The Importance of Planning, Design, and Fabrication in Structural Steel Erection Safety

29 March 2018

Standing among large steel frames, you feel dwarfed by the size of this ongoing project. This is the backbone of the whole operation. It’s a safe site, there’ve been no accidents recorded in the project log, and the foreman intends to keep things this way. But where does the art of structural steel erection safety begin? Candidly, it starts before a single tool is lifted, right back at fabrication central.

Fabrication-Based Safety Protocols

Nasty accidents are avoided when safe operating practices are adopted. Above all else, know that the steel fabrication sector works with dangerously heavy parts. Back injuries occur when this fact is ignored. Use a pallet jack, hoist system, or some other approved lifting apparatus to manipulate the dense metal. Furthermore, wear a boiler suit, steel-tipped boots, and a hard hat. While this information might seem obvious to some, there’s always someone out there who’ll take a shortcut and ignore this work safety ruling.

Clarifying Planning and Design Safeguards

An abbreviated health and safety brochure just isn’t going to cut it when fabricated steel sections are transported. That’s alright because the design staff has been busy. They’ve been compiling the project documentation. The erection sequence diagram is there, as is the safe work method statement. Arguably, these metal sections do come together like a large-scale furniture assembly venture, but these are many metres long steel beams, not knee-high wooden panels. Following on from that line of reasoning, welding tools and rivets hold the heavy structural elements together, not a pile of Phillips head screws. Importantly, these diagrams, erection drawings, and safety statements must be in place as an essential health and safety measure.

Assuring Worker Accountability

Back at the fabrication warehouse, trained team members are using the right tools for the job at hand. Recently maintained hoists and cranes take care of all lifting duties while a safely operated welding rig is rolled into place by a seasoned welding technician. Road safety is next, with the truck team adopting an obligatory safe loading approach. Then, as the sections are erected on-site, a qualified competent person takes over. The important planning stage is still in full flow. Ground topography is detailed on a report. The foundations are ruled entirely cured and hardened. Finally, the steel framework has been checked and rechecked by a structural engineer so that the erection process guarantees a stable steel backbone.

Missing a reliably authored planning phase, the erection process cannot proceed safely. As a matter of fact, there’s no way to know whether the finished project will even stand safely. That’s a dangerous way to work. To counteract that chaotic approach, steel fabrication managers employ all kinds of prep stages. They assess column loads, calculate other loading factors, provide erection sequence guides, and generally ensure the planning and design work secures a safe erection environment.

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