Safety Reminders for Ironworkers

By: RK Steel

People often admire the skyscrapers which are erected as cities expand and develop.  What many don’t realize is that countless ironworkers get injured every year, often seriously, during the erection of these structures. They frequently work at jaw-dropping heights and, unfortunately, elevated work doesn’t forgive lapses in safety. It also rarely gives second chances. Here are some hazards that ironworkers face and safety practices that could save their lives.

Preventing Falls

As indicated in a 2015 presentation by an OSHA specialist, 9% of fatal falls were from structural steel, specifically during steel erection.

To protect employees from falls at varying heights, companies must establish training and protocol that exceeds safety requirements, creates happier and healthier employees and lowers Experience Modification Rating (EMR). EMR is a number used by insurance companies to gauge the cost of past injuries and future risk for a company. Here are some best practices to follow in order to avoid falls:

  • Written job site and hazard-specific plan.
  • Employee orientation training and periodic on-going training related to the job.
  • Fall protection systems that are appropriate for the work and situation. Train workers in the proper selection, use and maintenance of fall protection systems.
  • Contractors and job sites should have established tie-off requirements at heights above 6 feet.
  • Rescue and retrieval plan with trained rescue personnel for every elevated job site. Workers hanging from a fall arrest system must be rescued in a safe manner, protecting the rescuer from falls, and quickly to prevent further injury.

Avoiding Trapping / Crushing Injuries

Entrapment and crushing injuries in boom lifts often occur when the operator is reversing, slewing or elevating the platform into an unacknowledged obstruction. Here are a few best practices to avoid accidents.

  • When elevating near obstructions use controls in this sequence: drive, elevate, slew, telescope, fine control.
  • Do not lean over platform controls while moving.
  • Always check the direction of movement of the aerial work platform with reference to the direction arrows on the AWP base and platform controls before activating secondary guarding.
  • Consider adding secondary guarding solutions to your fleet of aerial work platforms.

Controlling Loads with Taglines

Taglines are used to oppose uncontrolled rotation of a load, alter the rotation of a suspended load, assist in controlling swinging, and avoid the need for workers to control the load with their hands. They are not intended to pull a load out of its natural suspended line, hold a load against wind forces or help support a load. Here are some best practices:

  • Avoid placing hands directly on a load.
  • Assuming 45-degree angles from load to handler, the tagline should be at least 1.5 times the height plus six feet.
  • Tagline rope should be laid across the palm of one hand and firmly gripped.
  • Never wrap the line around a beam, column or rail.

Protecting Hands

Hand injuries account for about 1/3 of all disabling job-related injuries each year. More than 80% of these injuries are caused by pinch hazards. Here are some ways to protect your hands from injury:

  • Hands Off: Use tag lines at all times.
  • Identify pinch points and provide guards.
  • Be aware of hand placement and pinch points.
  • Watch for folding or collapsing loads.
  • Always wear impact and cut-resistant gloves in good condition.
  • Establish a glove policy.
  • Do not operate tools or equipment without guards.

At RK we take safety seriously. Our full-time, licensed safety managers empower employees to take responsibility for their own safety, as well as those working alongside them. We have a zero-injury goal on every project. To learn more about RK Steel or our safety procedures please contact Kirk Schoech at

Source: “Keeping Ironworkers Safe Takes Education, Training and a Daily Dose of Reminders” by SEAA Safety Committee – SEAA Connector Magazine, 2016 Spring Edition