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OSHA 30: Subpart L Scaffolds Used in Construction

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Note: In a previous article that was posted on December 14, 2016, we gave an overview of OSHA’s 30 hour training course. You can read that article here:

The OSHA 30 hour Construction Industry Training course covers a number of specific topics. However, there are certain topics that OSHA may require contractors to complete extra training on based on the industry that the person participating is associated with.

Contact your local OSHA office to determine whether you are required to participate in extra training as part of the OSHA 30 hour Construction Industry Training course. More information can be found at

OSHA recognizes the dangers of using scaffolding and has set forth a set of standards to help to insure worker safety. In 1996, scaffolding standards were updated by OSHA for the first time since 1971. It is estimated that these standards prevent 4,445 injuries and 47 deaths annually and result in a savings of $90 million in lost workday costs annually to companies.

The following key factors are the focal point of OSHA Subpart L training and are essential to know. It is important that both employers and their employees understand these standards.

  • The standard requires fall protection for employees working above a 10 foot lower level.
  • Guardrail height – The height of top rail for scaffolds manufactured and placed in service before January 1, 2000 can be between 36 and 45 inches. Â After January 1, 2000 – The top rail must be between 38 and 45 inches above the work platform.
  • When the cross point of cross bracing is used as a top rail, it must be between 38 and 48 inches above the work platform.
  • Mid-rails must be installed approximately halfway between the top rail and platform surface. When a cross point of cross bracing is used, it must be between 20 and 30 inches above the work platform.
  • Erecting and Dismantling – After September 2, 1997, when erecting and dismantling supported scaffolds, a competent person must determine the feasibility of providing a safe means of access and fall protection for these operations.
  • Training – Employers must train each employee who works on a scaffold on the hazards and the procedures to control the hazards.
  • Inspections – Before each work shift and after any occurrence that could affect the structural integrity, a competent person must inspect the scaffold components for visible defects.

It is also important to understand what qualifications are required for someone to be considered a “competent person” on a jobsite, when that person is required and what their responsibilities are.

OSHA’a definition of a “competent person” is two-fold and sonsidts of the following explanations:

  • “One who – by possession of a recognized degree, certificate, or professional standing, or who by extensive knowledge, training, and experience – has successfully demonstrated his/her ability to solve or resolve problems related to the subject matter, the work, or the project.”
  • “One who is capable of identifying existing and predictable hazards in the surroundings or working conditions, which are unsanitary, hazardous to employees, and who has authorization to take prompt corrective measures to eliminate them.”

Responsibilities of a “competent person” include:

  • To select and direct employees who erect, dismantle, move, or alter scaffolds.
  • To determine if it is safe for employees to work on or from a scaffold during storms or high winds and to ensure that a personal fall arrest system or wind screens protect these employees.
  • To train employees involved in erecting, disassembling, moving, operating, repairing, maintaining, or inspecting scaffolds to recognize associated work hazards.
  • To inspect scaffold components for visible defects before each work shift and after any occurrence which would affect the structural integrity and to authorize prompt corrective actions.
  • To inspect ropes on suspended scaffolds prior to each work shift and after every occurrence which could affect the structural integrity and authorize prompt corrective actions.
  • To inspect manila or plastic (or other synthetic) rope being used for toprails or midrails.
  • For suspension scaffolds – To evaluate direct connections to support the load.
  • To evaluate the need to secure two-point and multi-point scaffolds to prevent swaying.
  • For erectors and dismantlers – To determine the feasibility and safety of providing fall protection and access.
  • To train erectors and dismantlers to recognize associated work hazards.
  • To determine if a scaffold will be structurally sound when intermixing components from different manufacturers.
  • To determine if galvanic action has affected the capacity when using components of dissimilar metals.
  • To design and load scaffolds in accordance with that design.
  • To train employees working on the scaffolds to recognize the associated hazards and understand procedures to control or minimize those hazards.
  • To design the rigging for single–point adjustable suspension scaffolds.
  • To design platforms on two-point adjustable suspension types that are less than 36 inches wide to prevent instability.
  • To make swaged attachments or spliced eyes on wire suspension ropes.
  • To design scaffold components construction in accordance with the design.

Subpart L also outlines when an engineer is required to work on a jobsite with scaffolding. The following situations require an engineer:

  • To design the direct connections of masons’ multi-point adjustable suspension scaffolds.
  • To design scaffolds that are to be moved when employees are on them.
  • To design pole scaffolds over 60 feet in height.
  • To design tube and coupler scaffolds over 125 feet in height.
  • To design fabricated frame scaffolds over 125 feet in height above their base plates.
  • To design brackets on fabricated frame scaffolds used to support cantilevered loads in addition to workers.
  • To design outrigger scaffolds and scaffold components.

Subpart L also covers the capacity requirements of scaffolds and their construction requirements as follows:

  • Scaffolds and scaffold components must not be loaded in excess of their maximum intended loads or rated capacities, whichever is less.
  • Load carrying timber members should be a minimum of 1,500 lb-f/in square construction grade lumber.
  • Each platform must be planked and decked as fully as possible with the space between the platform and uprights not more one inch wide. The space must not exceed nine inches when side brackets or odd-shaped structures result in a wider opening between the platform and uprights.
  • Scaffold planking must be able to support, without failure, its own weight and at least four times the intended load.
  • Solid sawn wood, fabricated planks, and fabricated platforms may be used as scaffold planks following the recommendations by the manufacturer or a lumber grading association or inspection agency.
  • Each scaffold platform and walkway must be at least 18 inches wide. When the work area is less than 18 inches wide, guardrails and/or personal fall arrest systems must be used.
  • The standard requires employers to protect each employee on a scaffold more than 10 feet above a lower level from falling to that lower level with a guardrail. Guardrails are not required, however, when the front end of all platforms are less than 14 inches from the face of the work or when outrigger scaffolds are three inches or less from the front edge.

To be sure to have a true grasp of Subpart L, we recommend that employers and employees are familiar with inspection procedures for enforcing subpart . Understanding inspection procedures will benefit employees and employers in that they will have a thorough understanding of what OSHA inspectors are trained to look for and enforce so they can be sure to be properly trained.

Inspection procedures can be found here:

Ruben Porras

Posted In: Safety

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