Construction Worker is Impaled on Unsafe Job Site


Construction Expert WitnessThis case involves a construction worker who was impaled on a steel beam that was left jutting from the base of a concrete building foundation. At the time of the incident in question, the man was working as an electrical contractor at a large industrial construction site. The man was walking around the job site when he suddenly slipped, landing chest first on the steel rod, which went through his right lung. As a result of his injuries, the man was unable to return to work.

Question(s) For Expert Witness

  • 1. Please briefly describe your experience with construction site safety.
  • 2. Can you discuss the proper capping for rebar?

Expert Witness Response E-080479

Expert-ID: E-080479

I have over 15 years of construction site safety experience, the majority of which has been heavy civil, concrete, and commercial construction. OSHA 29 CFR §1926.701(b) states: “Reinforcing steel. All protruding reinforcing steel, onto and into which employees could fall, shall be guarded to eliminate the hazard of impalement.” In other words, any rebar you could fall onto and be lacerated/impaled on must be capped, and the cap must be large enough to dissipate the forces of impact to prevent impalement from a reasonably foreseeable fall distance. When workers are at the same level as the rebar, we safety professionals typically enforce capping of vertical rebar up to 6 feet tall. However, if working at heights, then anything below workers must be capped if they could potentially fall on it. As far as how to cap rebar, OSHA states: “…we would consider protective devices (covers or wooden troughs) for rebar that are capable of withstanding at least 250 pounds dropped from a height of 10 feet to be adequate to meet the §1926.701(b) rebar requirements.” With regard to walkways/maintenance, OSHA law states: “During the course of construction, alteration, or repairs, form and scrap lumber with protruding nails, and all other debris, shall be kept cleared from work areas, passageways, and stairs, in and around buildings or other structures.” 1926.34(c) states, “Means of egress shall be continually maintained free of all obstructions or impediments to full instant use in the case of fire or other emergency.” OSHA requires that all walking/working surfaces must be kept clean, free of debris, free of hazards, illuminated, and any hazards that cannot be removed must be marked/guarded. Typical construction safety practice is to maintain at all times a clearly visible and obvious walkway and emergency evacuation route. Tripping hazards must be removed or guarded.

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