The Hazards of Working on Scaffolds and Ladders

It’s hazardous to work on scaffolds and ladders no matter how many safety precautions are involved with them and how sturdy they’re made. Of course, the weaker the ladder or the more poorly built the scaffolding is, the likelier you’ll end up in scaffolding accidents.

With that in mind, let’s talk about the four types of scaffolding hazards you should watch out for as a construction worker or home improvement specialist.

Four Major Types of Scaffolding Hazards

You need to be mindful of these four types of hazards involving scaffolding as a worker. They include scaffolding collapse, getting struck by falling objects, electrocution, and falling from the scaffolding.

  • Falling from the Scaffolding: Working with scaffolds involves workers working at high places to reach ceilings or put up roofs. Therefore, the likeliest accident they’ll face while standing on scaffolding or ladders is falling off of them.

Workers can fall off the scaffolding for a variety of causes, such as tripping on debris or tools lying on the scaffold surface, slipping on slippery substances like paint or water, the lack of guardrails, or wearing inappropriate footwear that lack grip.

Entering or exiting the scaffolding can lead to the worker accidentally falling as he climbs up or down if the access used isn’t meeting OSHA standards.

  • Struck by Falling Objects: When working with scaffolds, workers must wear helmets and have presence of mind to avoid getting struck by falling objects, like tools, materials, and debris from high levels of the scaffolding or work site.

The workers below the scaffolding or under lower levels of the scaffold are susceptible to the falling objects hazard. This also extends to other people working near the scaffold. Everyone is in danger of getting hit by a falling power tool, construction tool, paint cans, debris, or bricks.

  • Electrocution: Speaking of power tools, another common scaffolding hazard for workers is getting electrocuted while using tools for cutting, welding, and drilling while stationed in the raised platform. Electrocution hazards are likelier on scaffolds built with metal, by the way.

Scaffolding precautions against accidental electrocution while power tools are used on the scaffold must meet OSHA scaffolding standards. By the way, OSHA stands for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

  • Scaffolding Collapse: Workers should absolutely make sure the scaffolding they’ve built to reach higher places when doing construction or home improvement work also meet the standards for scaffolding of OSHA. This prevents the likely fatal hazard of scaffolding collapse.

For example, according to OSHA, suspended scaffolds should use strong ropes that must be securely attached to permanent structures. A competent person should also inspect the locking system, hoists, counterweights, wire rope clips, and tiebacks of the scaffold in question.

The Most Dangerous Job in Construction: Working in Demolition

One of the most dangerous jobs in construction work should unsurprisingly involve working in demolition. Just as you expect the risk of losing your grip and falling during rock climbing, you should also expect the risk of accidents to happen during demolition jobs.

This is exactly what the Taiwanese face after the recent Hualien City earthquake of 2024. They have to gingerly demolish whole buildings that slid or tilted off the side like leaning Towers of Pisa.

The Hazards of Working in Demolition

So what’s the deal with demolition accidents? There are a lot of them and they’re considered par for the course. It’s part of the job.

  • Dealing with Collapsing Buildings: Demolition involves demolishing old buildings to give space for new buildings. Making buildings collapse is as dangerous of a job as you’d expect. Demolition workers are faced with the prospect of operating on incomplete or crumbling work sites.
  • The Many Hazards of a Demolition Job: As a “destruction worker” (or the opposite of a “construction worker”), demolition staff have to operate on incomplete sites, often at great heights and with unsafe structures. They might even have to use explosives to destroy buildings before sweeping the rubble up.
  • The Risks of Running Heavy Machinery: There are many risks attached to demolishing buildings, chief among them your regular contact with heavy machinery to break down these walls, empty lots, evacuated apartments, and empty factories. You’ll have to learn to safely use machines like the wrecking ball or digger.
  • Falling Masonry and Debris: If you thought handling the hazards of falling objects from secured scaffolding is tough, it goes double when it comes to destroying the bricks and mortar of old rotting buildings. Falling masonry can be fatal when they topple all over you. You need loads of precautions and you’re paid to the nose to risk your life for this line of work.
  • Contracting Various Diseases: You might be faced with vermin, biohazardous materials, and obsolete building components like asbestos when undergoing demolition work of old buildings. Dismantling structures of yesteryear exposes you to old underground diseases, fatal lung diseases from asbestos dust, or at least increases your risk for tetanus.
  • Construction and Destruction: Just as constructing buildings is an inherently dangerous line of work, so too is the destruction of constructed buildings. Demolition jobs is considered one of the most dangerous jobs in construction and in the world.  It’s right up there with working at an oil rig.

There are many hazards associated with destroying existing structures that only the best and brightest of able-bodied adults could handle. However, if you’re willing to take such risks, you will be rewarded handsomely for taking a job many others pass on because of its inherent dangers.