Fall Protection Structural Efficacy of Residential Structures for Fall Protection Systems
- Jeremy Bethancourt (Leblanc Building Co.) | Mark Cannon (Augspurger Komm Engineering Inc.)
- Document ID
- American Society of Safety Engineers
- Professional Safety
- Publication Date
- May 2015
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 58 - 64
- 2015. American Society of Safety Engineers
- 0 in the last 30 days
- 21 since 2007
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- In many regions throughout the U.S., residential builders have pushed back on the issue of fall protection because of the perceived additional costs, including those related to hiring an engineer to modify and reinforce structures, and validate and certify the fall protection system.
- Some falls have been arrested due to fall protection systems installed according to manufacturer’s instructions on unmodified structures. These cases indicate that engineering services are not always required.
- CPWR’s Research to Practice Initiative aims to bridge the gap between research and workers. For this study, the authors dissected several arrested falls by describing the circumstances under which the fall occurred, the scenario, the structure, fall distance, the system in use and the outcome. Additionally, the authors provide the range of loads applied to the anchor and thereby the structure when the fall occurred.
Many in the residential construction industry believe that fall protection for workers adds unacceptable costs to the job. Some suggest providing fall protection could cost $5,000 or more per structure, but this is an arbitrary number that the authors’ research and real-world experience could not reconcile. Another prevailing idea is that fall protection always requires modifying and reinforcing structures prior to use, which requires the services of an engineer who must also validate and certify the fall protection system. Others have voiced concerns that there is not enough ground clearance on typical single-family structures for workers to use fall arrest systems (Home Builders of Central Arizona; NAHB, 2000).
However, in the cases analyzed for this article, falls on residential and light commercial construction projects were arrested by fall protection systems installed by the builder and/or specialty trade contractor on unmodified structures. No engineer was involved in any of the installations, and eave heights were as low as 8 ft. These findings suggest a cost-effective and practical solution for providing fall protection in residential and light construction while meeting the requirements of federal regulations.
One value of evaluating these falls is that each had unique circumstances that tasked the efficacy of the fall protection system and anchorage. Readers can compare fall protection anchors that they use to those described, and predict with a high degree of confidence that their anchors, when used in accordance with 29 CFR 1926.502(d)(15), will function as intended if falls do occur without the need for additional specific engineering assistance. Data have shown that the engineered structural requirements as provided by the International Building Code (IBC) and bracing guidelines outlined in the Building Components Safety Instructions (BCSI) are more than adequate to enable wood frame structures to support loads of falling workers in accordance with OSHA requirements and ANSI standards.
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