Stresses of Thermal Loads

By | Blog, Resources, Uncategorized | No Comments

A thermal load is defined as the temperature that causes the effect on buildings and structures, such as outdoor air temperature, solar radiation, underground temperature, indoor air temperature and the heat source equipment inside the building.

ASCE 7-15 section 2.3.5 and 2.4.4 specifically mention thermal and other self-straining loads are to be considered, where applicable. For many cases, thermal movements cannot be restrained and instead designs need to allow for the structure/equipment to move thermally otherwise stresses in either the restraints or in the structure/equipment may cause catastrophic failures.
Read More

DHG Hiring A Structural Engineer

By | Blog, Resources, Uncategorized | No Comments

DH Glabe & Associates is looking for a well-qualified structural engineer who is interested in becoming the newest member of our team. This position will be headquartered at our corporate office in Westminster, CO. We are specifically seeking a candidate who appreciates variety in their work as we provide services for numerous types of projects and niches within the structural engineering realm.
Read More


By | Blog, Resources, Uncategorized | No Comments

A lot has been said about falls and fall protection. The U.S. Federal Occupational Safety & Health Administration, OSHA, has emphasized fall hazard awareness and increased enforcement of the fall protection regulations for years in the hope that deaths and major injuries due to falls in the workplace can be reduced. Manufacturers and suppliers are complementing the OSHA emphasis by offering a plethora of products that can be used to keep employees from falling. Or, more accurately, to keep employees from falling from heights to levels below in such a manner that they get injured or killed.
Read More

Scaffolds Falling Down

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

Recently there has been a rash of supported scaffold collapses. That’s not good for either the scaffold user or the industry’s reputation. What possibly could be going on? Is it an act of terrorism? Is it due to the fickle finger of fate? Or perhaps, is it just one of those things that cannot be avoided? After all, it is a scaffold.

And therein lies the issue—too few people take scaffolding seriously. Oh sure, OSHA diligently scrutinizes scaffolding on a regular basis, reminding errant erectors and users of their indiscretions and awarding them with citations. Organizations promulgate standards while manufacturers write recommendations and trainers train trainees. And scaffolds still fall down. Something is amiss; there is a piece (or pieces) of the jigsaw puzzle missing. What is the missing link, that missing magic pill that will make the world right? Unfortunately, there is a no magic pill, no easy solution to a correctly designed, constructed and used scaffold. A scaffold requires work, and oftentimes hard work.

It requires an employer to provide training for his or her employees. It requires manufacturers to design and manufacture a safe product. It requires suppliers to provide a safe product. It requires designers to design a scaffold that has the strength to support the anticipated loads and it requires the erectors to build it according to that design. Finally, it requires the user to use the scaffold correctly. Is that too much to ask? Apparently it is if the recent disasters are any indicator.

Correctly designed and erected scaffolds are incredibly strong, much stronger than a typical structure. And still, the scaffolds collapse. Adequately trained employees won’t abuse, misuse or alter a scaffold, but the scaffolds still collapse. What’s the secret to stopping this epidemic of failed scaffolds? It’s easy: Do your job. Here are a few factors that will influence a scaffold’s decision to collapse or not to collapse:

  1. Make sure you are using a legitimate product, one that has accurate load charts based on testing performed in compliance with the SSFI recommended testing procedure.
  2. Manufacturers, see #1. Just because your stuff looks like someone else’s stuff doesn’t mean you can use their test data.
  3. Purchasers, see #1 and #2. There is a reason prices vary; find out why before you buy that really cheap container load of frames.
  4. There is a limit on what a scaffold can hold and that limit is based on the scaffold being correctly designed and erected. Mess with the design or the erected scaffold and you’re courting disaster.
  5. Bad or no design: Supposed scaffold designer, just because you can put parts and pieces together doesn’t mean you are a designer. After all, a five year old can assemble tinker toys. Learn how to do it correctly, not just do it.
  6. Lack of adequate bracing: Do you know what the correct bracing pattern is? Do you know what the bracing does?
  7. Poor foundation: Just because there is a piece of wood under the leg doesn’t mean you have a good foundation. You have to know what’s holding up your scaffold. You can’t do that by guessing.
  8. A bad platform: Do you have any idea why a wood plank can support a load?
  9. Lack of adequate fall protection. This is a good one—talk about misinformation!
  10. Inadequate strength: You must know how much the scaffold can support so you don’t overload it.
  11. OSHA, see # 10 so you can correctly cite # 1926.451(a)(1).
  12. Inadequate or no training: Employer, do you know that you are to provide training for your employees? Keep in mind that the training requirement has been in existence since at least 1971.
  13. Lack of knowledge: Both employers and employees have to comply with the OSHA standards. How can you do that if you never read them?
  14. Not knowing what you are doing: Erectors are supposed to know how strong scaffolds are and what the scaffold will be used for after it is erected. I cannot remember one who could tell me when asked.
  15. More not knowing what you are doing: A person known as the “Competent Person” has to be able to identify the hazard and have the authority to eliminate it. How can you eliminate the hazard if you cannot identify it?
  16. Still more of not knowing: How do you know there is a hazard if you do not know what a properly designed and erected scaffold is?

The fact of the matter is that many supported scaffolds erected and used in North America do not comply with the critical obligatory safety standards. Sure, everybody knows that platforms are to have guardrails but that is but one aspect of a scaffold. Very few know the capacity of the scaffold, very few know which bracing is permissible and which isn’t; the list goes on. My experience shows me that the industry has too many unqualified people guided by other equally unqualified people.

OSHA compliance officers do not get sufficient training to do their jobs anywhere near the level of competency that they need. While we can, and should, blame an administration that does not provide high quality training at the necessary levels, it cannot be an excuse for a lack of knowledge. Frankly, knowing the regulations is a lot of work but if you are going to assume the authority you had better also take the responsibility and learn the subject matter at hand.

Too many people think that merely fitting the parts together is good design. Fit has nothing to do with proper design. If you are a designer, it is expected that you have learned how to design. Just because you are an engineer, or an erector, or a scaffold company owner, or a safety manager does not make you a designer. You must have the training, experience, knowledge and education to do the job. This includes knowing the principles of physics, the regulations, and the limits of the equipment. Remember, just because it fits together doesn’t mean a darn thing.

Simply stated, scaffolds do not collapse. A stack of metal, wood and plastic parts and pieces incorrectly called scaffolds collapses. Which one do you want? More importantly, what are you going to do now to make sure the next temporary structure you are involved with is a scaffold and not a stack of stuff?

Cops or Teachers

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

Comes now the sheriff announcing increased fines for misbehaving! And this isn’t a time out or sit in the corner. This is money—real money for misbehaving. The United States federal Occupational Safety & Health Administration, OSHA, has raised the fines for violations of it’s standards for the first time since 1990. This is due to the fact that the fines were not allowed to be adjusted for inflation. However, that was remedied in the latest budget bill that was recently signed into law.

The fines have been increased by the amount of inflation that has occurred since 1990, resulting in a $12,500.00 fine instead of the previous $7,000.00 for a serious violation. Willful violations will come with a $125,000 ticket instead of the existing $70,000.00 tab. It is assumed that the OSHA policy of adjustment of the dollar amount for history, company size, good faith and other factors will remain in place so you may get lucky if you choose to disobey.

According to OSHA, heavy fines are necessary in that they encourage employers to provide a safe workplace for their employees. In testimony on October 7, 2015 before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and the Workforce, Subcommittee on Workforce Protections, Dr. Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for the Occupational Safety & Health Administration, stated that “there are still far too many employers that cut corners on safety and neglect well recognized OSHA standards and basic safety measures.” Dr. Michaels also testified that “enforcement remains an effective deterrent” (for these employers).

In the November 2, 2015 OSHA QuickTakes Newsletter, Dr. Michaels cited a study from the Institute for Work and Health (IWH) that found “there’s strong evidence that regulatory health and safety inspections that result in a citation or penalty are effective in reducing work- related injuries.” The same study found that general deterrence is not as effective. According to the same Institute for Work & Health report, Dr. Emile Tompa, an IWH senior scientist and the lead author on the systematic review states that “What this shows is employers do take steps to prevent work-related injuries for employees when there are direct consequences to them.”

While it is true that there are employers who do not take their obligations seriously (yes there are evil employers out there), the truth is that most employers are concerned about safety. Even Dr. Michaels acknowledged that when he testified that “most employers want to keep their employees safe and make great efforts to protect them from workplace hazards.”

Therefore, to be effective, enforcement must be accurate and fair. To accomplish accuracy, it is reasonable to assume that the enforcement officers (police) are knowledgeable about the laws that they are enforcing. The IWH study, and Dr. Michael’s testimony before Congress, do not address this significant aspect of enforcement. The task before compliance officers is daunting: They are to know the hazards addressed in the thousands of regulations found in the various OSHA codes. Obviously it is an impossible task for any one individual to accomplish, yet we expect them to. Of course, we should also expect employers to know the myriad standards that affect their workplaces. For scaffold companies, this means not only knowing and applying the General Industry standards for their place of business, but also the Construction Industry standards for any construction site where they have employees. It shouldn’t be surprising that it is impossible to meet all the standards.

Besides accuracy, enforcement may be an effective tool but only when it is applied fairly. But how is that accomplished? Does OSHA only go after bad actors such as those in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program that targets “recalcitrant employers,” basically employers who just don’t get it? Does this mean that OSHA should ignore “good” employers? According to the IWH study, that doesn’t work as well as citing an employer occasionally even if the offense is marginal.

Does enforcement work? Does education/training work? The “Most Frequently Cited Serious Violations in Construction – Fiscal Year 2003” include Scaffold Fall Protection as #2 and Scaffold Access as #5. (Fall Protection for other than scaffolds was #1 that year.) For this past fiscal year, the top 10 include Fall Protection at #1 and Scaffolding at #3. What should one make of this? It doesn’t look like we have made much progress, based on these statistics. In fact, it appears that enforcement is not the effective tool some would like to think it is. I can tell you this, based on my experience in the scaffold and construction industries: Training is woefully inadequate for scaffold users and OSHA compliance officers. After 45 years of mandatory regulations, scaffolds are still constructed lacking fall protection. How can this be? After 45 years, most scaffold users cannot state the capacity of a scaffold. After 45 years, most compliance officers cannot determine the load that is on a scaffold. After 45 years, most employers do not know their obligations to their employees. And most disturbingly, after 45 years most employees in the United States do not know they have a right, that is correct—a right, to a safe workplace.

Maybe OSHA is correct—enforcement works. I think not. Training is the secret and most employers, at least the good ones, know it. And the training isn’t only for the employees. Employers need training, employees need training and compliance officers need training. Frankly, enforcement of the training requirements would make OSHA’s job a whole lot easier.

What is Value Engineering?

By | Resources, Uncategorized | No Comments

What would you do if I made you this offer: give me fifty dollars today, and in return you will get back one hundred dollars tomorrow?   This is a no-brainer, right?  Who wouldn’t want a 100% return on their investment – not to mention in one day!  Unfortunately for all of us, there is no such charitable person sitting on a street corner offering up this deal to anyone who walks by them.  Fortunately though, hundreds of these opportunities do exist all around us.  The trick in all of it is simply knowing where to find these opportunities, and how to take advantage of them when you do.

Contrary to popular belief, construction engineers can provide more than just a rubber-stamp of approval when the General Contractor or Owner requires an engineer get involved in a project.  As a former contractor myself, I found that my reluctance to engage the services of a construction engineer was not only a personal opinion, but also the prevailing sentiment in the construction community.  My attitude however, took an abrupt 180 on the fateful day when I was forced to call a dreaded construction engineer (name withheld to protect the villains anonymity) to pick his brain about a highway bridge rehabilitation project that I was bidding.  My issue was that I had to provide shoring for two multi-span bridges rising fifty feet in the air over four sets of railroad tracks . . . not fun.  In hindsight I realize I did not pick his brain, nor did I ask him a question.  I believe my first words upon him answering the phone were “there is no way we’re going to shore these bridges, I would rather not even bid the stupid thing”.  The Construction Engineer pondered my statement and carefully replied “then we won’t shore the bridges”.

The Construction Engineer proceeded to develop a demolition and installation procedure that would not only eliminate the need for shoring, but also provide maximum production capability for our crews in the field.  With this plan in hand, I prepared my bid and took it to the highway department.  I won’t lie, I had some anxiety when it was announced that I was the low bidder by a ten percent margin on a project valued at approximately half of a million dollars.  However, I was confident knowing that I was the only one amongst all the bidders who went into the bid with an engineered plan already in place.

Long story short, we completed the project safely, on-time, and well below budget.  In fact, it was one of the most profitable projects I was ever involved with.  Looking back, it’s hard to believe that I was on the verge of throwing away such a profitable job.  Instead, I correctly chose to invest a relatively small sum into engineering resulting in a return on investment in the thousands of percent.  I had heard of the term before, but it was not until then that I fully understood the true meaning of Value Engineering.

I never flew blind into a bid again.  Whether it was reducing beam sizes, increasing the distance between shoring posts, developing a cost-effective fall protection procedure, or developing efficient scaffold plans to access the underside of a bridge – I always called upon the Construction Engineer to help me provide the smartest, safest and most cost-effective way to optimize my bid.  In certain cases, he was also quick to shoot down some of my “less than adequate” ideas which saved me from winning bids that would have resulted in me losing my you-know-what on the project.

So there you have it; hopefully you now understand what Value Engineering really means.  It’s not as easy as taking free money from the imaginary guy on the street corner, but with a little ingenuity and investment it’s not much more difficult than that.  There are literally billions of dollars in construction bids each year that will be won by the companies that can provide the most efficient means and methods of building them.  Why can’t that company be yours?


General Industry or Construction?

By | Resources, Scaffolding, Uncategorized | No Comments

Should the scaffold you just erected in the local oil refinery comply with the US federal Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) General Industry Standards or the Construction Industry Standards?  While you might think this is a question with an easy and simple answer, it isn’t.  Does it matter which standards apply?  That question has two answers: from a compliance standpoint, yes.  From a safety standpoint, not so much.

Erecting a scaffold in an existing oil refinery would suggest that the General Industry standards would apply since the refinery is completed and not being constructed.  This would be an incorrect conclusion: Determining which set of standards apply to a specific situation is much more complex.  While OSHA has a definition for “construction,” there is no definitive regulatory description of “maintenance” or “general industry” where it would be clear to the employer as to which standards to utilize for ensuring compliance but more importantly, that the workplace is safe for his/her employees.

OSHA defines “construction work” as:  “work for construction, alteration, and/or repair, including painting and decorating.” [29 CFR 1910.12(b)]  Additionally, OSHA points out in one of its Letters of Interpretation (LOI): “Also relevant to the distinction between construction and maintenance are the Davis-Bacon Act regulations.  In essence, 29 CFR 5.2(i) defines construction work as ‘generally includ[ing] construction activity as distinguished from manufacturing, furnishing of materials, or servicing and maintenance work.’”  [LOI-Knobbs, Nov. 18, 2003]  A dictionary definition of “construction” is: “The act or process of putting together parts.” [Webster, 2000]

In the Knobbs LOI, OSHA refers to a definition for “maintenance” that was in one of its directives by stating: “In OSHA’s directive on the general industry confined space standard, the Agency stated that maintenance involves ‘keeping equipment working in its existing state, i.e., preventing its failure or decline.’” (emphasis added)  [LOI-Knobbs, Nov. 18, 2003]  In a LOI dated February 1, 1999, OSHA describes maintenance:  “Maintenance means keeping equipment or a structure in proper condition through routine, scheduled or anticipated measures without having to significantly alter the structure or equipment in the process.”  While this may clarify the difference between “construction” and “maintenance” in OSHA’s mind, it does little to clarify it for the typical scaffold erector or his/her employer.  Research indicates that OSHA has wrestled with the issue for some time since there is more than one Letter of Interpretation addressing the topic.

Before discussing what might describe a work activity as “construction” or maintenance,” it would be instructional to describe which factors do not determine whether the work activity is “construction” or not.  First the name of the company has nothing to do with the matter.  For example, just because your company is called Dave’s Construction does not mean that all your work is construction.  Second, who the employees are has nothing to do with determining the applicability of the standards.  Third, whether it is “in-house” employees or an outside contractor has nothing to do with the type of work being performed.

“Construction is not limited to new construction, but can include the repair of existing facilities or the replacement of structures and their components,” declares OSHA [ibid]  The project’s scale and complexity must be considered in making a determination.  The physical size of the object that is being worked on can be a factor.  It can be considered construction “because it is a complex task in view of the steps involved…” [ibid]  Probably the most clarifying statement is OSHA’s declaration in the Knobb LOI that “it is not the personnel which will determine whether work will be considered maintenance or construction, but the work itself.” In the same LOI, OSHA points out that while the work may be done during a scheduled “maintenance outage,” that alone will not qualify it as maintenance.”

Finally, in a LOI dated August 11, 1994, OSHA tells its Regional Administrators “where an activity cannot be easily classified as construction or maintenance even when measured against all of the above factors, the activity should be classified so as to allow application of the more protective 1910 or 1926 standard, depending on the hazard.  In such cases the situation should be issued in the alternative with the emphasis on the more protective standard.”   Wow!  That appears to say that if you are not sure, find a standard that fits the situation, no matter where it comes from.  How bizarre can it get?  Here’s how.

In a Letter of Interpretation dated April 17, 2006, OSHA was asked if permanent guardrails that were 36 inches high would suffice during construction in a “General Industry facility.”  The existing facility apparently had guardrails on its platforms that were an acceptable 36 inches high, in compliance with the General Industry requirements for guardrails.  However, construction was going to occur at this same facility. Subpart M of the Construction Standards requires that guardrails shall be installed between 39 and 45 inches.  Consequently, in this instance, OSHA stated that a temporary guardrail would have to be installed adjacent to the lower existing permanent 36 inch high guardrail to protect employees during the construction activities.  Justification for this requirement was that “construction activities often include carrying tools and materials that are heavy, awkward to handle, and, in the case of large materials, can sometimes block the employees’ view.”  In other words, if the employee is blindly stumbling along dragging heavy tools, he better have a higher guardrail.  Otherwise, it’s okay to have a lower guardrail for the permanent employees of the facility.  Amazing.

Keep in mind that the OSHA standards are minimum requirements and they are promulgated to address safety hazards in the workplace.    Since it is OSHA’s standards, it can manipulate and interpret them in any way it chooses.   However, for your protection, do what is right to protect yourself and your fellow employees, not only from hazards that may cause serious injury or death, but also from ridiculous interpretations, and ultimately, ineffectual citations.

Useful Regulations

By | Resources, Scaffolding, Uncategorized | No Comments

While some may believe there are no useful regulations, and certainly the actions of some scaffold users would confirm that belief, the OSHA standards (regulations) governing how we use scaffolds are actually quite, well useful.  Included are exciting minimum requirements such as who is to inspect scaffolds and who is to supervise the construction of scaffolds.  If you are a user of scaffolds, don’t stop reading!  Here’s a highlight of what you will find when you read section 29 CFR 1926.451(f) – Use of Scaffolds:

(1) Don’t overload scaffolds.  If you don’t know how strong a scaffold is, or how much stuff you are placing on the scaffold, it is impossible for you to comply with this easy to understand regulation.

(2) Don’t use lean-to or shore scaffolds.  If you think shore scaffolds are only used along the seashore, you’re all wet.  Imagine taking a sawhorse, cutting it in half and leaning both halves against a wall, about 8 feet apart.  Throw some planks across the top and you have a lean-to scaffold.  Don’t do this.

(3) Have a Competent Person inspect the scaffold prior to each workshift.  This one is serious; inspections help spot any improper modifications and developing problems that may exist.  Remember, a Competent Person can identify hazards and has the authority to do something about it.

(4) Repair any busted scaffold components or have them removed from use, before getting on the scaffold.

(5) Don’t move your scaffold horizontally with folks on it unless it has been specifically designed for that use by a qualified registered professional engineer.  This doesn’t apply to Mobile Scaffolds which, under certain conditions, can be moved with or without folks on them.

(6) Don’t get too close to power lines.  If the hum is too loud or your hair is standing on end, you are too close!  As a rule of thumb, 3 feet up to 300 volts, 10 feet up to 50,000 volts and an additional 0.4 inches for every 1,000 volts above that.  I have no idea how you would measure that although I strongly discourage using a metal tape measure!

(7)  Erect, dismantle, move, or alter a scaffold only under the supervision of a Competent Person, Qualified in scaffold erection, using trained and experienced workers.  This is important.  If you don’t know how to erect scaffolds, don’t assume you’re an expert—you’re not.  And don’t screw with the scaffold; ask for help.

(8) Slippery scaffolds can be dicey.  Unless you are using the scaffold for a ski jump, stay off it until the slipperiness is removed.  Of course, if you are the slipperiness removal technician, then get up there and remove the oil, ice or whatever is making it slippery.

(9) If you are swinging hoisted loads, don’t let them hit the scaffold.  You would think this is logical but apparently not if we have a regulation for it.

(10) Make sure the suspension rope matches the hoist and brake size.  Brakes sized for a ¾ inch rope won’t stop if you have a ¼ inch rope. Oh-oh!

(11) Don’t burn, melt or eat the suspension rope holding you.

(12) Don’t work on a scaffold in storms or a high wind, as determined by your Competent Person.  If the wind is so high that you think you will be blown off the scaffold, then you must utilize personal fall protection or put up a windscreen. (really, it actually says this!)

(13) Don’t let stuff  (debris) pile up on the platform.

(14) Don’t use upside down 5 gallon buckets (and other similar items) to increase the height of the scaffold.  Here’s a novel idea: if the scaffold isn’t high enough, have a trained and experienced erector build it higher.

(15) Don’t use ladders on scaffold platforms unless the scaffold platform is big enough to provide stability against overturning forces from the ladder, the platform is secured to prevent movement, the ladder is stabilized due to platform deflection, and the ladder legs are secured so they don’t come off the platform (duh).  (Of course, you could have the trained and experienced erector from # 14 build the scaffold higher.)

(16) Wood platform plank cannot deflect more than 2 inches for a 10’-0” span, 1-3/8 inches for a 7’-0” span and 1 inch for a 5’-0” span.  If the deflection is more than that, you either have too much load on the plank, or you have crummy plank, or both.  If you don’t know how much weight you can put on the plank, reread # 1 and get help.

(17) Don’t weld from a suspended scaffold unless you know what you are doing.   This means you know what precautions must be taken to protect the scaffold so that you don’t burn off the ropes holding you in the air, you don’t fry the hoist, and you don’t melt the aluminum components.  If you haven’t been trained in the necessary rigging techniques, stay off the scaffold with your stinger; you may kill yourself.

As I stated earlier, these are highlights of the minimum requirements for the safe use of a scaffold.  Don’t assume this covers everything that you may be doing on the scaffold.  Rules and regulations do not make up for the stupid stuff you may do.  Just because it isn’t listed in the standards doesn’t mean it is safe.  If you are unsure about whether you are working safely, then get off the scaffold and get training, or retraining.  Scaffolds are safe when constructed correctly.  It’s the untrained user that will make that scaffold unsafe.

The Rise And Fall of Elevators

By | Hoists, Resources, Uncategorized | No Comments

Moving vertically on a construction project can be a challenge.  While stairs are normally available, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to use those to climb 50 stories unless you are interested in a lot of exercise!  Consequently hoists, elevators and lifts are frequently used to transport workers and materials between the various floors of buildings under construction.  In fact, rare is the project that doesn’t have some type of hoist for moving people and material vertically.

In the interest of making jobsites safe, the American National Standards Institute, ANSI, has developed numerous standards for use on jobsites, including standards for personnel hoists (elevators).  One of the standards which address the machines that move people vertically at construction sites is ANSI/ASSE A10.4-2007: Personnel Hoists and Employee Elevators on Construction and Demolition Sites.  Another standard is ANSI/SIA A92.10-2009: Transport Platforms.  Both of these standards address similar vertical transportation issues but in different ways.

“Personnel hoists and employee elevators” are utilized as the general carrier for workers on jobsites who want to travel between floors while “transport platforms” are more specific in their use.  Although each can be used to transport workers, a hoist is more adaptable to fast movement between floors where the interest is to get from one floor to another while a transport platform is more adaptable to a specific work environment.  In fact, the scope of each standard explains the difference.  A92.10 applies to “Transport Platforms that are primarily used as a tool of the trade to vertically transport authorized persons, along with materials and necessary tools, to various access levels on a building or structure for construction, renovation, maintenance or other types of work.”   [A92.10-2009: 1.1]  On the other hand, A10.4 “applies to the design, construction, installation, operation, inspection, testing, maintenance, alterations and repair of hoists and elevators that (1) are not an integral part of building, (2) are installed inside or outside building or structures during construction, alteration, demolition or operations and (3) are used to raise and lower workers and other personnel connected with or related to the structure.”  [A10.4-2007: 1.1.1]

Although these scopes may appear similar, there are subtle differences.  In the simplest explanation, a transport platform is more portable than a personnel hoist while a personnel hoist is more like a permanent elevator in a building.  The personnel hoist has doors, gates, cages, enclosures, counterweights and other devices not unlike a normal building passenger elevator while the transport platform is a stripped down model.  That is not to say that a transport platform is more hazardous; it’s just not as robust as a personnel hoist.

Each standard has specific requirements regarding the design and fabrication of the machine.  For example, wind loads, live loads, dynamic loads, overturning forces and inertia forces must be considered by the manufacturer.  Of particular concern for the erector is the connection of the machine to the building since improper and/or inadequate connections will lead to catastrophic failure of the entire system.  In other words, the erector better know what he/she is doing!

Keeping in mind that transport platforms are more portable than personnel hoists, the inspection criteria is different for each.  Transport platforms are treated more like scaffolding, that is, a temporary structure.  It is expected that the transport platform operator will visually inspect the machine each day before use.  The user shall “check the operating devices, brakes, emergency stops, the condition of all trailing cables, travel limit switches, guardrails, structural connecting mast ties, cables, guide rollers, and information plates, etc.” [A92.10-2009:]  Load test frequency for transport platforms is determined by applicable regulations (local and national) and the manufacturer.  For personnel hoists, “periodic inspections and tests of hoists shall be made at intervals not to exceed three months.” [A10.4-2007: 26.4.3]  Since personnel hoists are more complex and sophisticated in their operation than transport platforms, these inspections are more thorough than the transport platform inspections normally are.

As with all machinery, operators are expected to be trained.  For transport platforms, operators must be trained in all facets of the machine, including inspection, safety requirements, stability, allowable loads, the purpose of placards and decals, to name a few.  The obligations of the operator is not to be taken lightly as he is the individual who will ensure the safe use of the platform. Simply stated, this means that if you are not the operator, you are not allowed to operate the platform.  As a rider, you get to ride, not to operate.

For personnel hoists, they shall be “operated by a competent and authorized operator.” [A10.4-2007: 30.1]  Furthermore, the operators shall be “knowledgeable and capable of performing the duties outlined in the maintenance, operating and inspection manuals and are capable or recording such activity in their log.” [A10.4-2007: 30.3]   Normally, the personnel hoist operator is a designated driver who has no other duties while the transport platform operator may be doing other work once the transport platform arrives at the work location.

In summary, a personnel hoist is a sophisticated machine, similar in design and operation to a building elevator while a transport platform is a device that takes several workers to a work location with their tools and material.  The personnel hoist is truly an elevator, albeit a temporary one that will be removed when the project is completed, while the transport platform is much more temporary by being easier to erect, dismantle, operate and use; in other words it is more like a scaffold than the personnel hoist.

I Know It All!

By | Resources, Uncategorized | No Comments

An April Fools Day sarcasm on scaffold safety, regulations and government control.

April is the time for foolish things so I contacted the foremost authority in the field of scaffolding, Dr. Aiy Noitall.  I caught up with the good doctor while he was at O’Hare Airport in Chicago preparing to leave on another of his famous fact finding missions for the government.  Here is an excerpt from an intense 87 minute interview I had with him before he boarded his flight.

SIA:  Dr. Noitall, you are recognized as an expert in the field of scaffold safety.  How did that come about?

Dr. A. Noitall (Dr. A.N.):  Well, you know that I have been hanging around scaffolding all my life; well at least I see a lot of it so I picked up a lot of stuff that way.  Besides, since I am sponsored by the government program, I know some of the standards.

SIA: You mentioned the government program.  What program is that?

Dr. A.N.: It’s a program funded by a bipartisan quasi select government action committee on largesse.  The committee has initiated a fee on all employers who use, sell, rent or design scaffold products.  That’s how we get the funding.

SIA:  That’s odd.  As you know the Scaffold Industry Association is the “Voice of the Scaffold and Access Industry.”  We haven’t heard of this committee or the program.  And we are unaware that there is a fee; that sounds like a tax.  Who authorized this?

Dr. A.N.: Well, the government authorized it.  Trust me; just like the OSHA standards, Canadian standards and various state and provincial safety standards, this program is good for you.  I always say, you can’t have too many safety regulations.  This is how we make things safe.

SIA:  I thought it was employees and employers who make a worksite safe.

Dr. A.N.: See, that’s where you have it wrong.  Scaffold people don’t know what they are doing.  They’re out there trying to kill people.  The statistics show that.  If it weren’t for the regulations, all the scaffold people would be dead!

SIA:  Well, the SIA wouldn’t agree with that!  Let’s look at a few of those regulations.  What do you think of the rule that specifies that guardrails are required once the platform is ten feet off the ground?

Dr. A.N.: That is nonsense.  I think the height should be 10 inches.  We can’t provide enough protection for the worker.

SIA: Don’t you think the worker has a responsibility to work safely?

Dr. A.N.: Well, there is no need for the worker to worry about that safety stuff.  We want him to be focused on his work, not safety.   That’s why we need a lot of regulations.  If we can get to the point where there are so many regulations that the worker doesn’t have to think, then my job is done!

SIA:  Wow, that is quite the energetic agenda.  When do you think you’ll reach the point of enough regulations?

Dr. A.N.: My extensive research indicates that we will probably never get there. If you look at the OSHA statistics, you’ll see that scaffolding is always in the top 10 violations.  That clearly shows I still have a lot of work to do.

SIA:  Let’s take a look at another regulation.  As you know, or should know, boom-lift operators are required to have fall restraint whenever operating that equipment.  Yet, it’s easy to find operators who either don’t know or don’t care about that requirement.  How will more regulations solve that problem?

Dr. A.N.: You just don’t get it, do you?  The hazard, as you know, is being catapulted out of the boom lift.  If the worker utilizes fall restraint or fall protection how can he do his work?  It’s better to have regulations to solve the problem.  Besides, if he is hanging on, he won’t get catapulted off the platform in the first place.

SIA:  You aren’t making any sense sir.  More regulations won’t eliminate the possibility of the worker being ejected.  Please explain, if you can.

Dr. A.N.: Let me give you an example.  Scissors lifts had guardrails around them supposedly for protection against falls.  However, when the workers used the guardrails to stand on, they discovered that the guardrails wouldn’t keep them from falling.  So now we require them to use personal fall restraint or fall arrest.  See, this is how more regulations work.  I just don’t understand why you think they don’t.

SIA:  That doesn’t answer the question about ejection.  You didn’t answer my question.

Dr. A.N.:  Sure I did.  You weren’t listening.

SIA:  Whatever.  Let’s take one more example and see if you can convince me that more regulations are the answer to safety.  The OSHA standards require that a platform be “fully planked between the front uprights and the guardrail system.”  What happens if the platform is only 2 feet off the ground and there is no guardrail system?  How big should the platform be?

Dr. A.N.: I can’t believe you even bother to ask me this question.  The platform should be as big as you can make it so the worker is free to do whatever she wants.  If it’s big enough, the worker will never fall off the edge, will she?  See, that’s what I’m getting at— more is always better.  It would be foolish to think otherwise.

SIA:  Foolish indeed, Dr. Aiy Noitall.  Enjoy your flight—and good luck getting through airport security.