Tradespeople warned about improper platform construction
Scaffolding students at the Carpenters Millwright College in Paradise watch from above as fellow students demonstrate the trade for Service NL Minister Nick McGrath Thursday. Video online at www.thetelegram.com.— Photo by Ashley Fitzpatrick/The Telegram
At any construction site, major safety risks come with working at heights. Reducing those risks begins with proper safety training and a solid platform to work from, according to instructors and students at the Carpenters Millwright College.
On Thursday, they teamed with Service NL Minister Nick McGrath to call attention to the need for good scaffolding skills at worksites.
Scaffolding student Andrew Hammond helped with a demonstration for the cameras at the college’s building in Paradise.
Speaking with The Telegram, he said people should not use scaffolding if they do not have formal training.
“I think it’s a dangerous practice and I don’t think it should be done. It’s a fair bit — people don’t realize how much there is to scaffolding. You’ve got to know what you’re doing and you’ve got to have the proper gear to do it,” he said.
Even with training and the proper gear, scaffolding can become dangerous through carelessness, said instructor Kevin Bemister.
He explained several reasons why scaffolding might fail — all falling to poor construction.
“It’s because the braces are missing (and) not put in there, not having the scaffolds properly tied in and not having those locking pins and banana clips put in place,” he said.
The instructor recommended anyone who employs contractors using scaffolding make sure the scaffolding is properly constructed and workers are tied off, even while adding new levels.
“Also, as they’re building, they can tie the scaffolds in to the side of the steel structures or their house, and then they can put a buttress or outriggers on the scaffolding, on the outside part, to stabilize them,” he said.
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McGrath said the province has issued 146 non-compliance orders related to scaffolding up to July 24 this year.
Last year, his department issued 720 orders in total. “So these are numbers that we want to bring down,” he said.
He could not say how many of the orders from government were for private, residential construction projects versus larger, industrial sites. Regardless, he said, the safety consideration is the same.
“The scaffolding program that you’re offering here at the college, I think, is very important,” McGrath said, taking time to shake hands with the staff and students on hand.
Some of the men and women had friends and family already working as scaffolders and were drawn into the work by their family ties. Others said they liked the money to be made as a scaffolder.
“I’ll be finished up Aug. 30 and, hopefully, I’ll get out on site, the Hebron site,” said Gerdel Stuckey. He had been working as a truck driver prior to taking the scaffolding course.