Every construction project involves a lot of moving parts. There are numerous skilled laborers using tools, machinery, and equipment. There are ongoing deliveries and the moving and staging of materials. There are also weather conditions which can bring high winds and rain. These factors, and others, create hazardous conditions that can lead to injuries. In fact, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), reports that injury rate in the construction industry is 71% higher than the all-industry average.
Safety is of critical importance in the construction industry. While the primary purpose is to protect construction workers, safety efforts also deliver significantly cost savings for companies. According to the NIH, U.S. construction injuries cost companies $11.5 billion annually. On the flip side, OSHA estimates that every dollar invested in a safety program generates a ROI of $4 to $6. The cost savings span several areas including workers’ compensation costs, medical expenses, avoiding OSHA penalties, and more. OSHA also reports, “In addition, employers often find that changes made to improve workplace safety and health can result in significant improvements to their organization's productivity and financial performance.” Having a strong safety program can also help attract employees, which is especially important during the current labor shortage.
“Having worked in the nuclear power industry for 20 years, safety was paramount in every project. So when I created Engineered Rigging in 2014, we believed safety should be at the forefront of everything we do, from engineering and design-build to heavy lifting equipment rental and sales,” shared Christopher Cox, P.E., President and Co-founder of Engineered Rigging. “We take deliberate measures to prioritize safety at each and every step in a project.”
Companies can mitigate safety risks on a construction site by focusing on the design process, equipment selection and training. Keep reading to learn three important construction safety tips.
Prevention through Design (PtD)
According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), a division within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “One of the best ways to prevent and control occupational injuries, illnesses, and fatalities is to ‘design out’ or minimize hazards and risks.”
Data backs up this proactive strategy. According to OSHA’s Design for Construction Safety Instructor Guide, 42% of U.S. construction fatalities (1990-2003) were related to design issues. As a result, NIOSH created a national initiative called Prevention through Design (PtD) which exists to prevent or reduce occupational injuries, illnesses, and fatalities.
Whether a developer or construction company prefers the increasingly popular design-build approach to a construction project or a more traditional process, the engineers and architects involved can strategically incorporate safety measures from the inception of the plan development.
“In sports you hear that the best defense is a great offense. That thinking also applies to the construction planning process. We know that we can prevent accidents from occurring by making safety our first priority in the design process,” shared Cox.
A recent project in Iowa provides a look into how safety can be incorporated into the design process. The Ottumwa Generating Station in Iowa needed to replace its coal ash conveyor. Designing a plan to transport the 138-ton conveyor through a congested plant with low headroom was only part of the issue. The real challenge was devising a plan to lift the massive conveyor 10 feet off the floor so it could be secured in place. Given the weight of the conveyor, safety was paramount.
Our engineers collaborated to identify possible approaches and lift plans. Leaving nothing to chance, they then used 3-D modeling to simulate the different plans. Multiple trials led the engineers to develop three lifting plans: one to move the conveyor adjacent to the boiler; one to set four hoppers onto the conveyor; and a final plan to elevate the assembly 10 feet to allow installation of new permanent legs.
“Multidimensional modeling helped us avoid any real-world surprises. By considering every option and meticulously calculating the final plan, we were able to ensure the safety of everyone involved and move the coal ash conveyor into place without any incidents,” Cox explained.
Remember the earlier reference to weather being a safety factor? Prevention through Design (PtD) was put into play when a nuclear power plant needed to replace 48 cooling coils inside its plant. The building had only one equipment hatch—located 50 feet off the ground. The cooling coils and all materials would have to be lifted and then transported through the hatch. The wind’s impact was a concern, as the plant reported it historically lost two to four days with each scheduled shutdown due to wind and weather.
To solve these challenges, Engineered Rigging designed and built the Pipe Modular Lift System (PMLS). To maximize safety, the self-locking PMLS provides perfectly synchronized lifting and positive mechanical engagement of the cargo and the platform 100% of the time, which eliminated the risks associated with below-the-hook lifts. The PMLS was designed to operate in winds up to 50 miles per hour, far more than the 20–25 miles per hour wind tolerance of cranes. At the end of the day, Engineered Rigging’s solution reduced manpower by half, which further mitigated safety risks.
“When you reduce the required number of people on a job site, you improve safety. There are simply fewer individuals exposed to any potential hazards or risks,” said Cox.
Safety-Focused Equipment Selection
In addition to prevention through design, the selection of the heavy lifting and specialized transport equipment can significantly impact safety. At the onset of a new project, our project engineers conduct a field survey to gain a thorough understanding of the worksite and gather precise measurements of the workspace. They identify overhead structures, tight corridors, existing structures, and any site limitations that will impact the lift or logistical plan.
Next, they assess the weight and dimensions of the load and any special considerations, such as if the load is evenly distributed or if it is uneven. The weight of the item that needs to be lifted or moved and the distance it needs to travel will often narrow the equipment options. For example, Engineered Rigging carries a complete line of the Enerpac SL and SBL Hydraulic Gantries. Each gantry has a specific load and lift capacity that will dictate whether it is suitable for a project or not. Understanding the precise specifications of the task at hand will help determine the safest equipment for the job.
After the equipment of choice is identified, our team in Russellville, Arkansas will conduct a load test to verify that the equipment will lift the load as planned. This allows for the identification of any issues that need to be addressed prior to work beginning. It also ensures that the equipment is ready to perform immediately when it reaches the job site.
The Panther Island Bridges project provides a good case study of prioritizing safety during the equipment selection process. An enormous falsework structure composed of large steel beams, pipe, timbers, and wood was needed to construct the three v-pier bridges. Once the concrete was poured and hardened, the completed bridge did not allow access to the falsework with a traditional crane. In addition, a key concern was the anticipated variation of the loads both in shape and weight. Each section of falsework weighed roughly 70 tons, but due to structural variations, an individual lifting point might equal three tons at one point and 15 tons at another.
What could provide the required lifting capacity and control the uneven loads in the limited footprint? Engineered Rigging created a system featuring a dozen 17-ton Enerpac HSL-1507 strand jacks. We selected the strand jacks because they are powerful and can operate in a compact space. In addition, they made sense because they came with a built-in safety feature: the Smart Cylinder Control System (SCC).
The SCC facilitated the synchronous control of the 12 strand jacks, automated lifting and lowering cycles, automatically managed the uneven loads, and allowed for real-time monitoring of the individual and accumulative stroke/load on a simple graphical user interface. Best of all, the entire system was designed to be safely operated by a single technician. The powerful lifting capacity of the strand jacks allowed the contractor to hoist and lower giant chunks of falsework, which in turn reduced the number of lifts and thereby created a safer work environment.
According to OSHA, construction jobs comprise 6% of the U.S. workforce but account for 20% of worker fatalities in private industry. OSHA created “the focus four” to raise awareness of and prevent the most common causes of death among construction workers. These four types of incidents account for more than 50% of all construction accidents.
The Focus Four are:
Knowing that knowledge is power, training is an important tool in the battle against workplace injuries and fatalities. Whether safety training is conducted by your company or a qualified third-party, employees learn how to avoid unsafe situations, properly use tools and equipment, and react when they are faced with a hazardous situation.
At Engineered Rigging, each of our heavy lifting experts completes extensive training on heavy lifting and specialized transport technology, and all employees have OSHA 10 or OSHA 30 training. We implement a safety plan for every project, and we ensure our team members thoroughly understand each element of the safety plan. In addition, we provide hands-on training for clients who rent or buy our equipment, and our experienced riggers and technicians are available to operate heavy lifting equipment for construction projects around the globe.
- Business Case for Safety and Health - Benefits | Occupational Safety and Health Administration (osha.gov)
- Safety ROI - Return on Investment | ASSP
- Prevention through Design | NIOSH | CDC
- The Construction Chart Book – The U.S. Construction Industry and Its Workers
- Costs of Occupational Injuries in Construction in the United States
Featured Product: Strand Jacks
Strand jacks are a sophisticated, powerful heavy lifting solution. Their compact design makes them ideal when a conventional crane is not practical or economical. They are well suited for offshore projects, industrial plant maintenance, ports, bridges, and any heavy lifting task that has a confined space.
Engineered Rigging has a variety of Enerpac strand jack systems available for sale and rental. Visit our Strand Jacks page to review specifications for each system or call 877.474.4448 for a quote.
Strand Jack Features:
Demo Days Recap
Engineered Rigging would like to give a huge shout-out to everyone who attended our heavy lifting technology demonstrations last month in Russellville, Arkansas. If you missed the event, we invite you to explore our fleet of heavy lifting equipment.