Tilt-up construction, also known as tilt wall or tilt slab construction, is a widely adopted building method where walls are poured directly at the jobsite in large slabs. These slabs are then tilted or lifted into position by a large crane. Tilt panel picking is one of the most critical processes of this building type with unique safety considerations that must be addressed to prevent accidents and ensure a smooth construction process.
Safety is always a hot topic in construction, and for good reason: working on construction sites is dangerous. Reputable contractors work hard to provide education, tools and processes to reduce the rates of injury on jobsites. In an industry where margins can be tight and schedules demanding, cutting corners on safety can be a tempting but perilous path. A culture that prioritizes safety in all aspects of construction, including tilt panel picks, can enhance efficiency, protect valuable human and financial resources, and contribute to a company’s long-term success and sustainability.
Key Safety Considerations in Tilt Panel Picks
The practice of lifting and positioning large concrete panels, often weighing 150 tons or more, can be fraught with hazards. Any failure in handling these panels can lead to catastrophic consequences, including serious injuries or fatalities, as well as substantial damage to property, delays to the schedule and more.
To optimize safety, the following strategies must be utilized in conjunction with an experienced team:
1. Planning and Designing
Proper planning and engineering are foundational to safe tilt-up construction. This includes:
- Structural Analysis: Panels should be designed with proper reinforcement, considering all forces they will be exposed to during lifting and positioning. A qualified structural engineer must be involved in panel design.
- Lifting Inserts and Hardware: The right materials, inserts, and hardware must be chosen, ensuring they can handle the forces exerted during the tilt process.
- Crane Roads & Terrain Analysis: Proper haul roads must be designed and engineered to ensure the load of the crane will be supported by the surface on which it will sit. The crane might be positioned outside the building area, within it, or a combination of both, during the pick process. Each surface must be extensively analyzed by licensed and qualified engineers.
2. Training and Qualification of Personnel
Handling tilt panels requires specialized skills. Key considerations include:
- Training: Workers should be trained on specific procedures, safety regulations, and potential hazards.
- Certification: Using certified crane operators and riggers who understand the dynamics of lifting heavy panels is vital.
- Site Specific Safety: Every individual site must be evaluated prior to picking panels to determine the plan for safety, including who will be involved, what tools they need, and what the exit routes are in the event of catastrophic failure during panel placement.
3. Equipment Selection and Maintenance
The right equipment ensures safe and efficient lifting. Key aspects include:
- Crane Selection: Cranes with proper capacity and reach must be selected. Other factors, including but not limited to crane transport routes and placement, must be considered.
- Equipment Maintenance: Regular inspections and maintenance of cranes, rigging, and other equipment are essential to prevent mechanical failure. This kind of failure is both costly and can also be dangerous to onsite crews and operators.
- Slab Protection: If the crane is placed on the floor slab, analysis must be completed to ensure the slab can withstand the crane load. Measures such as temporary matting, outrigger locations and increased structural capacity of the slab will all be considered prior to the pick.
4. On-site Safety Measures
Safety practices during the tilt process should include:
- Safety Barriers: Establishing clear safety barriers around the lifting zone to keep unauthorized personnel away.
- Communication: Ensuring clear and constant communication between the crane operator, ground crew, and supervisors.
- Weather Considerations: Monitoring weather conditions and postponing lifts during high winds or other unfavorable conditions.
Some of the safety measures Perlo implements on jobsites for panel picks include:
A ‘No Access Zone’: Within this area, no individuals can be present that aren’t actively working on the pick. The zone is determined by calculating 150% of the panel height. For example, if the panel is 50 feet tall, the No Access Zone would be 75’ around it.
All workers must be within the line of site of the crane operator.
A safety ‘stand down’ is held with all crew members to review potential hazards as well as individual roles and responsibilities prior to the pick beginning.
Personnel are rotated throughout the pick to eliminate body fatigue.
5. Emergency Preparedness
Having a clear emergency response plan is crucial. This includes:
- Emergency Training: Regular drills and training on what to do if something goes wrong.
- First-Aid Availability: Having first-aid facilities and trained personnel on-site.
Utilizing Case Studies to Increase Safety
Analyzing previous accidents in tilt-up construction can provide valuable insights. One common theme in many incidents is a failure in communication or oversight. Such failures might be addressed by implementing comprehensive safety protocols and ensuring all team members are aware of their individual responsibilities.
As usual, prevention is the best medicine. A good plan prior to beginning this work is the key to maintaining a safe jobsite.
Safety during tilt panel picks in construction is not just a matter of compliance with regulations; it’s a vital aspect that protects lives and investments. By embracing a safety culture that includes proper planning, training, equipment selection, on-site safety measures, and emergency preparedness, construction companies can greatly reduce the risks associated with tilt-up construction.
The rewards for prioritizing safety in tilt panel picks go beyond just preventing accidents. It fosters a more efficient and harmonious working environment and ensures that projects are completed on time and within budget. In a competitive industry where reputation matters, a strong commitment to safety can also become a valuable asset, setting companies apart and cultivating trust with clients.
Perlo has completed hundreds of tilt buildings in our 65+ year history. We have even been labeled the ‘Tilt Kings’ because of our strength in this market. If you’re interested in a new building, get in touch with us today.
Featured Tilt-Up Projects
Columbia Distributing Headquarters
This project consisted of a concrete tilt-up shell with steel joists, and metal deck. Included in the facility is approximately 17,000 SF of class A office space build-out with warehouse improvements and a 53,000 SF cooler.
Ridgefield Industrial Center
Completed on 50-acres in Washington, this ground-up construction projects was a speculative warehouse space utilizing concrete tilt-up panels. Features include 36-feet of clear height throughout the warehouse.
Reilly West – GXO
This 270,000 ground-up, concrete tilt-up building in Hillsboro, Oregon, included high-tech fulfillment systems, unique fire alarm and fire sprinkler components, a fully racked warehouse as well as a built-out office space.