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Scaffolding Safety: Roles and Responsibilities

An estimated 2.3 million workers—or 65% of the construction industry—use scaffolds frequently on the job. OSHA estimates compliance with scaffold safety standards could prevent 4,500 accidents and 50 deaths every year. These standards identify specific roles for the safe erection, dismantling and use of scaffolds.

Competent Person

OSHA requires that a competent person train any employee involved in erecting and/or dismantling scaffolds. A competent person is defined as someone who is capable of identifying existing and predictable hazards and has authorization to take quick corrective measures to eliminate them. Their duties include:


  • Selecting and direct employees who erect, dismantle, move or alter scaffolds
  • Determining if it is safe for workers to be on a scaffold during storms or high winds
  • Ensuring that a personal fall arrest system protects workers when necessary


  • Training employees involved in erecting, disassembling, moving, operating, repairing, maintaining, or inspecting scaffolds to recognize associated work hazards


  • Inspecting scaffolds, ropes and components for visible defects before each work shift and after any incident that could affect structural integrity
  • Authorizing prompt corrective actions when needed

Suspension Scaffolds

  • Evaluating direct connections to support the load
  • Evaluating the need to secure two-point and multiple-point scaffolds to prevent swaying

Erection and Dismantling

  • Determining the feasibility and safety of providing fall protection and access

Scaffold Components

  • Determining if a scaffold will be structurally sound if your mixing components from different manufacturers
  • Determining if galvanic action has affected the capacity when using components of dissimilar metals

Qualified Person

Scaffolds need to be designed by a qualified person and be constructed and loaded in accordance with that design. OSHA defines a qualified person as one who possesses a recognized degree, certificate or professional standing or has extensive knowledge, training and experience that demonstrates their ability to resolve problems related to the subject. Their duties include:


  • Determining the type of scaffold necessary for the job
  • Determining the maximum load of the scaffold
  • Assuring a good foundation
  • Avoiding electrical hazards


  • Training employees working on scaffolds to recognize the hazards associated with the type of scaffold being used and how to control or minimize those hazards

Suspension Scaffolds

  • Designing the rigging for single-point adjustable suspension scaffolds
  • Designing platforms on two-point adjustable suspension types that are less than 36 inches wide to prevent instability
  • Making swaged attachments or spliced eyes on wire suspension ropes

Components and Design

  • Designing scaffold component construction in accordance with the design


The scaffold standard requires the design services of a registered professional engineer for certain situations, including:

  • The direct connections of masons' multi-point adjustable suspension scaffolds
  • Scaffolds that will be moved when employees are on them
  • Pole scaffolds more than 60 feet in height
  • Tube and coupler scaffolds more than 125 feet in height
  • Fabricated frame scaffolds more than 125 feet in height above their base plates
  • Brackets on fabricated frame scaffolds used to support cantilevered loads in addition to workers
  • Outrigger scaffolds and scaffold components
  • Altering or modification of the scaffolding due to interferences encountered during erecting

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