Unsafe Walking-Working Surface
What’s the hazard here? Perhaps the true hazard here is a serious lack of resources, resulting in this haphazard, makeshift scaffolding arrangement. Practically speaking, the ladder and boards are not being used for their intended purpose, placing this employee at risk of a falling should this contraption fail.
How can this hazard be corrected? Erecting a proper scaffold could help reach these heights, and would be the preferred option if used. Let’s suppose the employee was painting this wall. If they were using a paint roller on an extension pole, then there would be no need for a scaffold.
Another option to reach the height could be an articulating aerial lift device safely restricting the employee to the confines of a basket and with an appropriate guard rail system.
Any laws around this? Yes. 29CFR 1926.1053(b)(4) states, Ladders shall be used only for the purpose for which they were designed. This ladder was not designed to be used in this fashion.
Additionally, OSHA has a great e-Tool regarding scaffold planking where you will quickly discover why these 2 x 4’s are not scaffold planking.
Conversation starters: Whenever I do safety audits, I look for homemade tools and ask questions about them. This situation reminds me a little of that. Often, when I am standing at a machine or work area assessing and looking for hazards such as machine guarding or electrical hazards, I also look at the tools in the work area and specifically look for anything that looks homemade. Sometimes it’s a long metal rod with a bend on one end and duct tape on another or something of that nature. Then, I ask whomever works in the area to tell me about the homemade device, which is where my learning occurs. Often something is broken or gets jammed, and an employee has figured out a workaround to protect themselves or bypass a system. There’s power in asking employees how they do their work, how they intend to do planned work, and whether or not they have the tools or equipment needed. Empower supervisors to ask questions like this of their staff and while you are at it, look for homemade tools in the work area.