Steel Erection Safety Guide (Spanish)

Recently, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) revised the steel erection standard (29 CFR 1926 Subpart R). The revised standard is the result of years of joint efforts between the steel erection industry, industry experts, and OSHA. This negotiated rule establishes new performance criteria not just for the physical steel erection, but also for fall protection, employee safety training, rigging practices and crane safety. The rule became effective on Jan. 18, 2002.

The new rule outlines procedures for several practices that were not addressed in the previous standard. It establishes procedures for multiple rigged lifts, detailed requirements for daily crane inspections, rigging inspections, rigger qualifications, and connecting methods. The most notable change is that it establishes a height of 15 feet as the new action level for fall protection.

The standard is divided into several sections:

  • Scope of coverage
  • Definitions
  • Site layout, site-specific erection plan, and construction sequence
  • Hoisting and rigging
  • Methodology
  • Fall protection
  • Training requirements

Scope of Coverage
Most people would initially expect that this standard only covers ironworkers. This is not the case. Beyond what most would consider steel erection, activities covered under this standard also include erecting ornamental iron, window walls, stone and other siding systems, etc. All contractors should review this section of the standard to see if any of their work may be regulated here.

This section lists definitions for the numerous terms discussed in the standard. Terms that necessitate close scrutiny include connector, competent person, qualified person, controlled decking zone, fall restraint system, multiple lift rigging, and controlled load lowering.

Site Layout, Site-Specific Erection Plan, and Construction Sequence
This section is one of the more significant additions to the new rule. It requires that the controlling contractor provide “adequate access roads into and through the site for the safe delivery and movement of…” cranes, derricks, materials, etc. The controlling contractor is also responsible for providing “a firm, properly-graded, drained area, readily accessible to the work with adequate space for the safe storage of materials and the safe operation of the erector’s equipment.” This section also stipulates certain written notifications regarding the concrete in the footings and anchor bolt modifications.

Hoisting and Rigging
This section establishes inspection requirements for cranes, operator responsibilities, and multiple lift rigging procedures. It also discusses those times when it is permitted to work under a suspended load, and how to pre-plan the routes for suspended loads. A very important addition here states that “a qualified rigger (a rigger who is also a qualified person) shall inspect the rigging prior to each shift in accordance with 1926.251.” Clearly, the intent is to require that the rigger be an individual with a high degree of expertise, as found in the definition of a qualified person in section 1926.751.

These sections deal with the actual methodology of erecting beams, columns, joists, decking, and systems-engineered buildings. Pay attention to the requirements for roof and deck openings discussed under 1926.754(e)(2), particularly paragraph (iii) which states that “metal decking holes and openings shall not be cut until immediately prior to being permanently filled with the equipment.” The other option is that they be immediately covered. The requirements for covers are listed here and are identical to those found in the fall protection standard (Subpart M).

Fall Protection
This is the most important section of the standard because it deals with controlling the greatest hazard faced by employees during steel erection. This section should be reviewed in detail. Briefly, here are the basic requirements:

  1. Fall protection action level of 15 feet for all work except connecting and working within a controlled decking zone (CDZ).
  2. Acceptable protection includes safety net systems, guardrail systems, personal fall arrest systems, positioning device systems, or fall restraint systems.
  3. The criteria for fall protection equipment is identical to 1926.502, the fall protection standard, which is incorporated by reference therein.
  4. Perimeter safety cables on multi-story buildings must be installed on the final perimeter as soon as the decking has been installed.
  5. Connectors and employees working in CDZs have different fall protection requirements. A CDZ consists of an area not more than 90 feet wide and 90 feet deep from any leading edge, and is marked by the use of control lines or equivalent. Access to a CDZ is limited only to those employees engaged in leading edge work. There are specific training requirements for employees working in a CDZ.
  6. The “Custody of Fall Protection” paragraph states that the fall protection installed by the steel erector can only be left on the building if the controlling contractor has inspected and accepted control and responsibility for that fall protection system.

Training Requirements
This section outlines the specific training that must be given to employees who are exposed to falls, as well as special training programs for multiple rigged lifts, connectors and employees who work in controlled decking zones. A qualified person, as defined in section 1926.751, must provide this training.

Additional Resources
WCF Insurance Safety Department
(385) 351-8103

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NOTICE: This guide may make reference to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations; however the guide is not legal advice as to compliance with OSHA or other safety laws, codes, or regulations. Compliance with OSHA and other safety laws codes or regulations, and maintaining a safe work environment for your employees remains your responsibility. WCF Insurance does not undertake to perform the duty of any person to provide for the health or safety of your employees. WCF Insurance does not warrant that your workplace is safe or healthful, or that it complies with any laws, regulations, codes, or standards.