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  • Eric Dominguez

Scaffolding accident: Root Cause-Management


A recent workplace accident raises concerns about management decision making and contractor responsibilities.

In brief: A contractor was sought to perform air quality testing at a laboratory. In order to perform the work the contractor had to access the roof of the building. The building did not have any pre-made access to the roof. The contractor rented scaffolding equipment.

The scaffolding rental company dropped off the scaffolding equipment stating that they only deliver but do not setup scaffolding. This is where the decision making errors begin:

Starting with not asking- Why not? Answer; most likely because they did not know how or that it best be left to those that are competent, or both.

What happened: Several lab employees volunteered to erect the scaffolding having told the manager of their prior experience. These were not contractors but lab employees. The 'pain'; was that management had a contractor on-site ready to perform air sampling on the roof, scaffolding that had been rented and no one questioning the wisdom of 'not stopping the work'.

During the erecting process of the scaffolding three employees fell off the scaffolding as it swayed when one of the legs sank into the ground. The scaffolding fell apart and injuries from broken legs, ankles, feet and a head injury resulted.

Root cause: Management decisions based upon a lack of knowledge of scaffolding 'competent person' requirements, rush to do the task, use of unqualified workers, taking on the risk clearly which should have been the contractors and even a lack of specific expertise on scaffolding at the HSE manager's level. Asking for help or asking others outside your organization for input is not a bad idea when the risks are high.

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