About 65 percent (2.3 million) of all construction workers in the United States depend on competent and safe scaffold erection, assembly and safety training. Current OSHA standards for scaffolds have been in effect since 1996 and are published in 29 CFR 1926, Subpart L. Key to those new standards is the presence of a competent person “capable of identifying existing and predictable hazards” to workers. The competent person must also have the authority to stop work if necessary to correct and eliminate dangers or unsanitary conditions on or around scaffolding.
What OSHA requires the competent person to do…
- Generally, the competent person selects and supervises the people who set up, take down, move or alter scaffolds on the job.
- The competent person is the principal training resource to the employer and is expected to continually train the scaffold workers.
- The competent person inspects the scaffolding for defects before the job begins each shift. Specifically, OSHA requires inspection of suspended scaffold ropes and synthetic rope rigging used to bind toprails or midrails.
- For suspension scaffolds, the competent person evaluates load limits and must decide when to brace multi-point scaffolds to prevent swaying.
- For erecting and dismantling, the competent person makes the call on the need for fall protection and access safety.
- When scaffold parts come from different manufacturers, the competent person has to judge whether intermixing the parts will be safe and structurally sound. When the mixed parts are metallic, the competent person has to determine whether the dissimilar metals galvanic or chemical action might have affected the structural integrity of the scaffolding.
So the scaffolding competent person is the key player on any work site, and the person both experienced and knowledgeable in scaffold erection and safety. OSHA’s training requirements are simply that a competent person “must have training or knowledge” in the inspection of scaffolds. Rather than imposing particular training requirements, OSHA regards a “competent person” in terms of capability.
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