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guardrail Archives | DH Glabe & Associates

Boards and Rails

By | OSHA Standards & Regulations, Resources, Scaffolding | No Comments

A quiz that evaluates your understanding of the correct installation and use of supported scaffold platforms and fall protection.

How well do you know the mandatory standards that dictate how we are to build scaffolds?  Specifically, how well do you know the mandatory standards that counsel us in the proper design and construction of scaffold platforms and fall protection?  Let’s find out!

Here is a quiz to see if you know your stuff.  The answers can be found below.  The first set of questions is “true or false” while the second set is “fill in the blank.”  No cheating on this; try it first from memory and if you don’t get a perfect score see if you can find the correct answer in the federal OSHA standards.  And don’t look at the answers until you are done!

  1. All scaffolds need at least one platform to be a scaffold.
  2. The minimum width platform for a suspended scaffold is 24 inches.
  3. The maximum width platform for a two point suspended scaffold is 48 inches.
  4. A boom lift does not need a guardrail system.
  5. You can guess at the required strength of a fall protection anchor as long as it looks like it can hold 5,000 pounds.
  6. Plank used for a platform can be of any material and strength as long as it can hold four times the intended load.
  7. Aluminum plank cannot be used with steel scaffolding because of galvanic action.
  8. The minimum distance a solid sawn wood plank must overhang its support is 12 inches unless it is secured from movement.
  9. The height of a toprail above a scaffold platform is 42 inches, plus or minus 3 inches.
  10. You must wear personal fall protection equipment and have a guardrail system when working on a multi-point suspended scaffold.
  11. If you are wearing personal fall protection while on a tubular welded frame scaffold platform, you don’t need a guardrail if the platform is no more than 7 feet above the level below.
  12. Same question, different platform height:  If you are wearing personal fall protection while on a tubular welded frame scaffold, you don’t need a guardrail if the platform is no more than 12 feet above the level below.
  13. Toeboards are part of the guardrail system.
  14. If you know you are not going to fall, you don’t need fall protection while on a scaffold.
  15. You have to wear personal fall protection and have a guardrail on a mobile scaffold if you are going to ride it.

Answers to the True and False Questions:  1, True; 2, False; 3, False; 4, False; 5, False; 6, True; 7, False; 8, False; 9, False; 10, False; 11, Trick question—you don’t need fall protection because the platform is less than ten feet above the lower level — True; 12, True; 13, False; 14, Don’t you wish-False; 15, False, but then if you are riding it you like to tempt fate.

Fill inthe blank

  1. The maximum gap between platform units is ___________________ inches.
  2. The minimum toprail strength is ______________________ pounds.
  3. The height at which fall protection is required on scaffolds is _____________ feet.
  4. The minimum overlap for plank is _____________ inches unless the plank is secured from movement.
  5. The minimum width platform on a supported scaffold is _____________inches.
  6. Fall protection for scaffold erectors is determined by the _____________________ competent person.
  7. For a platform on a supported scaffold, the platform shall extend from the front _________________ to the _________________ supports.
  8. Designed personal fall protection anchors must have a safety factor of _____ to one.
  9. Scaffold Platforms shall be designed by a _________________ person.
  10. The maximum space between the edge of the platform to the guardrail system is _________________ inches.
  11. For normal use, if the front edge of the platform is no more than __________ inches from the work surface, it is not considered an open sided edge and does not need fall protection.
  12. The stamp on the side of a scaffold grade plank shall read: ________________________.
  13. If an 8’0’ long plank is not secured, the maximum cantilever past its support is _________inches.
  14. The maximum distance between guardrail posts on a scaffold is ___________ feet.
  15. When you hook off the lanyard of your personal fall protection system to the toprail of a scaffold guardrail system, the rail has to be able to support __________pounds.

Answers to Fill in the Blank questions: 16, one; 17, two hundred; 18, ten; 19, twelve; 20, eighteen; 21, employer’s; 22, uprights, guardrail; 23, two; 24, qualified; 25, nine and one half; 26, fourteen; 27, it shouldn’t read anything– there is no requirement; 28, twelve; 29, trick question—there is no maximum as long as the rails can support 200 pounds; 30, 200—your personal fall protection isn’t being used since you are behind the guardrail, you are just “storing” your hook!

How Do They Fit?

By | Forming, OSHA Standards & Regulations, Resources | No Comments

A practical explanation as to the relationship between the OSHA standards, enforcement, compliance and safety in the construction industry.

It’s been a long time since I first became involved in the business of scaffolding.  My experience has included a lot of scaffolds, a lot of places and a lot of people.  It has also included a lot of regulations.  As a blossoming young engineer, I still recall asking by boss how OSHA fit into the design of scaffolding.  Since federal OSHA was just a couple of years old at that time, he responded with a clearly stated:  “I don’t know.”  Forty years later, it appears that we still don’t know how OSHA fits into the design, construction and use of scaffolding.   To be fair to federal OSHA, it doesn’t appear that any regulations, standards, codes or guidelines fit into the design of scaffolding.  Now, before you get yourself all wound up, this may be somewhat of an extremely broad statement.  But think about this:  We have standards regarding fall protection and more specifically guardrail systems.  In my research I have found guidelines regarding guardrails going back to the 1920’s, almost a century ago.  And we still have people designing, constructing and using scaffolds without fall protection.  If nothing else, we have consistency.

So what’s the problem?  Is it poor enforcement?  Is it poor training?  Is it poor knowledge?  Is it ignorance?  Or maybe we just don’t care.  Being a Professional Engineer, and accepting the responsibilities that go with the privilege, I am obligated to comply with the myriad of regulations, standards and codes that apply to the profession.  Not to do so will result in the loss of my license and opportunity to earn a living.  I don’t state this because I think I am special, but rather qualified professionals (degreed and licensed or not) accept the obligation that is or should be expected in the business.  I don’t agree with all the regulations; for that matter I’m not really keen on any of the regulations—it certainly stifles constructive creativity.  In fact, regulations are insidiously invading all aspects of our lives, resulting not only in a dumbing down of the industry but also in an erosion of expertise, efficiency, economy, and productivity.

Of course, those tasked with the enforcement of these regulations smugly point to the results of their policing actions.  They publish yearly results of their efforts as if those efforts have any real effect on the industry.  Frankly, the annual OSHA list of the top 10 violations has no relation to the degree of danger involved in the infraction.  For example, scaffolds always show up in the top ten, suggesting that there is a real problem with safety in the industry.  But is there a problem?  Perhaps scaffolding shows up so frequently because infractions are easy to spot and the compliance officers haven’t been trained to evaluate where the real hazards are.

One of the favorite activities these days is the harassment of professional scaffold erectors (casual erectors, where the problems really occur, seem to be immune.)  Statistics indicate that the death rate of professional erectors is extremely low, particularly when compared to the 80 annual deaths that occur with scaffold usage, the deaths in construction and more dramatically when compared with the approximately 37,000 people killed on the highways each year.

The situation is becoming so ridiculous due to what I think is a growing hysteria about safety and the lack of understanding of the actual hazards.  Enormous amounts of time and energy are uselessly spent deciding whether a regulation has been violated instead of investing in the safe productive work that should be happening.  How many times have you sat in a meeting ascertaining whether there is compliance with the regulations?  How many hours have been wasted bickering about the nuance of a regulation instead of determining how to get the work done safely?

I am not advocating the abolishment of enforcement but something has to change.  It is absolutely amazing how people think they are experts in erector fall protection, for example, and yet have never erected a scaffold in their lives.  And yet we give them the authority and take it away from the people most affected.  Furthermore, it is stunning to me how many government agencies, construction industry organizations, unions and engineering committees feel compelled to propagate more and more regulations, many applying to scaffolding, and yet do not even bother contacting the Scaffold and Access Industry Association or the Scaffold Shoring and Forming Institute for input.  Are you aware that the American Society of Civil Engineers has a code regarding construction loads which includes specifications for scaffold loading?  I didn’t think so.

I can sure complain about the problem but unfortunately I don’t have a snappy quick solution.  We cannot abolish decent standards and codes nor can we abolish enforcement—those are needed for those employers and employees who just don’t get it.  But we do need to abolish the politics in safety.  Have you ever wondered why we chase after the employer but not the employee?  Me too.  Have you ever wondered why compliance officers don’t receive sufficient training for the task at hand?  Me too.  Have you ever wondered why so many designers and constructors erect scaffolds without having any clue as to what a safe scaffold is?  Me too.  Have you ever wondered why we allow the sale of scaffolding in this country without any idea of its load capacity?  Me too.  Have you ever wondered why safety consultants have such a poor understanding of the true hazards in scaffolding?  Me too.

Forty years ago we were killing and maiming scaffold users.  We’re stilling doing it today.  And I still don’t know how OSHA fits into the safe design of scaffolding.  However, I do know what a safe scaffold is.  Do you?

Fact or Fiction

By | Fall Protection, Guardrail, Resources, Safety Hazards, Scaffolding, Scaffolding Platforms | No Comments

Fall protection is a huge topic these days what with people falling down and falling from heights.  And since scaffolds are, by definition “any temporary elevated platform,” the issue of fall protection is significant, especially since most scaffold fatalities are due to falls from heights.  It doesn’t have to be this way.  Scaffold suppliers have this really cool product called a guardrail that when used properly, will keep you from falling.  And if you don’t like that, you can always use other stuff to keep from falling to your death.

As you may already know, there are basically two choices when addressing fall protection from scaffold platforms: a guardrail system and personal fall arrest systems.  While not specifically addressed in many safety standards, fall restraint can also be used as a form of fall protection.  Other options are available for fall protection from places like open sided floors and roofs, options that include safety nets, monitoring systems, warning lines and fall protection plans.  It should be noted that lots of safety folks don’t like some of those options since they require workers to behave and we all know that doesn’t always happen.

Experience has indicated to me that when it comes to fall protection, everybody is an expert.  I’m not sure if that is because people fall, making them instant experts, or they think it’s no big deal to “tie off.”  So let’s look at some of these issues and sort out the fact from the fiction.

  1.  Fall protection is required when you are more than 6 feet above the level below.  Fact and fiction!  It depends on the applicable code.  Codes require fall protection at heights ranging from 4 feet to 30 feet.  So find out what the rule is where you are working (or hanging around).
  2. Most workers on construction sites, both commercial and industrial, often use personal fall protection equipment.  Fiction.  Very few workers use personal fall protection equipment.
  3. Many workers wear personal fall protection equipment.  Fact.  Luckily very few workers use it.
  4. Anchors for personal fall protection systems must hold 5,000 pounds.  Fiction.  If the anchor is designed by a qualified person, it must have a safety factor of 2.
  5. If you hook your lanyard (the other end of the rope that is attached to your harness) to an anchor, the anchor must be designed.  Fact.  You cannot guess at the strength of the anchor; if the anchor is not part of a system designed by a qualified person (see #4) the anchor must hold at least 5,000 pounds.  Guessing is not allowed although it appears everybody does it.
  6. The maximum force on the body is limited to 1,800 pounds.  Fact.  This means you better not fall too far before your fall is arrested.  That’s a fancy way of saying that when you reach the end of your rope, the force on your body better be less than 1,800 pounds or there will be two of you.  Incidentally, if the force on your body is limited to 1,800 pounds why does the anchor have to hold 5,000 pounds?  After all, if you pull on one end of the rope with 1,800 pounds, doesn’t the anchor on the other end only have to pull with a force of 1,800 pounds?  Hmmmm-what’s with that?
  7. The 5,000 pound anchor requirement is based on extensive scholarly research and testing. Fiction.  It’s based on the strength of ¾ inch manila rope which is actually 5,400 pounds.  It was lowered to 5,000 pounds in the US federal construction standards to agree with the US federal general industry standards.  So much for science.
  8. You cannot free fall more than 6 feet.  Fiction (sort of).  You can free fall as far as you would like, according to a US federal OSHA Letter of Interpretation.  It’s just that when you get to the end of your free fall, the load on your body cannot be more than 1,800 pounds.  (Now you know how bungee jumping works.)
  9. 100 percent tie off is the same as 100 percent fall protection.  Fiction.  Anybody can do 100 percent tie off; just look at any construction site.  Workers tie off to all sorts of ridiculous stuff.  Like the guy that ties off to the step ladder he is on!  One hundred percent fall protection is easy for scaffold users, but not leading edge scaffold erectors.
  10. I cannot use a scaffold for an anchor.  Fiction.  Some scaffolds make very nice boat anchors.
  11. I can use a scaffold as an anchor.  Fact.  When designed by a qualified person (and perhaps a qualified Professional Engineer) a scaffold can be used as an anchor for a personal fall protection system.
  12. It is difficult to provide adequate anchorage for leading edge erectors and still comply with all the fall protection standards.  Fact.  It’s really tough to get a scaffold to hold 5,000 pounds.  It’s really tough to limit the free fall distance for erectors to 6 feet when they have nothing above them to tie to.  If we waived certain regulations for scaffold erectors, we would eliminate some of the excuses.  For example, is it really necessary for scaffold erectors to have an anchor that can hold 5,000 pounds?  Is it really necessary that the system have a 2 to 1 safety factor.  After all, as long as he/she doesn’t fall to a certain death have we not succeeded?  Something to think about.
  13. Horizontal lifelines are easy to install and use.  Fiction.  While they may be easy to install, they are not easy to use.  The problem with horizontal lifelines is that people never use them.  That’s right; they install them, and hook off but luckily never use them.  If they used them they would be terribly disappointed in the performance of the line.  There is a reason horizontal lifelines are to be designed by a qualified person.  Did you know that an anchor on a horizontal lifeline can see a load of 25,000 pounds if it is not designed properly?  What do you suppose that would do to the scaffold?
  14. All safety consultants and compliance officers are experts in fall protection design and installation.  Fiction.
  15. All scaffold users are experts in fall protection design and installation.  Fiction.
  16. All scaffold erectors are experts in fall protection design and installation.  Fiction.

So much for fall protection– I still think the easiest fall protection is:  Don’t fall.  But then perhaps there’s more fiction in that statement than fact!