Steel erection is an important process in the construction of steel-framed structures. It involves assembling the steel frame of a building or structure and connecting it to the foundation. The steel frame provides support for the rest of the structure.
There are many hazards involved in this process—that’s why it is crucial that safety protocols are followed to prevent accidents. In this article, we will discuss what steel erection is, the potential hazards involved, appropriate industry standards in place, and ways to enhance steel erection safety.
What is Steel Erection?
Steel erection is the process of constructing, repairing, or altering steel buildings, bridges, or other structures. It involves the installation, assembly, and connection of steel beams, metal planking, and decking used in the erection of a steel structure. Workers assigned to steel erection activities are exposed to many potential hazards, which is why steel erection safety protocols are important.
According to the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), steel erection is one of the top ten most hazardous occupations in the country. That’s why the agency has also laid down important regulations to promote safety for workers.
The International Labor Organization (ILO) recognizes the following as the processes involved in steel erection:
- Setting up hoisting equipment for raising workers and placing structural-steel members.
- Installing girders, columns, and other structural-steel members for the purpose of forming the completed structure or structure framework.
- Fastening steel members to cable hoists via cable, rope, or chain.
- Pushing, pulling, or prying steel members into their respective positions while the steel member is supported by a hoisting mechanism.
- Placing members into the final position using crowbars, turnbuckles, hand tools, and jacks.
- Aligning rivet holes in steel members with the corresponding holes in previously placed steel members by driving drift pins or the handle of a wrench.
- Verifying horizontal and vertical alignment of steel members using level and plumb bob.
- Catching hot rivets that are tossed by rivet heater in a bucket and inserting these rivets in the appropriate holes using tongs.
- Bolting aligned steel members to keep them in place until they can be riveted, welded, or bolted permanently in place.
- Welding and cutting steel members to make changes using oxyacetylene welding equipment.
Hazards of Steel Erection
Hazard structure erection will have corresponding hazards that vary at each location, depending on the size of the structure, types of materials used, and overall working conditions. Before the start of a steel erection project, a comprehensive job hazard analysis is required to determine the potential risks involved and establish appropriate safety plans.
With that said, steel erection has the following hazards:
- Materials: Carrying heavy tools and heavy, suspended loads.
- Tools: Using tools that are necessary for connections will expose workers to falling objects and other related hazards.
- Design: Working with structural elements that have unstable loads and irregular forms when rigging.
- Process: Walking on narrow and irregular surfaces, being in close proximity to energized lines, and being exposed to high noise levels.
- Workers: Being inside small spaces for long periods of time, working at extreme heights, and being exposed to high noise levels.
To address these hazards, steel erection safety protocols must be strictly followed.
Causes of Steel Erection Accidents
According to data from OSHA, steel erection accidents that lead to serious injuries or fatalities are often due to the following factors:
- Premature crane disconnections before the piece were even secured.
- Workers landing or placing a heavy load on unsecured steel members.
- Falls from steel members that were not properly planked or decked.
- Workers being struck by falling objects such as steel members, tools, and equipment.
- Being caught-in or -between steel members that are being lifted or moved.
- Workers being electrocuted by energized power lines.
- Failure to use available fall protection systems even when working at extreme heights.
- Stepping onto unsecured decking material that collapses.
- Walking or standing on the joist/beam where fall protection wasn’t used or provided, resulting in trips, slips, and falls.
- Lifting and moving extremely heavy loads which caused back and spinal injuries.
- Flying metal splinters; using a hammer and chisel; and conducting tool sharpening and other related tasks without using protective goggles, resulting in an eye injury.
- Exposure to high noise levels
- Touching live electrical circuits.
OSHA formulated construction standards called the “29 CFR 1926.” These standards also cover regulations for steel erection. These guidelines include the following:
- 1926.751 (Definitions)
- 1926.750 (Scope)
- 1926.752 (Site layout)
- 1926.754 (Structural steel assembly)
- 1926.753 (Rigging)
- 1926.755 (Column anchorage)
- 1926.756 (Columns and beams)
- 1926.757 (Open web steel joists)
- 1926.758 (Systems-engineered metal buildings)
- 1926.760 (Fall protection)
- 1926.759 (Falling object protection)
- 1926.761 (Worker training)
How To Improve Steel Erection Safety?
ILO recommends several preventive measures that construction companies must implement to improve steel safety erection safety. These are the following:
Ensure That There Is An Engineer-In-Charge
Make sure that there is always an engineer-in-charge who is responsible for the steel erection work. This person should be knowledgeable about steel erection safety protocols and be able to answer any questions that the workers may have.
Workers Should Wear Proper PPE
When working on a steel erection project, it is important for workers to wear the proper personal protective equipment (PPE). This includes hard hats, safety glasses or goggles, gloves, steel-toed boots, and hearing protection.
Inspect The Work Area Before Starting Any Steel Erection Work
It is important to inspect the work area before starting any steel erection work. This includes looking for potential hazards such as loose debris, unsecured loads, and energized power lines.
Use The Proper Tools And Equipment
When working on a steel erection project, it is important to use the proper tools and equipment. This includes using the correct size and type of steel members, bolts, and other fasteners. In addition, workers should be properly trained on how to use all of the tools and equipment before starting work.
Incorporate Safety Into The Planning Process
When planning a steel erection project, it is important to incorporate safety into the planning process. This includes creating a detailed work plan that includes all of the safety protocols that will be followed during the project.
Improve Steel Structure Erection Safety with DATAMYTE
Using DATAMYTE and its Digital Clipboard, you can empower your organization and ensure the safety of your frontline workers. Through our workflow automation software, you can create comprehensive workflows that address steel structure erection safety concerns.
The DataMyte Digital Clipboard is only available on the browser. However, the workflows, checklists, and other tools that you create from there can be used on all devices, making it easy for workers to access and use the information necessary to stay safe while on the job.
With the DataMyte Digital Clipboard, you can implement steel erection safety protocols that are compliant with OSHA regulations. You can also customize the software to fit the specific needs of your organization. So whether you’re looking to improve safety, productivity, or both, the DataMyte Digital Clipboard can help.
To learn more about how we can help you improve steel erection safety, book a demo with us today. We’ll be happy to answer any questions you have and show you how our software can help your organization.
Steel erection is a complex and dangerous process. There are also many hazards involved, and it is important for construction companies to be aware of the industry standards and regulations. So by taking the proper precautions and using the right tools and equipment, steel erection safety can be improved.