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Scaffold Safety Information

On Aug. 30, 1996, OSHA issued revised standards for scaffolds.

Photo of scaffolding used inside a buildingThe revised standard, known as "Safety Standards for Scaffolds Used in the Construction Industry," is found in Title 29 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 1926, Subpart L.

The final rule updates the existing construction scaffold standards in Subpart L. The new standards set performance-based criteria to protect employees from scaffold-related hazards such as falls, falling objects, structural instability, electrocution, or overloading.

The rule also addresses training and various types of scaffolds, as well as falling object protection, ladders, weather conditions, aerial lifts, stilts, and other matters that were not previously covered by the OSHA scaffold standards. In addition, it allows employers more flexibility when using protective systems for workers on scaffolding. This rule took effect on November 29, 1996.

Listed below are some of the key provisions of the regulation:

  • The standard requires fall protection at a 10 foot height above a lower level for employees. [1926.451(g)(1)]
  • Guardrail Height — The height of the toprail for scaffolds manufactured and placed in service before January 1, 2000 can be between 36 inches (0.9 m) and 45 inches (1.2 m). The height of the toprail for scaffolds manufactured and placed in service after January 1, 2000 must be between 38 inches (0.97 m) and 45 inches (1.2 m). [1926.451(g)(4)(ii)] When the cross point of cross bracing is used as a top rail, it must be between 38 inches (0.97 m) and 48 inches (1.3 m) above the work platform. [1926.451(g)(4)(xv)] Midrails must be installed approximately halfway between the top rail and the platform surface. [1926.451(g)(4)(iv)] When a cross point of cross bracing is used as a midrail, it must be between 20 inches (0.5 m) and 30 inches (0.8 m) above the work platform. [1926.451(g)(4)(xv)]
  • Erecting and Dismantling — When erecting and dismantling supported scaffolds, a competent person must determine the feasibility of providing a safe means of access and fall protection for these operations. [1926.451(e)(9) & 1926.451(g)(2)
  • Training — Employers must train each employee who works on a scaffold on the procedures to control or minimize the hazards. [1926.454]


Employees must be trained in (partial list):

  • Access
  • Electrical hazards
  • Fall protection and prevention of being struck by falling objects
  • Maximum safe load of the scaffold
  • Proper handling of materials on the scaffold
  • Proper scaffold construction
  • Proper use of the scaffold
  • Site safety
  • Inspections — Before each work shift and after any occurrence that could affect the structural integrity, a competent person must inspect the scaffold and scaffold components for visible defects. [1926.451(f)(3)]

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