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Thread: Steel Beam

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    NorCal Bay Area
    Posts
    15

    Default Steel Beam

    My first framing job in 1992 was building 4 story hillside houses in Brisbane CA overlooking Candlestick Park. The boss was using a 4 wheel Gradall with a hydraulic boom to lift a 30 foot I-beam above the frame to lower it down a pocket in the middle of the frame and set it as a center post. The boom was fully extended dangling the steel like a needle on a thread when it started to tip and begin its slow motion tumble down the hill. Steel and tractor headed a hundred feet bouncing downhill. Everybody scrambled. I was 3 feet away uphill. The fat kid carpenter working down below ran faster than anybody ever seen and just barely got away. Nobody hurt.
    In Marina Del Rey last week, almost 20 years to the day, we were lifting a 22 foot, 8x8 inch I-beam into a tight pocket I had cut into the floor joists above (our ceiling) to replace a bearing wall between the kitchen and living room. There will be continuous steel posts at each end of the beams from the 3rd to the 6th (top) floor. A hoist is put on the roof centered on the beams and a cable is dropped through a hole down to each unit to lift the beam starting with the 3rd then up to the 6th. My unit is the 5th floor. The beam is lifted with a nylon fabric strap hooked to the cable.
    Thursday early morning I got there and the steel guys had lifted the beam about 8 feet up and, then, my job is to be ready to make any fine tune cuts to make sure the beam has a unobstructed path up to the floor above. It was clear above (I did a good job!) but the steel guy wanted me to enlarge the floor opening at one end to make it easier to weld the steel post to the beam below that had been installed a day earlier. I blew up at him, offended, because the day before he looked at the opening and said it was OK. “Now you want me to get under a hanging load (1500 lbs ±) to cut out a few more inches?” I refused to do it. A 24 year old, Julian, grabbed my saw and did it. He’s one of the bosses actually. There were a couple of other bosses there who had no comment to my refusal. It seems nobody talks back to a big guy barking.
    15 minutes later the beam was being hoisted the last couple of feet into the opening. There was a steel worker at each end twisting and guiding the monster and I stood 2 feet off to the side watching. Pop, Pop, POP, POP, POPPP the strap strained and broke and the beam fell to the concrete floor as fast as an apple. The building shook and shouts came from all over the jobsite. Nobody was hurt.
    I saw Julian the next morning and asked him how well he slept. He said he couldn’t. He didn’t tell his family it was so frightening. They had been working under beams like this for 2 months. I told the top boss to have temporary posts ready to support the load before anybody goes under. It takes 5 minutes and $30 of lumber to make it safe. He agreed.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    before in Montreal, then move
    Posts
    80

    Default Re: Steel Beam

    Thank you to report this. Since last year I have decided that no matter the cost, safety first. Unfortunately my young crews does not follow it all the time. It is an every day challenge. Now when I look at a project I start to ask myself what does it take to do it safely. And I add the cost. Don't care if I loose it. The guy who installed the strap should have been fired. Each one should hold 5 times the weight of the beam.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Location
    Western Mass
    Posts
    1,667

    Default Re: Steel Beam

    If you have straps breaking and need to crib up the load to be "safe" you clearly well beyond the safe lifting capacity of the equipment. If you want to be safe use a big enough crane and strong enough straps. Sure new straps and a real crane cost a few dollars more but so does bouncing a steel beam off the floor below

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
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    NorCal Bay Area
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    15

    Default Re: Steel Beam

    The steel worker told me the strap that broke was 'worn'. When he put a new strap on he wrapped over a protruding bolt... there are more safety issues on this job.
    Most of the workers are underpaid youngsters and the ones that hustle are promoted to PM's. No training... no safety meetings ever...

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    Location
    St Louis, Mo for the past 25 years
    Posts
    7,565

    Default Re: Steel Beam

    Quote Originally Posted by steve williams View Post
    The steel worker told me the strap that broke was 'worn'. When he put a new strap on he wrapped over a protruding bolt... there are more safety issues on this job.
    Most of the workers are underpaid youngsters and the ones that hustle are promoted to PM's. No training... no safety meetings ever...
    sounds like you better watch your back on this job. I have to say I do not know which is worse, guys that are untrained or guys "that have been doing it for years this way". It only takes one slip up to hurt someone.
    Lifting something like that overhead is always dangerous and everyone needs to be alert and not distracted at all.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
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    NorCal Bay Area
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    Default Re: Steel Beam

    You are all right... it's an unsafe environment and I'll watch it. Today the bosses were yukkin it up about a beam dropping last week. These guys have never managed a framing job and it shows.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Location
    midwestish
    Posts
    7,344

    Default Re: Steel Beam

    You could always post a copy of the Cal OSHA equiv of 1926.251(a) along with the toll free enforcement number and a summation of fine potential. If nothing else it might raise a reddish flag.

    If you really want to have fun, get a serious looking friend stop across the street with a clip board, red [or white] hardhat, a camera and 'noticeably' take a few pic.s and scribble a few notes then leave. If there's a regular break time, the end of it is good point to arrive.
    “I find the curiosity of our men with respect to this animal is pretty much satisfied.”
    ~ Meriwether Lewis

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Location
    Brooklyn, Fire Island
    Posts
    5,413

    Default Re: Steel Beam

    Walking down the street 2-3 weeks ago, I witnessed a crew sliding an 8x8 steel beam into a building, through the 2nd storey window. No crane. By hand. Half-dozen guys in the window, 5 guys on 2 ladders outside.

    Ladders.

    Not sure how long the beam was, but there was a good 15 ft still sticking out when I passed by.

    I would have taken a picture, but I was too flabbergasted.
    Francois


    Truth is just one man's explanation for what he thinks he understands. (Walter Mosley)

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    Posts
    5,891

    Default Re: Steel Beam

    Quote Originally Posted by steve williams View Post
    You are all right... it's an unsafe environment and I'll watch it. Today the bosses were yukkin it up about a beam dropping last week.
    I worked in commercial concrete for big chunk of my career. I used cranes all day every day.

    I've seen a lot of close calls, guys on our jobs have been injures by hoisting, just a nudge with a concrete bucket or a hand trapped under a fly form can put you in hospital or end your career.

    I've been witness to one serious crane accident and had to perform first aid on a critically injured worker.

    I know the guys you are talking about and they are dangerous. They have just enough experience that they think they know something about construction but not enough to realize that they don't. SOME employers like them because they work hard and take responsibilities that they are nowhere near paid enough for. Others know the value of skill and experience.

    We don't let anyone rig loads, signal cranes or swamp without taking a 3 day rigging course, If you get a chance take one even if you have lots of experience they teach you a lot.

    For example did you know that the market is flooded with counterfeit rigging hardware? http://nmasse.org/downloads/docs_pdc...eitrigging.pdf
    Your sling that broke may have been worn or overloaded but it may have been a made in China counterfeit that's made to look like the real thing but has nowhere near the load capacity of the real thing. The problem is mostly in hooks, shackles and other hardware but it could be anything including slings and wire rope.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Location
    Sterling Heights, MI
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    4,662

    Default Re: Steel Beam

    My favorite crane story:

    The crane operator didn't notice, or didn't care that the truss was touching his boom. As he boomed down, the truss found a bolt that was sticking out. He kept booming down and suddenly the truss released. In a flash, it swung down straight at him. The tip of the truss just barely missed him. It happened so fast, I couldn't get a word out till after the truss passed by him. Luckily it missed him.

    Or did it? Immediately, he wiped away some "sweat". Wrong! It was blood. The tip of the truss had swiped him so fast and sliced his skull that he didn't even feel it. If it had hit him square, it would have smashed his pumpkin into soup.

    I started working with cranes at age 18. I learned a lot from the old experienced guys but don't remember much technical training when I went through carpenter school. I never dropped any loads but we had a few close calls. Things tend to happen. You have to assume and plan for the worst.

  11. #11
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    Dec 2009
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    Sterling Heights, MI
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    4,662

    Default Re: Steel Beam

    With that said, it's not impossible to hoist heavy beams high in the air or through windows. I personally handled a lot of steel by hand until I wised up and bought a boom truck. I had a lot of experience with steel beams because I worked in a steel shop at age 18-21 and I learned a lot of tricks about leverage and skids etc. When I started running the framing jobs, we always set steel over open basements and I used a lot of tricks that I had learned in the steel business to make the job easier.

    One thing that I didn't rely on too often was brute strength. I learned that that sucks when I was young and had to work under other foremen.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    NorCal Bay Area
    Posts
    15

    Default Re: Steel Beam

    For now, I need the work and will keep this job because it looks like steady work through next March. Steady work has been harder to find the past few years so I've decided to give it a run even with the faults.

    Here's the load.
    https://dl.dropbox.com/u/17760073/20...2014.56.10.jpg

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    Location
    Branford, CT 06405
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    3,670

    Default Re: Steel Beam

    even with the faults.

    No one here says don't lift beams, etc. Everyone simply says pay attention AND control what is happening.

    When you're part of a crew, it doesn't matter who's the boss when someone gets hurt. Murphy, who shouldn't even be on the job, doesn't play favorites!
    Take Care

    Jim

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