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Supported Access
What is supported access?

Portable ladders, supported scaffolds, and aerial lifts let you get to a work area and support you while you work. They make getting to a work area easy, but they can become fall hazards when they’re not used properly.

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Portable ladders

Portable ladders are versatile, economical, and easy to use. However, workers sometimes use them without thinking about using them safely. Each year, many construction workers in Oregon are injured when they fall from ladders – most fall less than 10 feet.


Workers sometimes use ladders without thinking about safely using them.

Types of portable ladders. We use ladders to do all sorts of tasks, so it’s not surprising that many types of ladders are available.

Stepladder. Has flat steps, a hinged back, and is not adjustable.
For use only on firm, level surfaces. Available in metal, wood, or
reinforced fiberglass. Must have a metal spreader or locking arm and cannot exceed 20 feet. Supports only one worker.

Extension. Offers the most length in a general-purpose ladder. Has two or more adjustable sections. The sliding upper
section must be on top of the lower section. Made of wood, metal, or fiberglass. Maximum length depends on material.
Supports only one worker.

Platform. Has a large, stable platform near the top that supports one worker. Length cannot exceed 20 feet.

Trestle. Has two sections that are hinged at the top and form equal angles with the base. Used in pairs to support planks or staging. Rungs are not used as steps. Length cannot exceed 20 feet.

Orchard. Has a flared base and a single back leg that provides support on soft, uneven ground. Length cannot exceed 16 feet. The legs lack non-slip feet and the rear leg is not equipped with a locking spreader bar that makes them unsuitable for use on concrete or hard surfaces. Metal and reinforced fiberglass versions are available. Supports only one worker.


For more information on portable ladders, please see our publication, Portable ladders: How to use them so they won’t let you down.

How falls occur. Most workers fall from unstable ladders that shift or tilt when they climb too high or reach too far beyond the
side rails. Workers also fall when they slip on rungs while they are climbing or descending and when vehicles strike ladders.


Required training. A competent person must train workers before they use ladders so that they understand the following:
• The nature of the fall hazards in the work area
• How to use, place, and care for ladders
• Maximum intended load-carrying capacities of the ladders
• Oregon OSHA’s requirements for the ladders they use
• Inspect ladders frequently and maintain them.

• Match work tasks to appropriate ladders.

• Set up ladders correctly.

• Climb and descend ladders properly.

Required training. A competent person must train workers before they use ladders so that they understand the following:

• The nature of the fall hazards in the work area

• How to use, place, and care for ladders

• Maximum intended load-carrying capacities of the ladders

• Oregon OSHA’s requirements for the ladders they use

Safe practices. Keep the following in mind when you use a portable ladder:

• Select the appropriate length and type of ladder for the task.

• Inspect the ladder before using it; make sure it’s in good condition.

• Angle straight ladders and extension ladders properly with a 4-to-1 slope (height to base).

• Protect the base of a ladder to prevent others from accidentally striking it.

• Select a ladder that will extend at least three feet above the upper level access area or provide a grab rail so that workers can steady themselves as they get on or off. Make sure that the ladder is stable. If the ladder could be displaced by work activities, secure it.

• Face the ladder when you climb and descend it, keeping at least one hand on the ladder.

• Stay within the side rails when climbing and working from the ladder. You can reach out, but keep the rest of your body within the rails.

• Raise and lower heavy loads to and from upper levels with a hand line or a hoist.

• Make sure metal ladders have steps and rungs with skid-resistant surfaces.

• Allow only one person on the ladder. Use a scaffold if two or more people need to work together.

• Never stand on top of a portable ladder.

• Never use ladders that have conductive side rails near exposed, energized equipment.

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A 4-to-1 slope is about 75 degrees

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Supported scaffolds

A supported scaffold is simply an elevated platform that has a rigid means of support. Lay a board across a couple of tall buckets, and you have a supported scaffold — but not a safe one.

Most supported scaffolds used for construction work are complex structures and workers must know how to erect them, dismantle them, and work from them safely.

Of the many types of supported scaffolds, fabricated-frame scaffolds are the most common. Like portable ladders, they’re versatile, economical, and easy to use. You’ll see them on construction sites as single supported platforms and multiple platforms stacked several stories high on modular frames.

Examples of supported scaffolds:

• Sectional scaffolds

• Fabricated-frame scaffolds

• Tube-and-coupler scaffolds

• Ladder jack scaffolds

• Pump jack scaffolds

• Mast-climbing scaffolds

• Mobile scaffolds

• System scaffolds

Fabricated-frame scaffold

How falls occur. Workers fall from scaffolds when components fail, planks break, handrails give way, and scaffold supports collapse. Untrained or improperly trained workers also cause many scaffold accidents.

When fall-protection systems are required. If you work on a supported scaffold more than 10 feet above a lower level, you must be protected from falling. Guardrails at least 42 inches (plus or minus three inches) high are appropriate for most scaffold platforms. If you can’t use a guardrail system, then you must use a personal fall-arrest system or restraint system.

  • Guardrails or personal fall-arrest systems are the most

common methods for protecting workers from falls.

Using personal fall-arrest systems. Personal fall-arrest systems must include a lanyard. Attach the lanyard to a vertical lifeline, a horizontal lifeline, or scaffold structural member that will hold at least 5,000 pounds. If you’re not sure where to attach a lanyard, get training from a competent person.

Protection for scaffold erectors and dismantlers. Workers must be protected from falling when they erect or dismantle supported scaffolds if protection is feasible and does not increase the risk of a fall. A competent person must make the determination on a case-by-case basis.

Protection during storms and strong winds. Working from scaffolds is prohibited during storms or strong winds unless a competent person determines that it is safe and the workers use personal fall-arrest systems or are protected by windscreens.


Training for those who work from scaffolds. Workers must be trained to recognize fall hazards and how to eliminate or control them.


Training must cover the following:

• Scaffold load capacity and the types of loads appropriate for the scaffold

• When fall protection is required, the appropriate protection to use, and how to use it

• How to use scaffold components

• How to reach access areas

• How to protect those below the scaffold from falling objects

• How to avoid electrical hazards

Training for scaffold erectors and dismantlers. Those who erect or dismantle scaffolds must have additional training from
a competent person that covers scaffold hazards, erecting and dismantling procedures, design criteria, and load capacities.

Safe practices. Follow the safe practices below when you use a supported scaffold.

Getting to the scaffold platform

• Use ladders or stairs to reach platforms that are more than two feet above or below the access point.

• Don’t climb cross-braces to reach a scaffold platform.

Loading scaffold platforms

• Scaffolds must be able to support their own weight and at least four times the maximum intended load. The maximum intended load includes workers, equipment, and supplies.

• Platforms must not deflect more than 1/60 of the span when they are loaded.

• Platforms must be fully decked or planked between the front uprights and the guardrail supports.

Using scaffold components

• Make sure a competent person inspects the components before each shift.

• Don’t use damaged scaffold components; repair or replace them immediately.

• Don’t modify components.

• Scaffold components made by different manufacturers may be mixed, provided they fit together without force and
maintain structural integrity.

Minding the environment

• Watch for slippery surfaces. Don’t work on platforms covered with snow and ice.

• Stay off scaffolds during storms and strong winds unless a competent person determines that it’s safe.

• Keep a safe distance from power lines and any other conductive source.


Minimum clearance distances:
- Uninsulated electrical lines: 10 feet
- Insulated lines more than 300 volts: 3 feet
- Insulated lines less than 300 volts: 3 feet

Erecting, dismantling, and moving scaffolds

• Scaffolds must be erected, dismantled, or moved only under the supervision of a competent person. The competent person must be on site to direct and supervise the work.

• Only trained, experienced persons selected by the competent person may do the work.

• Never use wood outriggers to support a scaffold.

• Don’t use bricks, blocks, barrels, or other unstable objects to level a scaffold.

• Don’t use makeshift methods to increase the working height of a scaffold platform.

Protecting workers from falling objects

• If tools, materials, or equipment could fall from a scaffold, the area below must be barricaded or the scaffold must have toe-boards or screens.

• Don’t throw anything from a scaffold.

Inspecting scaffolds

• Inspect regularly components, connections, planks,
and structures.

• Keep the scaffold level, plumb, and square.

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Never use bricks or blocks to level a scaffold.

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Aerial lifts

Aerial lifts are designed to position workers and handle materials when a work surface isn’t easy to reach.

Types of lifts. Most aerial lifts have extensible or articulating mechanisms that can position workers up, down, or sideways.The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) defines and sets operating standards for four different types of aerial lifts:

• Vehicle-mounted elevating and rotating lifts (ANSI A92.2 devices)

• Manually propelled elevating work platforms (ANSI A92.3 devices)

• Boom-supported elevating work platforms (ANSI A92.5 devices)

• Self-propelled elevating work platforms and scissor lifts
(ANSI A92.6 devices)

How falls occur. Most accidents involving aerial lifts can be traced to untrained or improperly trained workers. Reasons for falls:

• Outriggers are not used or improperly placed and the lift vehicle overturns.

• Workers are not tied off while they are in the bucket.

• Workers fall or are pulled off the platform when the lift is struck by a vehicle or moves unexpectedly.

• A hydraulic cylinder fails and causes the boom to drop.

Appropriate fall protection. If you work from an aerial lift, you must be protected from falling. The type of fall protection you need depends on the type of lift you use, summarized in Table 3.

Safe practices. Keep in mind the following when you use an aerial lift:

Use the lift only for its intended purpose and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

• Keep the operating manual with the lift.

• Keep the lift level and stable; use outriggers and intermediate stabilizers.

• Never move the lift when the boom is up and workers are on the platform, unless allowed by the manufacturer.

• Stand on the platform floor. Don’t sit, stand, or climb on the edge of the basket, top rail, or midrail.

• Be sure to close the access gate while you are working from the platform.

• Inspect the lift before using it to make sure that it is working properly and it is in good condition.

• Know the lift’s rated load capacity and don’t exceed it.

• Stay at least 10 feet away from electrical power lines.

• Never use the lift during severe weather.

• Use warning signs or barricades to keep others out of the work area.

• Never tie off to other equipment or to a structure next to the platform.

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Adjustable suspension scaffolds.

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