If you take your scaffold setup for granted, better think again. OSHA has put unsafe scaffolding on its "Most Wanted" list of safety violations in an effort to reduce the deaths caused by bad setups. Fall protection, access, platform construction, guardrails, and proper bracing and support are all cited as key focus areas. Here are some reminders.

Start With a Solid Base

  • Do not build scaffolds without using metal base plates or plywood to support the legs.
  • Scaffolds have to be able to support four times more weight than you're going to put on them.
  • Do not use wood cribbing to make up for uneven ground.

Install Guardrails and Toe Boards

  • Guardrails (wood or metal) and toe boards have to be put up on all scaffolds more than 10 feet above the ground.
  • Guardrails installed on all open ends need to be about 42 inches high with a mid-rail at about 21 inches, just like the guardrails inside the house.
  • Toe boards have to be at least 4 inches tall.
  • Enclose the opening between the toe board and guardrail with screening to protect workers below you.

Use Proper Planking

  • Planking should be rated "scaffold grade," or if you use framing lumber, pick pieces that are free of splits and knots.
  • Make sure planking extends 6 to 12 inches beyond the end of the scaffold.
  • Overlap planks at least 12 inches.
  • If you are using premade platforms as your planking, make sure they are secured and stay put.

Pump Jack Scaffold

  • Pump jack staging is very popular on jobsites because it is fast to set up and you can adjust your work height easily. But these scaffolds also can be dangerous.
  • You can only use pump jacks up to 30 feet high, and you cannot load more than 500 pounds onto them.
  • Spacing between support posts depends on the type of staging planks you use. If you use wood planks, you cannot have posts more than 10 feet apart.
  • Wood posts must be made from two straight 2x4s nailed together.
  • Posts must be fastened to the wall by special metal bracing manufactured for the systems at the bottom and top and every 10 feet in between. And don't forget to install a guardrail and toe board.
  • Only two workers can work on this type of staging at the same time.
  • —Rick Schwolsky is editor of TOOLS OF THE TRADE, a sister publication of REMODELING. This article originally appeared in that magazine.