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July 25, 1997

Fall protection is the first line of defense against rebar impalement 

Washington builders are reminded that mushroom-style plastic rebar covers do not meet requirements for protecting workers from the safety hazard of impalement, according to Al Sutherland, an L&I safety and health specialist.

He said tests by California OSHA have demonstrated that mushroom-style caps provide absolutely no protection from the serious hazard of impalement as specified in Washington Administrative Code (WAC) 296-155-680(7)(a).

"The first line of defense against rebar impalement is always fall protection and prevention," Sutherland said. "Mushroom-style caps are designed to provide scratch protection only." 

He added there are commercially available protection devices (steel reinforced covers and wooden troughs) that meet the requirements -- when used according to the manufacturer's specifications. In addition, contractors may use other devices (covers or wooden troughs) if they are capable of withstanding at least 250 pounds when dropped from a height of 10 feet. 

In the California OSHA tests, canvas bags filled with 140 to 160 pounds of sand were dropped onto rebar that was protected by mushroom-style caps. The bags were dropped from three, five and seven feet. The tests showed that the caps provided absolutely no protection, he said.

If employees are working above rebar on ladders, scaffolds or platforms, fall protection/prevention controls must be in place, he said. 

If you have any questions or need additional information, Sutherland can be reached at L&I's central offices in Tumwater, 360-902-5588.

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