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Worker Safety on Suspended Scaffolds: OSHA Regulations and Best Practices

A construction worker on scaffolding holding part of a safety harness to prevent a fall.

Scaffolding accidents are widespread in New York City. And when it comes to scaffolding, workers on suspended scaffolds can be especially at risk. That's why the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has such strict regulations regarding suspended scaffolds.

So what are OSHA's suspended scaffold rules? What are the best practices for safely operating suspended scaffolds? And why do such accidents happen in the first place? You can find the answers to these questions and more information below.

Talk to a New York City scaffolding accident lawyer

If you or a loved one was injured in a suspended scaffold accident, an experienced New York construction accident attorney can help you navigate the legal process and fight for the compensation you deserve. Contact Keogh Crispi, P.C. in Manhattan to review your legal rights and options.

What is a suspended scaffold?

Suspended scaffolds are platforms suspended by ropes, chains, or cables from an overhead structure, often from the top of a high-rise building. For example, window washers on skyscrapers often use suspended scaffolds to clean outside windows on tall buildings. There are several specific types of suspended scaffolds, according to OSHA, including:

  • Two-point adjustable suspension "swing stage" scaffolds, which are often a single, wide platform hung by cables or ropes and which can be raised or lowered. This is the most common type of suspended scaffold and the type often used by skyscraper window washers.
  • Multi-level scaffold, which is similar to two-point adjustable suspension scaffolds, except multi-level scaffolds have more than one platform that can be raised or lowered to work outside tall buildings.
  • Single-point adjustable scaffold, which is sometimes called a "boatswain's chair," has a single overhead rope connected to the top of the building and is a small scaffold about the size of a phone booth connected below.
  • Multi-point adjustable scaffold, which can be quite large and which are suspended from multiple ropes. This type of suspended scaffold allows workers to work inside large silos or chimneys and adjust the height of the platform.

Other types of suspended scaffolds often used to raise or lower building materials include catenary scaffolds, float ship scaffolds, and interior hung scaffolds.

How common are suspended scaffold accidents?

There are no specific statistics regarding suspended scaffold accidents. But scaffolding accidents, in general, are some of the most common types of construction accidents. Each year on average, more than 4,500 people sustain an injury, and 60 deaths occur due to scaffoldings accidents, according to workplace accident data compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). And when it comes to fatal workplace accidents involving falling from a height, 25 percent of those deaths include falling from scaffolding.

Why do suspended scaffold accidents happen?

Suspended scaffolding accidents occur for many different reasons, including:

  • Scaffolding not properly anchored to the building.
  • Overloaded scaffolding that collapses or falls from the building.
  • Counterweights removed or not properly balanced, causing the suspended scaffolding to collapse.
  • Defective suspended scaffolding, which collapses or breaks apart.
  • Failure to inspect suspended scaffolding before use to ensure it meets all OSHA safety codes.
  • Inexperienced workers who fall from scaffolding.
  • Lack of safety equipment for scaffolding workers.
  • Scaffolding workers not wearing safety harnesses correctly, resulting in a fall from scaffolding.

Best practices to prevent suspended scaffold accidents

OSHA and New York State have many laws that apply to scaffolding safety, including New York Labor Law 240, known as the Scaffolding Law in New York. These state and federal regulations clearly spell out the best practices for safely working on suspended scaffolds, including:

  • The scaffolding anchorage system must be properly secured to the building and inspected before use.
  • Suspension ropes must always be carefully inspected before using scaffolding.
  • Suspended scaffolding outrigger beams must be stabilized before anyone can use the scaffolding.
  • Counterweights must never be removed from outrigger beams during scaffolding use.
  • Suspended scaffold platforms must be able to support four times the maximum intended weight.

How can a New York scaffolding accident lawyer help me?

Scaffolding accidents, especially in New York City, can quickly become complicated legal cases because the stakes are high, and the injuries sustained are often severe. This is why it's critical that you have an experienced New York scaffolding attorney handling your injury claim or lawsuit who thoroughly understands the state and federal laws that apply to scaffolding accidents.

Founder and senior partner Pat James Crispi is an attorney with extensive experience handling these types of complex cases. See what he can do for you. Contact our law firm and schedule a free consultation to learn more about how we can help you. Our office is conveniently located in Manhattan.

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