as well as stairways. Portable ladders are defined as ladders that can be moved or carried; fixed ladders are permanently attached to a structure and cannot be moved; job-made ladders are ladders built by workers at a job site for a specific purpose. The remainder of this section focuses on portable ladders which are the type most often used for painting and decorating. Some general OSHA regulations pertaining to the use of ladders and stairways are:

  • A ladder or stairway must be provided where levels of a work area are separated by 19 inches (48 cm) or more and where there are no other means of access, such as a ramp, runway, sloped embankment, or hoist.
  • Two or more ladders are needed when there is no other way into and out of a work area for 25 or more workers, or when a ladder must handle two-way traffic at the same time.
  • Employers must provide training and retraining as needed for workers who use ladders so that they recognize the hazards involved and learn how to avoid them.

Trade Terms

Aerial lifts: Portable, heavy-duty equipment used to raise or lower workers to and from ar elevated job site.

Arresting force: The force needed to stop a person from falling. The greater the free fall distance, the greater the force needed to stop or arrest the fall.

Deceleration device: A device, such as a shock-absorbing lanyard or self-retracting lifeline, that brings a falling person to a stop without injury.

Deceleration distance: The distance it takes before a person comes to a stop. The required deceleration distance for a fall arrest system is a maximum of 31/2 feet (1.07 meters).

Duty rating: American National Standards Institute (ANSI) rating assigned to ladders. It indicates the amount of use the ladder is designed to handle (industrial, commercial, or household) and the maximum working load limit (weight capacity) of the ladder. The working load limit is the maximum combined weight of the user, tools, and any materials bearing down on the rungs of a ladder.

Free fall distance: The vertical distance a worker moves during a fall before a fall protection deceleration device activates.

Ladder: A wood, metal, or fiberglass framework consisting of two parallel side pieces (rails) connected by rungs on which a person steps when climbing up or down. Ladders may either be of a fixed-length that are permanently attached to a building or structure or portable. Portable ladders have either fixed or adjustable length, and are either self-supporting or not self-supporting.

Personal fall arrest systems: Safety systems that activate and catch workers after they have fallen.

Personal positioning systems: Safety systems that allow workers to hold themselves in place, keeping their hands free to accomplish a task. Whenever the worker leans back, the system is activated.

Scaffold: A temporary built-up framework or suspended platform or work area designed to support workers, materials, and equipment at elevated or otherwise inaccessible job sites.

Single-point suspension scaffold: A manually- or power-operated platform designed for light-duty use supported by one cable or rope from an overhead support. It allows the raising and lowering of the platform to the working position.

Two-point suspension scaffold: A manually- or power-operated platform which is supported by hangers at two points suspended from overhead supports in a way that allows it to be raised or lowered to the working position.

Types of Ladders

Portable ladders can be grouped into five basic types:

  • Stepladders
  • Single ladders
  • Extension ladders
  • Trestle and extension trestle ladders
  • Other ladders

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For most types of portable ladders, OSHA requires that they support at least four times their maximum intended load without failure. Ladder rungs and steps must be shaped or treated to be slip-resistant and they must be level, parallel, and evenly spaced. Ladders can be made of fiberglass, aluminum, or wood. Fiberglass and clean, dry wooden ladders are nonconductive, allowing them to be used when working around electricity. Aluminum ladders are lightweight and easy to move, but should never be used where contact with electrical equipment or lines is possible.

Manufacturers attach labels to ladders to inform users about the safe selection, use, and care of the ladder, and to warn them of hazards. You should always read and follow these labels whenever using any ladder. To prevent accidents, OSHA-approved ladders have a duty rating assigned in accordance with American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standards. This rating indicates the amount of use the ladder is designed to handle and a maximum working load limit. The ladder working load limit includes the combined weight of the user, tools, and any materials bearing down on the ladder rungs. The ANSI duty ratings assigned to ladders are listed below. Painters should use Type IA and Type I industrial ladders because these ladders are built to carry heavy loads and withstand continuous use.

Type IA – Extra heavy-duty industrial use with a limit of 300 pounds (136 kilograms).

Type I – Heavy-duty industrial use with a limit of 250 pounds (113 kilograms).

Type II – Medium-duty commercial use with a limit of 225 pounds (102 kilograms).

Type III – Light-duty household use with a limit of 200 pounds (91 kilograms).


Stepladders are self-supporting, non-adjustable ladders made in sizes ranging from 4 to 16 feet (1.2 to 4.9 meters). They usually have flat, level steps, a movable back frame- hinged to the front legs, and spreaders that hold and lock the ladder open in the safe position.

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Platform Ladder

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They may have a flat top cap or a pail shelf on the back side. Another type of stepladder, called a double stepladder, has steps on both sides that can be climbed by one person at a time. A platform ladder is like a stepladder but has a platform at the highest standing level.

Single And Extension Ladders

Single ladders, also called straight ladders, are not self-supporting. This means that they must be leaned against a structure or surface for support. Straight ladders are made in sizes ranging from 6 to 20 feet (1.8 to 6.1 meters). They usually have two parallel sides, or rails, of fixed length that are joined by rungs.

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Extension ladders are also not self-supporting. They are typically made in sizes from 16 to 60 feet (4.9 to 18.3 meters). Extension ladders are formed by two simple ladders that slide within one another to obtain the height capacity. Do not confuse the term simple ladder with single ladder, since a simple ladder is not built to be used alone. Most extension ladders are equipped with a rope and pulley system to help raise and lower the upper ladder section. Self-locking ring latches attached to one of the sections, support and secure the raised section.

Trestle And Extension Trestle Ladders

Common trestle ladders are self-supporting and have two fixed-length sections of rings joined with hinges and a spreader to hold the sections open in the safe position. Extension trestle ladders have a vertical section that is adjustable in height and extends up between the two sections of the base. The base and extension should overlap at least 3 to 6 feet, depending on the size of the base section. The base sections of common and extension trestle ladders are typically made in sizes ranging from 6 to 16 feet (1.8 to 4.9 meters). The extended length for extension trestle ladders with the same base sizes typically range from about 8 to 24 feet (2.4 to 7.3 meters). A common practice is to suspend a plank between two extension trestle ladders to form a work platform.

Trestle Ladders

Other Ladders

In addition to the ladders described above, there are many other kinds of ladders designed for specific uses. Three kinds commonly used by painters and decorators are sectional ladders combination ladders, and articulated ladders. Sectional ladders are made of two or more sections that are designed to be locked together to form a single, fixed-length ladder.

Sectional Ladders

The maximum assembled length of a typical three-section sectional ladder is between 21 and 26 feet (6.4 to 7.9 meters), depending on the length of the individual sections.

Combination ladders and articulated ladders can be easily reconfigured to form different kinds of ladders. Combination ladders can typically be used as a stepladder, double stepladder, two single ladders, an extension ladder, or a stairway ladder. Articulated ladders can typically be used as a stepladder, single ladder, or placed in a scaffold position.

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Ladder Accessories

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Numerous accessories are made for use with ladders to make them more efficie—N and/or safer. Some common accessories are described below. Some ladder jacks bear on the side rails and rungs of the ladder. If they attach to the rungs only, a bearing of at least 10 inches on each rung must be maintained. Only heavy- duty ladders (Type IA or Type I) should be used as supports, and they should be secured at both ends to prevent slipping. Ladder jacks are adjustable so that the platform is level regardless of the pitch of the ladder. The platform should be no more than 20 feet off the ground.

Ladder hooks – Ladder hooks are devices that attach to the ladder and connect to a roof, pipe, or similar anchorage for support. Folding ladder hooks bolt to the ladder and fold out of the way when not in use.

Ladder shoes – Ladder shoes mount onto the base of the ladder side rails and may be made of rubber or vinyl; others are made of metal with a rubber foot pad. Some have spurs or short metal spikes that can be flipped into position. Some ladder shoes are adjustable to the level of the surface. All ladder shoes are designed to give the ladder stability and resistance to slipping.

V-rungs – V-rungs are bars that mount across the top of a ladder and have a V-shaped groove to give the ladder better support against poles and corners. Similar devices, called pole lashes and pole straps, attach to a ladder and wrap around a pole to give the ladder stability.

Levelers – Levelers are side rail attachments that extend to a desired length and make the ladder level when the surface between the side rails is uneven, such as on a staircase.

End caps – End caps cover the tops of side rails to prevent them from marring the supporting surface and to help make the ladder resistant to slipping.

Stabilizers – Stabilizers attach to the upper end of a ladder to give it a wider base for support against a surface.

Tool and paint trays – Tool and paint trays mount onto ladder rungs to hold tools and cans or trays of paint.

Selecting and Erecting a Ladder for use

Selection of the right ladder for the job at hand is important to complete a job as safely and efficiently as possible. When selecting a ladder, consider its features and how it meets the job. Always consider the highest duty rating and weight limit needed, as well as the height requirements. A ladder that is too long or too short does not allow the work surface to be reached easily or comfortably.

Step, Platform, And Trestle Ladders

To determine the height of a stepladder, platform ladder, or trestle ladder needed for a particular job, consider the ladder’s highest standing level as marked on the ladder plus your reach. Next, choose a ladder at least one foot higher than you need. This gives you a wider, more stable base and allows you to place the pail shelf at a convenient working height. Table 1 shows the ladder size and maximum standing height for common stepladders.

Ladder Size (Feet) Maximum Standing Height (Feet)










Stepladder Size Versus Maximum Standing Height

Position Stepladder So Feet Are Level And Spreaders Are Locked

Extension And Single Ladders

When selecting the size of an extension ladder, the ladder’s maximum extended length and highest recommended standing level, usually the fourth rung from the top, must be considered. Also, OSHA requires that when a ladder is used to reach a roof or landing, the side rails must extend three feet above the eaves of the roof or edge of the landing. Table 2 shows the maximum working length for 16-foot through 40-foot extension ladders. The sizes given it the table account for the proper overlap of ladder sections, the ladder angle, and a 3-foot extension above the eaves of a roof or landing.

Size (Feet) Maximum Extended Length (Feet) Maximum Working Height (Feet)





















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Step 2 Once upright, raise the extended sections of an extension ladder to the desired height. Make sure that the safety latches for all sections securely engage the rungs of the base section or the section below.

Step 3 Position the bottom of the ladder so that the horizontal distance between its feet and the support point at the top is about 1/4 of the ladder’s working length. If you are going to step off the ladder onto a platform or roof, remember to make sure the top of the ladder extends at least three feet beyond the support point. Also, make sure there is a solid contact of the top rails at the support point. Do not lean the rails against loose, unsafe, or movable objects.

Step 4 Make sure that the feet of the ladder are at an equal distance from the wall and have a secure footing on a solid, level base. Never set a ladder on a soft or uneven ground or movable objects. Ladders placed on slippery surfaces should be secured or equipped with slip-resistant feet to prevent them from moving.

Step 5 Once the ladder is in position, tie off the top and bottom to make it secure.

Ladder Safety

To prevent falls when climbing ladders, be sure to comply with the following safety rules:

  • One person should hold the ladder while the other ties off and secures the ladder.
  • Grasp the ladder firmly and always face the ladder when climbing up or down. Follow-, the three-point rule: at least three parts of your body-either two feet and a hand o. two hands and a foot-should be in contact with the ladder at all times. Keep your body centered on the ladder and do not overreach. Climb down and reposition the ladder, if necessary.
  • Test every rung or step before putting your full weight on it.
  • Do not carry anything on a ladder that may cause loss of balance or a fall. Haul job materials or tools with a rope hoist.
  • Clean grease, oil, mud, wet paint, or any slippery material from the rungs or steps of a ladder and from the bottom of work boots before climbing.
  • Never climb higher than the highest standing level marked on a ladder, generally the third or fourth rung from the top of a straight or extension ladder or the second step from the top of a stepladder.
  • Do not skip rungs or steps when climbing up or down.
  • Never allow more than one person on a ladder at a time unless it is made for two-person use.
  • Never stand or sit on the top cap or the paint shelf of a stepladder.
  • Always move or extend a ladder from the ground-never the roof-and never while it is occupied.

In addition to the previously described safety rules, the following general safety rules concerning ladders should also be followed to prevent falls and other accidents:

  • Keep the area around the top and bottom of a ladder free from clutter and debris.
  • Never use a ladder in a manner for which it was not designed. For example, do not use a stepladder as a straight ladder.
  • Do not use an extension ladder upside down.
  • Avoid using a ladder in windy or stormy weather.
  • Never leave a ladder in position and unattended, especially near children.
  • Never use pallets or skids as ladders.

Ladder Maintenance

Ladders must be properly maintained to provide for safe use and a long life. To avoid premature wear or damage, they should not be dropped, thrown, or exposed to excessive heat or corrosive materials. Before every use, a ladder should be thoroughly inspected for:

  • Rungs or steps that are missing, broken, or loose
  • Rails that are split, cracked, or dented
  • Rails that form loose connections with the steps or rungs
  • Hardware that is missing or loose
  • Locks or spreaders that are missing, broken, worn, or do not engage properly
  • Ropes that are missing or worn
  • Pulleys that are missing, broken, or loose
  • Accessories, such as nonslip devices, that are missing, broken, loose, or worn
  • Excessive weathering of wooden and fiberglass ladders, such as degradation or fading from ultraviolet sunlight
  • Corrosion of metal ladders

Note: Clear wood preservative will help extend the life of a wooden ladder.

Do not use an opaque coating because it will hide defects, such as cracks or splits, which are signs of trouble.

Ladders should be stored in a warm, dry place protected from the weather and from contact with the ground. They should also be kept from sagging during storage. Defective ladders should be tagged with a warning that they are not to be used. They should then be either repaired or replaced. Repairs should be made only by a qualified person.

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Scaffolds are temporary built-up frameworks or suspended platforms designed to support workers, materials, and equipment at elevated or otherwise inaccessible work locations. All scaffolds must be used and assembled in accordance with all local, state, and federal/OSHA laws and codes. They may be built up from the ground or suspended from a structure. Depending on their design, scaffolds are classified for light-duty, medium-duty, or heavy-duty use, meaning they can safely support loads up to 25, 50, or 75 pounds per square foot (psf) or 1.05, 2.1, or 3.15 kilograms per square meter, respectively. OSHA Standards 1926, Subpart L defines and governs the use of scaffolds. OSHA requires that the building, moving, or dismantling of all scaffolding be supervised by a competent person. A competent person is one who has the training, knowledge, and experience to identify hazards on the job site and the authority to eliminate them. Some general OSHA regulations pertaining to the use of scaffolds are:

  • All scaffolds must be able to support at least four times their maximum intended load; scaffold cable or rope must be able to support at least six times the rated load.
  • Poles, legs, and uprights must be plumb and securely braced. Footings must be sound and able to support the maximum intended load. Planking must be secured to the scaffold. It must also be of the proper grade and size for the load.
  • A ladder or other safe means must be available for accessing the scaffold.
  • Any scaffold that is 10 feet (3.04 meters) or more off the ground or surface (less in some states) must have guardrails, mid rails, and toeboards (Figure 10) made of lumber or other suitable material on all open sides and ends. The guardrail should be placed about 42 inches (106.7 cm) high. The mid rail should be halfway between the guardrail and the toeboard, which should run along the base perimeter of the scaffold. The prescribed dimensions are 2 x 4 inches for guard rails, 1 x 6 inches for mid rails, and at least 4 inches (10.16 cm) high for toeboards. If anyone must work or pass under the scaffold, the space between the guardrail and toeboard should be covered with wire mesh to prevent tools or materials from falling below. Any scaffold between 4 and 10 feet (1.22 and 3.05 m) high and less than 45 inches (114.3 cm) long or wide must have guardrails on all open sides -.- and ends.
  • Any damaged scaffold must be repaired or replaced immediately.

Parts Of A Typical Built-Up Scaffold

Types of Scaffolds

There are many kinds of scaffolds, each designed for a specific use and job site condition. Some – common scaffolds include:

  • Built-up scaffolds
  • Swing scaffolds
  • Beam-suspended scaffolds

Built-Up Scaffolds

Built-up scaffolds are assembled from the ground up at the job site. OSHA has a height limit of 125 feet for built-up scaffolds. Scaffolds higher than 125 feet must be designed by a professional engineer and approved by OSHA before use. Most built-up scaffolds are manufactured scaffolds made from tubular steel that can be fitted together to form complete sections. For light-duty use, scaffolds are sometimes made from aluminum or wood. There are two main types of manufactured steel built-up scaffolds: tubular welded frame scaffolds and tube and coupler scaffolds.

Tubular welded frame scaffolds are used in accessible places with fairly level ground conditions. They use manufactured, welded-end frame sections made in various heights and widths that are joined with horizontal and diagonal cross braces and secured by pins. The braces have a fixed length that automatically squares and vertically aligns vertical members so that the erected scaffold is always plumb, square, and rigid. The scaffold is extended by adding braces and frames until the desired length is reached. Scaffold height is increased by stacking end frames on top of each other. The bottoms of the legs of the upper end frames slide into the tops of the legs of the lower end frames and are joined together with drop locks and coupling pins.

Tube and coupler scaffolds are typically used in difficult or inaccessible places. The various tubes that form the scaffold are attached together as required with right-angle or swivel clamps to build up a scaffold to go over uneven ground and unusual shapes. End fittings are used to connect the end of one tube with another.

Tube And Coupler Scaffold System

Metal base plates attached to the tubular legs or posts of both tube and coupler and tubular welded frame scaffolds serve as a foundation for stationary scaffolds. On dirt and similar surfaces, planks called sills or mud sills must be placed beneath the base plates to provide a secure and level footing for the scaffold. Leveling jacks are frequently used with the base plates to aid in leveling the scaffold. To prevent movement, built-up scaffolds must be secured to the structure at intervals not to exceed 26 feet (7.62 meters) vertically and 30 feet (9.14 meters) horizontally.

Tubular welded frame scaffolds are often equipped with casters on the bottom of the frame legs to form a freestanding mobile scaffold tower. Note that mobile scaffolds should only be used on level, smooth surfaces that are free of obstructions and openings. Regulations require that mobile scaffold casters support four times the maximum intended load. They must also have a positive locking device to hold the scaffold in place. The height of mobile towers must not exceed four times the smaller base dimension. For example, if the scaffold’s base is 3 feet (0.91 meter) by 6 feet (1.82 meters), its height should be no more than 12 feet (3.66 meters). Outriggers, which are supports that attach to both sides of the scaffold base (Figure 13), can be used to increase the size of the base dimension. When moving a mobile scaffold, force should be applied as close to the base as possible to avoid tipping it over.

Swing Scaffolds

A swing scaffold, sometimes called a two-point suspension scaffold, is suspended from a building or structure by two ropes or cables in a manner that allows it to be raised or lowered as needed. It consists of a platform or stage, hangers, hoisting mechanism, ropes or cables, and rigging devices. The platform or stage provides for a work area of 24 to 36 inches wide that is securely attached to the hangers.

The platform may be metal or wooden. Platform types are described in more detail later in this section. Suspended scaffold platforms are required to have guardrails, midrails, and toeboards on all open sides and ends. The platform is supported at each end by steel hangers, often called stirrups or triangles. These are attached to wire cables or ropes, which may be made of wire, fiber, or synthetic material, suspended from rigging devices that are secured to the building or structure. The suspension system and rigging devices (including their support on the structure) must be able to hold four times the rated load of the hoist. However, OSHA requires that the ropes or cables used be able to support at least six times the rated load. Safety lines must be used when working on the swing scaffold. These lines should always be tied off to different anchor points than those used to support the scaffold.

Cornice hooks, parapet clamps, or outrigger beams are rigging devices commonly used to support swing scaffolds. A cornice hook is a steel device that hooks to a roof, parapet, or structural support. A parapet clamp fits over and clamps onto a parapet that runs along the perimeter of a roof. An outrigger beam is an arm that extends beyond the edge of the roof. Some out-rigging devices have wheels so that they can roll along the roof as the work progresses. Rigging devices are anchored and secured to the building or structure with tieback lines installed perpendicular (at right angles) to the face of the structure. Tieback lines must be as strong as the suspension ropes or cables.

Cornice hooks or parapet clamps are typically used when working on older buildings. For this reason, it is extremely important to make sure that the cornice or parapet to which they attach is structurally sound and capable of supporting the combined weight of the scaffold and workers. If there is any doubt, always have an engineer or other competent person check the structural integrity of the cornice or parapet before using it to support the scaffold.

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The scaffold’s hoisting mechanism enables the worker to raise or lower the scaffold. For manually-operated scaffolds, the mechanism consists of ropes or cables rigged through tackle blocks and pulleys. Many scaffolds have hoist mechanisms powered by electricity (Figure 16) or compressed air. Per ANSI standards, these powered hoists are limited to a maximum speed of 35 feet per minute. They must also have speed reducers and both primary and secondary brakes. Safety devices are also built into powered hoist systems to prevent operation of the scaffold if it is overloaded and to lower the unit without power if necessary.

Beam-Suspended Scaffolds

Beam-suspended scaffolds are typically used when working on bridges or other industrial steel structures. They are suspended with a clamp or roller-type rigging devices that hook onto the lower flanges of two parallel I-beams, each having a bar or bracket to which the scaffold is attached. The roller-type device has wheels that allow the scaffold to be moved along the I-beam flanges as work progresses. This allows the job to continue without having to stop to lower the scaffold and reposition the rigging.

Some important guidelines that pertain to the installation and use of beam-suspended scaffolds are given below:

  • Make sure the I-beam is level, or else the rollers may move. If the I-beam is not level, secure the rigging devices to prevent accidental movement.
  • Never use this type of equipment on open-ended beams that could allow the scaffold to roll off the supports.
  • Install stops if the flange is interrupted anywhere along the beam.
  • Check that the width of the flange is uniform along the entire length of the beam. A roller set to a particular width could derail if the width of the flange narrows unexpectedly.

Other Types Of Scaffolds

There are many types of scaffolds used by painters and decorators and covered by OSHA regulations or ANSI standards. Some common scaffolds are listed below:

Ladder-type scaffold – A scaffold made with a plank or platform placed between two heavy- duty, self-supporting ladders.

Ladder jack scaffold – A light-duty scaffold with a platform supported by a pair of a bracket, called ladder jacks, which should be attached to heavy-duty ladders according to propel positioning requirements. A ladder jack scaffold should be no more than 20 feet high.

Multiple-level suspension scaffold – A scaffold with several levels of work platforms supported by the same suspension system, which allows it to move up or down.

Multiple point suspension scaffold – A scaffold suspended by a rope or cable at each corner. It may have just one platform or multiple platforms joined together to form a larger work area.

Outrigger scaffold – A scaffold for light-duty or medium-duty use that is suspended from outrigger beams anchored inside a building or structure.

Pump jack scaffold – A platform placed between metal brackets that can be positioned on vertical poles that are braced to the wall of a building or structure (Figure 18). The poles should be no more than 30 feet high.

Window jack scaffold – A one-person platform supported by a bracket anchored inside a window opening.

Scaffold Platforms

The platform or working area of a scaffold may be a plank, deck, or stage. Planks may be made of solid wood or assembled out of wood or metal parts. Planks can have a fixed length, or they can be expandable. An expandable plank also called an extension plank, is made of two or three interlocking wood or metal sections that can be extended to lengthen the plank. For example, an 8-foot (2.44-meter) extension plank typically can be extended to 13 feet (3.96 meters). OSHA regulations specify the type and grade of wood used in wooden planks and the required lengths for different types of lumber planks depending on use. Regulations also require that the planking must be overlapped by at least one foot or be secured from moving. Planks must also extend 6 to 12 inches over the end supports.

Scaffold Platforms

Deck and stage platforms are similar in that both are made with two parallel side rails that are connected with rungs or cross members. The base of a deck is typically covered with plywood or aluminum sheeting. Its ends may be equipped with metal hooks used to attach the deck to the horizontal supports of tubular scaffolding. The base and covering of stage platforms are generally made from heavy-duty aluminum for use with swing or other suspended scaffolds. Many come equipped with aluminum guardrails and toeboards. Deck and stage platforms come in various lengths and widths.

Boatswain’s (Bosun’s) Chair And Work Cages

Boatswain’s chairs and work cages are single-point suspension scaffolds, meaning they are suspended from an overhead support by a single cable or rope. Normally, they are used by one worker at a time. Both types provide for good maneuverability and accessibility for light- duty work in areas not accessible by other types of scaffolds. Depending on the design, the operator can raise or lower the platform manually with a block and tackle or use an electric or compressed air-powered hoist. A boatswain’s chair is basically a seat attached to a suspended cable or rope. The chair is typically made of nylon rigging with a plywood seat. The worker is restricted to a sitting position with little or no room for tools or equipment on the chair. If necessary, these items can be tied to the chair.


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A work cage is a single-point adjustable suspension scaffold with the platform enclosed with guardrails and toeboards. It is large enough to allow the operator to work standing up. Two work cage units are sometimes rigged to form a two-point suspension (swing) scaffold.

Scaffold Safety

Improper or careless use of scaffolds can result in accidents, injury, or death. Everyone who works on scaffolds can minimize their risks by following the safety guidelines given below.

General Safety Guidelines

Safety begins by first getting training in the proper use of scaffolds. Equally important is to always use the right safety equipment, including a hard hat and personal fall arrest equipment. Detailed information about the types and use of personal fall equipment is given later in this module. Never work on a scaffold if you:

  • Are subject to seizures
  • Become dizzy or lightheaded when working at an elevation
  • Take medication that might affect your stability or performance
  • Are under the influence of drugs or alcohol

Always erect and use scaffolds according to the manufacturer’s instructions. They must also be erected and used in accordance with all local, state, and federal/OSHA requirements. Never interchange parts of scaffold systems made by different manufacturers. As appropriate, attach a green, red, or yellow tag to any scaffold that is assembled and erected to alert users of its current mechanical and safety status. Do not rely solely on the tag. Always inspect all parts of a scaffold before each use.


Typical Scaffold Tags

Safety Guidelines For Built-Up Scaffolds

  • Comply with the following guidelines when erecting and using tubular built-up scaffolds:
  • Inspect all scaffolding parts before assembly. Never use parts that are broken, damaged, or deteriorated. Be cautious of rusted materials. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for the proper way to erect and use scaffolding. Do not interchange parts from different manufacturers. Do not force braces or other parts to fit. Adjust the level of the scaffold until the connections can be made easily.
  • Provide adequate sills or underpinnings for all scaffolds built on filled or soft ground. Compensate for uneven ground by using adjusting screws or leveling jacks. Do not use boxes, concrete blocks, bricks, or other similar objects to support a scaffold.
  • Be sure scaffolds are plumb and level at all times. Follow the prescribed spacing and positioning requirements for the parts of the scaffold. Anchor or “tie-in” scaffolding to the building at prescribed intervals.
  • Use ladders rather than cross braces to climb the scaffold. Position ladders with caution to prevent the scaffold tower from tipping.
  • Keep scaffolds free of clutter and any slippery material.
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  • Do not work on a scaffold that is more than 10 feet high without guardrails, mid rails, and toeboards on open sides and ends.
  • Lock the casters of a mobile scaffold when it is positioned for use.
  • Do not ride a mobile scaffold.
  • Avoid building scaffolds near power lines.

Safety Guidelines For Swing And Other Suspended Scaffolds

Comply with the following guidelines when erecting and using swing and other suspended scaffolds:

  • Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for installation, use, and maintenance of the equipment. Before installation, inspect all parts of a structure to which rigging and tieback lines will be secured to be sure that they can support the load.
  • Be sure rigging devices are of the proper size and design to support the scaffold and that they are installed properly. If counterweights are used to secure the inner end of outrigger beams, they should be fastened to the outrigger. Roofing materials, sand bags, or any “flowable” materials are not appropriate counterweights. Check that tieback lines are installed perpendicular to the face of the structure and secured to a solid support.
  • Check for power lines or electric service wires on the job site. If they pose a hazard, contact the utility company about having them temporarily deactivated.
  • Inspect all scaffold equipment each day. Check ropes and cables thoroughly for wear, fraying, corrosion, brittleness, damage, or other conditions that may weaken them. Have them replaced as necessary by qualified personnel.
  • Observe the scaffold’s load capacity; never overload the equipment.
  • Keep suspension ropes and cables straight and perpendicular to the platform during use. Do not affix them to anything to change the line of travel.
  • Lash the scaffold to the building or structure to prevent it from swaying.
  • Stay off scaffolds during storms or high winds; watch for icy or slippery platforms.
  • Guarantee safe access to the swing stage at all times.
  • Use two-way radios for communication between workers on the scaffold and on the ground.
  • Do not combine two or more two-point swing scaffolds to form one unit. (However, two single-point suspension scaffolds can be combined to form a two-point suspension scaffold.)
  • Raise and lash the scaffold into a safe position when not in use

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Ariel Lifts

Aerial work platforms and scissor power lifts are portable aerial lifts used to raise or lower workers to and from elevated job sites. Both types are made in various models. Some are transported on a vehicle to the job site where they are unloaded. Others are trailer-mounted and towed to the job site by a vehicle. Still others are permanently mounted onto a vehicle. Depending on their design, they can be used for indoor work, outdoor work, or both. Figure 22 shows an aerial work platform and scissor lift designed for indoor use. Boom lifts, often called cherry pickers, are truck or trailer-mounted lifts designed for both indoor and outdoor use. Boom lifts have a single arm that extends a work platform/enclosure capable of holding one or two workers. Some models have a jointed (articulated) arm that allows the wort platform to be positioned both horizontally and vertically. Scissor lifts raise a work enclosure vertically by means of crisscrossed supports. Most aerial work platforms and scissor lifts are powered either by electric motors or hydraulically.


Ladders and Fall protection_Picture26


Ladders and Fall protection_Picture27

OSHA Standards 1926, Subpart N defines and governs the use of aerial lifts. Some guidelines for using lifts safely are given below:

  • Know the capacity and operating characteristics of the aerial platform. Do not overload the platform. Use a lift only on a solid, stable surface. Lock the wheels, especially on an incline. Avoid using a lift outdoors in stormy weather or in strong winds.
  • Inspect the equipment before each use, as specified by the manufacturer, to make sure everything is in proper working order. Have any defects repaired before using the lift. Never modify or remove any part of the equipment unless authorized to do so by the manufacturer.
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  • Check the job site for any hazards that may cause the lift to overturn. Check for hazards above, below, and all around the path of travel. Make sure to maintain a safe distance from electrical power lines and other electrical hazards.
  • Prevent people from walking beneath the work area of the platform.
  • Use personal fall arrest equipment (body harness, lanyard, and lifeline), if required, for the type of lift being used.
  • Lower the lift and lock it into place before moving the equipment. Also, lower the lift, shut off the engine, set the parking brake, and remove the key before leaving it unattended.
  • Keep the lift free from oil, grease, wet paint, mud, or any slippery material.
  • Do not lean over the guardrails of the platform, and never stand on the guardrails

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Fall Protection Equipment

Painters and decorators spend a major part of their time working on ladders, scaffolds, and lifts in order to reach elevated work areas. Falls from such high places can cause serious injury or death when the wrong kinds of fall protection equipment are used, or when the right equipment is used improperly.

There are three common types of fall protection equipment: guardrails, personal fall arrest systems, and/or safety nets. This section will focus on personal fall arrest systems and safety nets. These devices and their use are governed by OSHA Standards 1926, Subpart M. Guardrails used with scaffolds were described earlier in this module. It should be pointed out that OSHA Standards 1926, Subpart M also covers guardrails but the rules given in this subpart do not apply to guardrails on scaffolds. The rules covering guardrails on scaffolds are contained in OSHA Standards 1926, Subpart L. Basically, OSHA requires that all workers use guardrail systems, safety net systems, or personal fall arrest systems to protect themselves from free falling more than 6 feet (1.8 meters) and hitting the ground or a lower work level.

Personal Fall Arrest Systems

Personal fall arrest systems catch workers after they have fallen. They are designed to activate only if a fall occurs. As stated previously, they are designed and rigged to prevent a worker from free falling a distance of more than 6 feet (1.8 meters) and hitting the ground or a lower work area. When describing personal fall arrest systems, the terms defined below must be understood:

Free fall distance – The vertical distance a worker moves after a fall before a deceleration device is activated.

Deceleration device – A device such as a shock-absorbing lanyard or self-retracting lifeline that brings a falling person to a stop without injury.

Deceleration distance – The distance it takes before a person comes to a stop. The required deceleration distance for a fall arrest system is a maximum of 31/2 feet (1.07 meters).

Arresting force – The force needed to stop a person from falling. The greater the free fall distance, the more force is needed to stop or arrest the fall.

Equipment used in personal fall arrest systems includes:

  • Body harnesses and belts
  • Lanyards
  • Deceleration devices
  • Lifelines
  • Anchoring devices and equipment connectors

Body Harnesses

Full-body harnesses with sliding back D-rings are used in personal fall arrest systems. They are made of straps that are designed to be worn securely around the user’s body. This allows the arresting force to be distributed via the harness straps throughout the body, including the shoulders, legs, torso, and buttocks. This distribution decreases the chance of injury. When a fall occurs, the sliding D-ring moves to the nape of the neck, keeping the worker in an upright position and helping to distribute the arresting force. This keeps the worker in a relatively comfortable position while waiting for rescue.

Full-Body Harness

Selecting the right full-body harness depends on a combination of job requirements and personal preference. Harness manufacturers normally provide selection guidelines in their product literature. Other types of full-body harnesses can be equipped with front chest D-rings, side D-rings, or shoulder D-rings. Harnesses with front chest D-rings are typically used in ladder climbing and personal positioning systems. Those with side D-rings are also used in personal positioning systems. Personal positioning systems are systems that allow workers to hold themselves in place, keeping their hands free to accomplish a task. Per OSHA regulations, a personal positioning system should not allow a worker to free fall more than 2 feet (0.61 meter), and the anchorage to which it is attached should be able to support at least twice the impact load of a worker’s fall or 3,000 pounds (13.3 kilonewtons), whichever is greater. Harnesses equipped with shoulder D-rings are typically used with a spreader bar or rope yoke for entry into and retrieval from confined spaces.

Note that in the past, body belts were frequently used instead of a full-body harness as part of a fall arrest system. As of January 1, 1998, they are banned from such use. This is because body belts concentrate all of the arresting force in the abdominal area. Also, after a fall, the worker hangs in an uncomfortable and potentially dangerous position while awaiting rescue. Today, the use of body belts is limited to personal positioning systems.

Body Belts


Lanyards are short, flexible lines with connectors on each end. They are used to connect a body harness or body belt to a lifeline, deceleration device, or anchorage point. There are many kinds of lanyards made for different uses and climbing situations. All must have a minimum breaking strength of 5,000 pounds (22.2 kilonewtons). They come in both fixed lengths and adjustable lengths and are made out of steel, rope, or nylon webbing. Some have a shock absorber which absorbs up to 80% of the arresting force when a fall is being stopped. When choosing a lanyard for a particular job, it is a good idea to always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations.

CAUTION! When activated during the fall arresting process, a shock-absorbing lanyard stretches as it acts to reduce the fall arresting force. This potential increase in length must always be taken into consideration when determining the total free fall distance from an anchor point.

Typical Shock-Absorbing Lanyard

Deceleration Devices

Deceleration devices limit the arresting force that a worker is subjected to when the fall is stopped suddenly. Rope grabs and self-retracting lifelines are two common deceleration devices. A rope grab (Figure 26) connects to a lanyard and attaches to a lifeline. In the event of a fall, the rope grab is pulled down by the attached lanyard, causing it to grip the lifeline and lock in place. Some rope grabs have a mechanism that allows the worker to unlock the device and slowly descends down the lifeline to the ground or surface below.

Typical Shock-Absorbing Lanyard


Ladders and Fall protection_Picture31


Ladders and Fall protection_Picture32

Self-retracting lifelines provide for unrestricted movement and fall protection while climbing and descending ladders, etc., or when working on multiple levels. Typically, they have a 25-foot to 100-foot galvanized steel cable that automatically takes up the slack in the attached lanyard, keeping the lanyard out of the worker’s way. In the event of a fall, a centrifugal braking mechanism engages to limit the worker’s free fall. Per OSHA requirements, self-retracting lifelines and lanyards that limit the free fall distance to 2 feet (0.61 meter) or less must be able to support a minimum tensile load of 3,000 pounds (13.3 kilonewtons). Those that do not limit the free fall to 2 feet (0.61 meter) or less must be able to hold a tensile load of at least 5,000 pounds (22.2 kilonewtons).


Lifelines are normally flexible steel cables that are attached to an anchorage. They provide a means for tying off personal fall protection equipment. Vertical lifelines are suspended vertically from a fixed anchorage at the upper end to which a fall arrest device such as a rope grab is attached. Vertical lifelines must have a minimum breaking strength of 5,000 pounds (22.2 kilonewtons). Each worker must use his or her own line. This is because if one worker falls, the movement of the lifeline during the fall arrest may also cause the other workers to fall. Vertical lifelines must be terminated in a way that will keep the worker from moving past its end or must extend to the ground or the next lower working level.

Horizontal lifelines are connected horizontally between two fixed anchorages to which a fall arrest device is attached. Horizontal lifelines must be designed, installed, and used under the supervision of a qualified and competent person. The more workers tied off to a single horizontal line, the stronger the line and anchors must be.

Anchoring Devices And Equipment Connectors

Anchoring devices, commonly called tie-off points, support the entire weight of the fall arrest system. The anchorage must be capable of supporting 5,000 pounds (22.2 kilonewtons) for each worker attached. Eye bolts, overhead beams, and integral parts of building structures are all types of anchorage points.

The D-rings, buckles, snap-hooks, etc. that fasten and/or connect the parts of a personal fall arrest system are called connectors. OSHA regulations specify how they are to be made, and require D-rings and snap-hooks to have a minimum tensile strength of 5,000 pounds (22.2 kilonewtons). All such components should be designed for use with the attached hardware. As of January 1, 1998, only locking-type snap-hooks are permitted for use in personal fall arrest systems.

Procedures for Safely Using Personal Fall Arrest Equipment

Before using fall protection equipment on the job, your employer should provide you wi4– training in the basics of fall protection and the proper use of the equipment. All equipment, supplied by your employer must meet OSHA standards for strength. Before each use, always read the instructions and warnings on any fall protection equipment. Inspect the equipment using the following guidelines:

  • Examine harnesses and lanyards for mildew, wear, damage, and deterioration.
  • Make sure no straps are cut, broken, torn, or scraped.
  • Check for damage due to fire, chemicals, or corrosives.
  • Hardware should be free of cracks, sharp edges, or burrs.
  • Snaphooks should close and lock tightly. Buckles should work properly.
  • Check ropes for wear, broken fibers, pulled stitches, and discoloration.
  • Make sure lifeline anchors and mountings are not loose or damaged.

Do not mix or match equipment from different manufacturers. All substitutions must be approved by your supervisor. All damaged or defective parts must be taken out of service immediately and tagged as unusable or destroyed. If the equipment is subjected to impact from a fall, remove it from service until it can be inspected by a qualified person.

Wearing A Full-Body Harness

General guidelines for wearing a sliding back D-ring full-body harness are given below:

Step 1 Hold the harness by the back D-ring, then shake the harness, allowing all the straps to fall into place.

Step 2 Unbuckle and release the waist and/or leg straps.

Step 3 Slip straps over the shoulders so that the D-ring is located in the middle of the back.

Step 4 Fasten the waist strap. It should be tight but not binding. Step 5 At each leg, pull the straps between the legs and buckle.

Step 6 After all the straps have been buckled, tighten all friction buckles so that the harness fits snugly but allows full range of movement.

Step 7 Pull the chest strap around the shoulder straps and fasten in the mid-chest area. Tighten enough to pull the shoulder straps taut.

Selecting An Anchor Point And Tying Off

Once the full-body harness has been put on, the next step is to connect it either directly indirectly to a secure anchor point. This is called tying off. Tying off is always done before you get into a position from which you can fall. A good practice is to follow the manufacturers. Slip Straps Over Shoulders So D-Ring Is Located In The Middle Of The Back instructions on the best tie-off methods for your equipment. Use the following general guidelines when selecting an anchorage and tying off.

Slip Straps Over Shoulders So D-Ring Is Located In The Middle Of The Back

When selecting an anchorage point, it should be:

  • Directly above the worker
  • Easily accessible
  • Damage free and capable of supporting 5,000 pounds (22.2 kilonewtons) per worker
  • High enough so that no lower level is struck should a fall occur

Be sure to check the manufacturer’s equipment labels and allow for any equipment stretch and deceleration distance.

When tying off, consider the following:

  • Tie-offs that use knots are weaker than other methods of attachment. Knots can reduce the lifeline or lanyard strength by 50% or more. A stronger lifeline or lanyard should be used to compensate for this effect.
  • To protect equipment from cuts, do not tie off around rough or sharp surfaces. Tying off around H-beams or I-beams can weaken the line because of the cutting action of the beam’s edge. This can be prevented by using a webbing-type lanyard or wire-core lifeline.
  • Never tie off in a way that would allow you to free fall more than 6 feet (1.83 meters).
  • A shorter free fall can reduce your chances of falling into obstacles, being injured by the arresting force, and damaging your equipment. To limit your free fall, a shorter lanyard can be used between the lifeline and your harness. Also, the amount of slack in your lanyard can be reduced by raising your tie-off point on the lifeline. The tie-off to the lifeline or anchor must always be higher than the connection to your harness. Vancouver’s Best Painters: Painters painting in Vancouver

Safety Net Systems

Safety nets are used for fall protection on bridges and similar projects. They must be installed as close as practical beneath the work area, but not more than 30 feet (9.14 meters). OSI-. requires enough clearance under a safety net to prevent a worker who falls into it from hitting the surface below. Also, there must be no obstruction between the work area and the net. Depending on the actual vertical distance between the net and the work area, the net must extend at least 8 to 13 feet (2.44 to 3.96 meters) beyond the edge of the work area. Mesh openings in the net are limited to 36 square inches (91.44 square centimeters) and 6 inches (15.24 centimeters) on the side. The border rope must have a 5,000-pound (22.2-kilonewton) minimum breaking strength, and connections between net panels must be as strong as the nets themselves. Safety nets must be inspected at least once a week and after any event that might have damaged or weakened them. Worn or damaged nets must be removed from service.

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Rescue After Fall

Every elevated job site should have a rescue and retrieval plan in case it is necessary to rescue a fallen worker. Planning is especially important in remote areas that are not readily accessible to a telephone. Before there is a risk of a fall, make sure that you know what your employer’s rescue plan calls for you to do. Find out what rescue equipment is available and where it is located. Learn how to use equipment for self-rescue and the rescue of others.

If a fall occurs, any employee hanging from the fall arrest system must be rescued safely and quickly. Your employer should have previously determined the method of rescue for fall victims, which may include equipment that lets the victim rescue himself or herself, a system of rescue by coworkers, or a way to alert a trained rescue squad. If fall rescue depends on calling for outside help such as the fire department, rescue squad, etc., all the needed phone numbers must be posted in plain view at the work site. In the event, a co-worker falls, follow your employer’s rescue plan. Call any special rescue service needed. Communicate with the victim and monitor him or her constantly during the rescue.

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Testing Fall Protection System and Equipment

The testing of fall arrest equipment should be performed regularly to make sure it is in compliance with OSHA requirements. Depending on the prevailing state and local laws, the tests may be either mandatory or voluntary. Guidelines for testing personal fall arrest equipment and systems are given in OSHA Standards 1926, Appendices C and D to Subpart M. A good practice is to tag or label all items of fall protection equipment with the date when the equipment was last tested and the date it is due for the next test.

Safety nets should be drop-tested at the job site after the initial installation, whenever relocated, after a repair, and at least every six months if left in one place. The drop test consists, of a 400-pound (180-kilogram) bag of sand of 29 to 31 inches (71 to 81 cm) in diameter that is dropped into the net from at least 42 inches (1 meter) above the highest walking/working surface to which workers are exposed to fall hazards.

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Accidents are very harmful for employees and employers both, and they are often caused by poor behavior and unsafe conditions. However, most accidents can be prevented. By knowing and avoiding the behaviors that cause accidents and keeping working conditions safe, it is possible to avoid injuries and reduce hazards. The most important governmental agency concerned with accident prevention is OSHA, which has imposed requirements on trade workers designed to keep job sites and personnel safe from harm. OSHA rules apply to protective clothing and equipment, housekeeping, electrical safety, and all types of tool and machine operations. Particular hazards are presented by chemicals, ladders, scaffolds, and tools. Developing an attitude of safety is an excellent way for every worker to avoid or reduce all of these hazards.

Safety is the responsibility of each and every one of us. No one person can constantly watch and guide every operation that is going on at the job site. You should know how to do your job safely. The training you receive, complying with your employer’s safety program, and the use of everyday common sense will prevent you from being involved in an accident. An employee trying to bluff his way through a job he does not understand is just asking for trouble. Even if you think you know the correct procedures, a review may bring out an important part of the job that you may have forgotten. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. The responses you receive may help a new or less experienced coworker get answers to questions they may be too bashful to ask.

Practicing good safety attitudes means that you:

  • Report all unsafe conditions and acts immediately.
  • Keep work areas clean and orderly at all times.
  • Immediately report all accidents and injuries, no matter how minor.
  • Be certain you completely understand the instructions given before starting work.
  • Know how and where needed medical help may be obtained.
  • Wear the required protective devices when working in a hazardous operation area.
  • Do not use alcohol or drugs. If you are ill and must take prescribed medication, notify your supervisor immediately.

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