About 2.3 million people in the construction industry, or 65 percent of the total number, work on scaffolds frequently. When OSHA issued its revised scaffold standard for construction in 1996, the organization estimated that 4500 injuries and 50 deaths would be prevented each year if these workers were protected from falls. In addition to the human element, working safely on scaffolds provides financial rewards with an estimated annual savings of $90 million in lost workdays for American employers.

OSHA regulations place the responsibility for erecting the scaffold on the competent person, who by definition is the "one capable of identifying existing and predictable hazards...and who has authorization to take corrective measures to eliminate them." A scaffold can only be erected, moved, dismantled, or altered under the supervision and direction of the competent person qualified in such activities.

This article discusses the three stages in the life of a scaffold: building, using, and dismantling. Sidebars present additional information on information sources, types of equipment, pre-planning, and inspection.