Do’s and Don’ts of Scaffolding for Different Weather Conditions

Practicing caution is essential when using scaffolding. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 61 scaffolding-related fatalities in 2018. Between 2011 and 2017, climbing and descending scaffolding, in particular, accounted for at least one fatal incident each year, sometimes with up to five incidents per year.

Inclement weather makes it more challenging to see and maintain your footing and grip while working. Some conditions, like extreme temperatures and strong winds, are dangerous to work in for a prolonged period. Keep reading to learn more about scaffolding safety procedures in inclement weather conditions to keep yourself and your employees safe.

Tips for Using Scaffolding in the Rain

Working in the rain is not ideal, but unfortunately, it might be necessary. If you’re renting your scaffolding and need to have it dismantled by a specific date, or your project is on a tight deadline, rainy day work may be inevitable. That said, never jeopardize worker safety or project quality for timely completion.

Follow these scaffolding safety guidelines to stay productive in the rain:

  • Stabilize the scaffolding: Stabilize the scaffolding with flat, sturdy wood underneath each of the feet against the ground. This will keep your scaffolding from sinking into mud and becoming uneven. Weigh the unit down and add bracing to prevent toppling. 
  • Climb with caution: Climb scaffolding with caution, keeping one foot firmly planted at all times. Always use handrails and guardrails. Be mindful of potentially slippery surfaces, and use anti-slip wood when possible. Avoid overburdening yourself with too many tools or supplies while you climb or descend. If necessary, flip wood planks over to a drier side.
  • Secure tools and materials: Whenever possible, encapsulate your scaffolding and secure tools and materials against the wind.
  • Inspect scaffolding afterward: Once the storm or rain has passed, visually inspect the scaffolding for any vulnerabilities, like dents or weak spots. Consider scheduling an appointment with a professional scaffolding inspection service before continuing use.

Please note the difference between rainy conditions and dangerous storms or hurricane-like conditions. Never use, erect or dismantle scaffolding when hail or lightning is present or during severe storms. If you live in a coastal area, stay on top of hurricane forecasts. 

In the Atlantic, hurricane season runs from June 1 through November 30, while the Pacific hurricane season is May 15 through November 30. Should a hurricane make its way toward your worksite, dismantle the scaffolding if possible and secure the pieces to a stable location.

Wintery Weather Tips

Snow and ice are extremely dangerous for scaffolding workers. These things are slippery and add excess weight to your unit — weight that is impossible to measure, making it unfeasible to operate within your scaffolding’s weight limit. Always sweep and shovel snow from scaffolding before attempting to use it, or wait until temperatures rise and all snow and ice are gone. Assemble a temporary roof to minimize accumulation.

Frigid temperatures can cause hypothermia and frostbite. If you’re trying to decide if it’s too cold to work, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends accounting for both the temperature and wind movement. Approximate scaffold wind restrictions and temperature guidelines include:

  • If wind is 5 miles per hour: Do not work in temperatures lower than minus 40 to minus 44 degrees.
  • If wind is 10 miles per hour: Do not work in temperatures lower than minus 35 to minus 39 degrees.
  • If wind is 15 miles per hour: Do not work in temperatures lower than minus 30 to minus 34 degrees.
  • If wind is 20 miles per hour: Do not work in temperatures lower than minus 25 to minus 29 degrees.

Of course, these are extreme safety guidelines — a crew is much less likely to sustain productivity in freezing temperatures warmer than those listed. If you must work in such conditions, take frequent breaks and use hand warmers. Stay moving and active to keep your body warm. Cover all exposed skin. You should also consider that the sun goes down earlier in the winter. Light your work area up with spotlights and require high-visibility clothing and personal protective equipment (PPE).

Scaffolding in the Sun

Working on scaffolding in the sun and warm temperatures can cause various problems, including health risks and bright glares or reflections off of surfaces and equipment. Workers should stay hydrated throughout the day and take frequent breaks in a cool area, preferably indoors. Schedule work during cooler hours if possible. 

OSHA considers the following heat index temperatures to be hazardous and recommends caution:

  • Moderate risk: Temperatures between 91 and 103 degrees. Be cautious and aware.
  • High risk: Temperatures between 103 and 115 degrees. Take extra precautions.
  • Extreme risk: Temperatures warmer than 115 degrees. Aggressive protective measures are needed.

The hottest time of day is typically between 3 and 4:30 p.m. OSHA also notes that working in direct sunlight, performing strenuous tasks and wearing heavy PPE each adds 15 degrees to any given heat index. Scorching temperatures are a significant summertime hazard, as they can cause heatstroke, rash, cramps, dehydration, heat exhaustion and sunburn. One study found that high temperatures lead to reduced worker productivity, often prompting more errors or accidents.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), signs of heat-related illness include: 

  • Headache.
  • Dizziness.
  • Nausea.
  • Muscle cramps.
  • Skin irritation or pain.
  • Fast or weak pulse.
  • Muscle pains or spasms.
  • Standalone or clustered blisters.
  • Clammy or hot skin.
  • High body temperature.
  • Passing out.

Should you or a worker experience any of the above symptoms while on scaffolding, cease work immediately and seek a cool place to rest. Contact medical personnel if necessary.

General Safety Guidelines

Scaffolding use always requires caution and mindfulness, regardless of the weather. Some basic rules of scaffolding that you should know before beginning your project are:

  • Avoid working in poor weather conditions or extreme temperatures whenever possible.
  • Check the weather forecast before erecting, using or dismantling scaffolding and monitor conditions throughout the day.
  • Ensure workers have plenty of breaks throughout their shift, especially during inclement weather or extreme temperatures.
  • Require the use of PPE for all workers on and around scaffolding, including anti-slip shoes, gripped gloves and hard hats.
  • Always operate within all safety guidelines, recommendations and laws.
  • Encourage workers to maintain three points of contact on the scaffolding at all times.
  • Always use handrails and guardrails when working on scaffolding.
  • Never use scaffolding for anything other than its intended use.
  • Inspect your scaffolding’s condition and stability often.
  • Work with licensed, insured and experienced contractors. 
  • Always conduct safety briefings with workers before beginning tasks.
  • Never erect or use scaffolding on weak terrain or uneven ground.
  • Ensure all workers undergo thorough training before accessing scaffolding.
  • Know your weight limit and remember to account for the weight of tools, equipment, materials and workers.
  • Secure and brace scaffolding according to regulation.
  • Always require harnesses when working on scaffolding, especially during inclement conditions.
  • Consult a professional scaffolding company for training, installation and safety inspections.
  • Have a professional installation service assemble your scaffolding before use.

Learn More About Scaffolding Safety Training Courses From International Equipment

International Equipment is your one-stop shop for scaffolding measurements, materials, delivery, construction and safety training. We hold our work to the highest safety and quality standards, with 24/7 support available. Learn more about our scaffolding training services and contact us for your free quote today!