A mast climber can contribute to job safety when used by individuals trained according to manufacturer specifications and by a well-qualified instructor.
Built-in guardrails, for example, help reduce the risk of falls. Adjustable work platforms position workers at the optimum location for performing work, which reduces their risk of musculoskeletal disorders, such as sprains, strains, and lower back injuries.
Being trained on the installation and/or use of one model or make of equipment does not guarantee that an operator will be able to safely erect and/or run a different mast climber.
Training must be specific for each mast climber model and manufacturer, since failure to install or operate this equipment correctly may lead to a catastrophic loss.
The following are some specific points to consider when deciding to use a mast climber:
- Workers must be trained on the erection and use of the specific model or make of scaffold and a competent person designated.
- Several of the reported fatalities associated with mast scaffolds involved modifications performed on site. All modifications should be evaluated by a professional engineer.
- The platform must be properly loaded to maintain balance and must not exceed the length allowed by the manufacturer.
- Safety harnesses are required when guardrails are removed to perform tasks, such as loading the platform.
- The mast must be tied to the structure at intervals established by the manufacturer (typically at 20 foot intervals).
- The anchor point must be sufficiently strong in tension and compression to meet requirements (usually 3,000 pounds).
- Tie-in requirements may increase if heavy wind loads are anticipated.
- The ground surface must be evaluated by a qualified person in order to determine if it is capable of supporting the load — including the weight of the scaffold, workers and building materials.
- The scaffold must not be installed on an uneven surface — drop-offs, ditches, or soft fill can negatively affect the scaffold’s stability. Manufacturer’s recommendations on mudsill dimensions should be followed.
- When erected on an elevated floor slab, a structural engineer should be used to determine the structural support that will be needed to support the scaffold and load.
- If supported on a cantilevered base, on frames not furnished by the manufacturer, or when the support conditions of the scaffold differ substantially from the manufacturer’s recommendations, the base support should be evaluated and approved by a professional engineer.
- The last anchors or ties must not be removed unless the scaffold is fully supported.
It is important that mast climber users receive training from well-qualified instructors who have successfully met the following:
Awareness: Completed an OSHA 500 course and have at least one mast climber manufacturer user certification or work experience with mast climbers.
Erector/Dismantler: Completed an OSHA 500 course, at least one manufacturer certification for erection/dismantling, and at least five years, or equivalent, of documented work experience in mast climber erection, dismantling and operation.
Qualified instructors must demonstrate their qualifications by a) taking a written exam with a defined passing score, and b) taking and passing a performance exam.
Additional Information on MCWPs & Safety Training
NIOSH Mast Climbing Work Platform Daily Inspection Walkthrough Tool: This free daily inspection walkthrough tool allows mast climber users to navigate through what is commonly inspected during a pre-shift daily inspection. When prompted, click on the orange outlined section and the related inspection point will be displayed. Please note the pictures displayed are of a typical mast climbing work platform configuration and do not include all set-ups that may be present on site.
Suggested Training Content for Four (4) hour Awareness Level Training; Contact: Bob Arnold, National Training Director
IPAF Guidelines for the Safe Use of Mast Climbing Work Platforms,
US Edition. 2010.
Mast Climbing Work Platform, CPWR Construction Solutions.
IPAF Presents Mastclimber Safety to OSHA , February 2009.
Loss Control Tips: Mast Climbing Scaffolds, The Hartford Loss Control Department.
Masonry Ergonomics Best Practices, CPWR. 2010.
Identifying Innovations to Prevent MSDS in the Construction Sector,University of Waterloo and the Construction Safety Association of Ontario.