Manually Lifted Balloon Framed Walls Present Hazards
A new Safety and Health Information Bulletin from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is alerting employers and employees that manually raised balloon framed walls can fall back onto workers when they become too heavy to be held.
The “Hazards of Manually Lifting Balloon Framed Walls” advisory, which was prepared with assistance from NAHB, also provides a list of safe lifting methods to prevent an accidental collapse from occurring.
Example of carpenters manually raising a balloon framed wall with a chimney chase attached. As the photo depicts, more than 10 workers are exposed to being struck by the wall if it collapses onto them.
During a five-year period ending in July of 2004, OSHA received reports of 22 balloon framed wall collapses that resulted in the deaths of five employees and 28 injuries.
Balloon framing involves the placement of framed walls, generally over 10 feet high, that run the entire vertical length from the structure’s floor sill plate to the roof. Although manual labor has been used to raise these walls for years, the walls have been getting heavier because of contemporary construction designs, the bulletin warns.
Although many employers have attempted to address the problem by developing guidelines for workers involved in this activity, the guidelines are not consistent and often rely heavily on the foreman to estimate the weight of the wall and the number of employees that will be needed to lift it, OSHA says.
The OSHA alert provides several methods that can be used in combination to prevent employees from being struck by walls that collapse onto them:
- Pre-plan the job.
- Determine the weight of the walls.
- Conduct meetings to discuss the safest methods for raising these walls.
- Use a competent person to consider and supervise all aspects of the lifting operation.
- Use cranes with appropriate and approved attachments to assist in raising and placing balloon framed walls.
- Use either forklifts of adequate size and capacity for lifting balloon framed walls or rough terrain forklifts with appropriate and approved attachments in placing the walls.
- Whenever a balloon framed wall is being raised, establish a limited access zone that is equal to the height of the wall plus four feet and running the wall’s entire length. Only the employees who are lifting the wall should be allowed to enter this zone, which should remain in place until the wall has been adequately supported and braced.
- Secure bottom plates with adequately sized metal bands (at least a one-inch band nailed to the floor joists) located at each end of the wall and spaced no more than 6 feet apart, or use other means to adequately secure the bottom plate.
- Use either manual or mechanical/electrical wall jacks to assist with lifting and placing the walls.
- If it is determined that there is a safe method for lifting the walls manually, assure that there will be a sufficient number of workers to continually assist in raising them.
- As part of the company’s safety and health program, require employees to use the proper procedures for engaging load-handling attachments onto forklifts or cranes.
For more information, e-mail Rob Matuga at NAHB, or call him at 800-368-5242 x8507.
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