by Barry Maxwell, MS
Safety Services Manager

On Monday of this week, three people were killed, and two others injured after a scaffolding collapse at a construction site in Charlotte, North Carolina. All work at the site was halted after the victims fell approximately 70 feet when the scaffolding came apart. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is assisting with the investigation as to the cause of the collapse. A similar incident occurred in 2015 when three construction workers were killed when scaffolding collapsed as it was being dismantled at a high-rise construction site in downtown Raleigh, North Carolina.

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), scaffold-related accidents result in roughly 60 deaths and 4,500 injuries every year. Falls from scaffolds account for roughly 25% of fatal falls from all working surfaces. In a BLS study, 72% of workers injured in scaffold accidents attributed the accident either to the planking or support giving way, or to the employee slipping or being struck by a falling object. All of these can be controlled by compliance with OSHA standards. Scaffolding is addressed in specific standards for the fields of construction, general industry, and shipyard/marine terminals.

Far too many employers borrow or rent scaffolding and start work having never received the appropriate training, which OSHA considers a primary means to prevent injuries and fatalities.

There are three employee designations that OSHA requires to be trained as they relate to scaffolding: Competent Person, Qualified Person, and Users.

Competent Person

competent person is defined as someone who is capable of identifying existing and predictable hazards, and has authorization to take prompt corrective measures to eliminate them. OSHA requires that a competent person be designated to oversee the following scaffolding related tasks: Construction; Use; Dismantling; Training; and Inspections.

Qualified Person

Scaffolds must be designed by a qualified person and be constructed and loaded in accordance with that design. OSHA defines a qualified person as one who possesses a recognized degree, certificate, or professional standing; or has extensive knowledge, training and experience; and therefore, can solve or resolve problems related to the work or the project. A qualified person must do adequate preplanning to assure the safe erection and use of the scaffold.


Scaffold users are those whose work requires them, at least some of the time, to be supported by scaffolding to access the area of a structure where that work is performed. Employers are required by OSHA standards to have a qualified person provide training to each employee who performs work while on a scaffold. The training must enable employees to recognize the hazards associated with the type of scaffold being used and to understand the procedures to control or minimize those hazards.

How Can We Help?
We recognize that appropriate training cannot prevent every injury or fatality. However, this is a very important step towards that goal. The EI Group can help your company protect its’ workers and remain in compliance with scaffolding and almost every other area of occupational and safety and health.

If you have questions regarding scaffolding safety or have fall protection concerns, please contact EI Safety Services Manager, Barry Maxwell, at (919) 280-8797 or [email protected] for further support.