Installing floor joists and decking can be a dangerous task if precautions are not taken to prevent falls. It is important to protect workers engaged in “leading edge” work to ensure that they do not fall through openings to lower levels. Here we highlight some of the risks associated with installing floor joists and decking including various methods we recommend to our clients to protect workers performing these tasks. Employers are responsible for ensuring compliance with applicable OSHA requirements and our team has the expertise to provide full support.
Risks While Installing Floor Joists and Decking
Floor joists are typically set directly over foundation walls or framed walls. If workers stand on the joists or walls without fall protection, they can fall through to lower levels. Fall hazards are likely to be present if the structure being built has multiple stories. The use of effective fall protection can prevent a serious fall.
The employer must provide a training program for each worker who might be exposed to fall hazards. The program must enable each worker to recognize fall hazards and train each worker in the procedures to follow to minimize these hazards. For fall protection training requirements, refer to 29 CFR 1926.503.
Reducing Risks: Planning
Planning for the use of fall protection equipment can help employers protect workers from falls. Before our clients begin a job, we identify the fall protection needs to ensure the job is one that is safe and compliant with OSHA standards. Once appropriate fall protection systems have been identified, we ensure those systems are in place before workers report to the job.
Using the Right Equipment
Employers generally must ensure that workers use fall protection meeting OSHA requirements whenever they work 6 feet or more above a lower level (29 CFR 1926.501(b)(13)). There are guardrail systems and personal fall arrest systems available that can provide workers the flexibility they need during floor joist and decking installation. Some systems are more efficient than others because, in many cases, the employer can use the same system for both tasks. Employers may also choose to use scaffolds or ladders for floor joist installation and decking.
Scaffolds, erected on the inside or outside of the house, can be used while workers install floor joists. Engineered bracket scaffold systems and job-built scaffold systems can provide workers with stable work platforms when they install floor joists and possibly while they attach some of the decking. These types of scaffolds can be adjusted to a comfortable work height.
Employers must ensure that employees on scaffold systems 10 feet or more above a lower level are protected from falls. Mobile scaffolds can be an effective method for lifting workers up while providing protection from falls. For work on the first floor of a residence, mobile scaffolds can be placed on the cured concrete basement floor. From the elevated platforms, workers can install primary beams and floor joists, and they may also be able to tack some of the decking into place.
Ladders (A-frame and platform)
Workers can use A-frame and platform ladders to install floor joists and decking. Platform ladders can provide workers with a stable work base and give them more flexibility while maneuvering and positioning floor joists into place. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions about the safe use of, and load limits for, ladders. For requirements for ladders, refer to 29 CFR 1926 Subpart X – Stairways and Ladders.
Personal Fall Arrest System (PFAS)
Once the first row of the subfloor has been secured, a PFAS can be used. Strap anchors and specially made leading edge retractable lifeline systems are options to consider. Personal Fall Arrest System A PFAS is designed to safely stop a fall before the worker strikes a lower level. The system includes three major components:
- A: An anchorage to which the other components of the PFAS are rigged.
- B: A full body harness worn by the worker.
- C: A connector, such as a lanyard or a lifeline linking the harness to the anchorage. A rip-stitch lanyard, or deceleration device, is typically a part of the system.
Remember that workers must use full-body harnesses in fall arrest systems. Body belts can cause serious injury during a fall, and OSHA prohibits their use as part of fall arrest systems.
OSHA requires that anchors for a PFAS either be able to hold at least 5,000 pounds per worker or maintain a safety factor of at least two (twice the impact load) and be used under the supervision of a qualified person. We always ask our clients to consult with us when installing anchors to ensure that they are strong enough to hold the sudden weight of a falling worker.
Guardrails can be used to protect workers from falling through walls, floor openings, or window openings that are 6 feet or higher above a lower level. During multi-story construction, many employers provide fall protection by installing guardrails to exterior wall sections prior to erecting them into place. This ensures perimeter protection before workers begin activities on each floor. Placing joists and adding subfloors can be accomplished while workers are protected from falls.
If you need assistance understanding the OSHA standards or you’re interested in learning about the steps we take to ensure workplace safety and compliance, let’s get the conversation started today. Our experts at ESR are ready and available to help. We offer free consultations and will develop complimentary improvement plans.