Author Archives: Brett

Stair tread adhesives

By Jared @ Floormatstore.com

Winter is coming… and it’s time to shift from tackling outdoor projects to indoor ones. At the floormat-store.com division, that tends to mean a spike in stair tread inquiries. Installing indoor rubber and vinyl stair treads is a great cold weather project. What most customers forget to consider when attempting a stair tread project when it gets cold though, is the adhesive.

 

Rubber and vinyl flooring adhesives have minimum temperatures usually around 65°F. If the temperature of the room you’re installing in isn’t at or above the minimum, you’ll be waiting a long time for the adhesive to set. Every year, we get a few customers calling with the complaint that the adhesive they received was a bad batch. So far, every time, it wasn’t the adhesive’s fault. The installer failed to read the instructions thoroughly enough to catch that temperature warning. Usually, it’s an unfinished basement or the few steps that lead from the garage to the house, but with the kids out of school over Thanksgiving and winter break, cold stair wells in schools are a common application, too. Most adhesives also need around 24 hours to set in ideal situations, so leave that heat on for a day (or two) after you finish.

 

Musson #300 water based contact adhesive

Musson #300 water based contact adhesive with 0 VOCs. Great for indoor stair tread installations

While keeping the temperature in mind, you’ll also want to consider that a lot of adhesive options require a well ventilated area. In summer that’s easy – just open some windows and doors and wear a mask. As it gets cold outside though, leaving those open isn’t an option. So make sure to get a low VOC adhesive that will work for the application. The last thing you want is to pass out from the fumes while installing stair treads – ouch! A water-based contact adhesive, like Musson’s #300, works for both rubber and vinyl treads, risers and tiles, going over concrete, wood, terrazzo, metal and marble – and typically have 0 VOCs. That safely covers just about any application.

 

Best of luck and stay safe with your projects.

-Jared @ www.floormatstore.com

Ladder Modification to Meet OSHA standards

control_tower_ladderWe recently were called out to look at a ladder that did not meet OSHA standards (1910.27) for clearance on the back side of the ladder. The ladder also had two angles of climb as shown in the above photo. When climbing up the ladder, the concrete walk was too close to the ladder for you to safely grasp the rung and also to put your foot on the rung while climbing. The ladder was accessing the top of the traffic control tower at an airport, and as such, we had to work around a variety of factors to ensure a proper replacement or modification of the ladder could take place without interrupting operations. As the install location was at an airport, the use of a crane to bring a replacement ladder to location would have been a logistical nightmare. We decided that whatever the solution was, it was to be brought up from the inside of the tower.

control_tower_ladder_option1Our first option was to remove the ladder and replace it with a 90 degree ladder. That is the most common fixed ladder type. There were, however, issues with supplying a replacement ladder.  First off, the concrete walk and rail were extended beyond the top of the tower. This meant that our replacement ladder would need to be very far from the structure in order to give us the required 7” clearance behind the ladder at the concrete walk location. That is not a deal breaker, but holding so far off the structure would have also required an extra-long crossover to reach the tower roof.  OSHA allows the ladder to have a maximum 12” step across at the top of the ladder. As the ladder has to stand 7” off of the wall (or the furthest obstruction off the wall) you can get by without a step across platform if the obstruction is 5” or under (5+7=12). The replacement ladder would have been very large. Ordinarily, this too can be dealt with by using our modular line. Our Modular Fixed Ladders come in pieces no larger than 7’L. Each ladder section bolts to the next one and has a pair of standoff brackets before and after the splice.

We could not accommodate additional standoff brackets required by the modular design so we would have needed to weld each splice together. Again, this was not a deal breaker either, but it did make this option less economical than other options.

control_tower_ladder_option2We decided that it was more economical to modify the existing ladder. The top of the ladder was already angled at an 81 degree angle. In the field we ran a laser down the ladder from the top to see where we would land if we kept that same angle throughout the climbing run. By cutting the ladder at the bend, and then cutting each of the lower standoff brackets, we were able to gain close to a foot of clearance at the concrete landing, well within the acceptable tolerances of OSHA’s standards. This option was not without its challenges though. As the ladder was going to be sticking off the wall even further than before, we were concerned about having a stable climb.

Here is the original ladder with the standoff brackets back to the structure.

Here is the original ladder with the standoff brackets back to the structure.

control_tower_ladder_afterWe added cross bracing across the two standoff brackets to stiffen the ladder up with the extended bracket length. After modifying the ladder, the bottom rung was still within the 14” allowed by ANSI A14.3, so no additional ladder rungs were required. Each welded location was then sanded down to remove any sharp edges or burrs and painted with a rust inhibiting primer. The end user was going to have their maintenance department repaint the ladder after completion of the work to help cut down on costs.

The ladder modification was completed at budget and within the scheduled time. Most importantly, the customer now had safe access to their roof. If you have a unique situation like this, give us a call. We can help you come up with the solution that fits your site requirements and budget, too.

completed_control_tower_ladder

Do I Need a Swing Gate on My Fixed Ladder?

 

Walk-thru fixed ladder with cage

Walk-thru fixed ladder with safety cage

Do you need a ladder gate at your ladder opening in your railing? According to OSHA 1910.28(b)(3)(iv)“Each employee is protected from falling into a ladderway floor hole or ladderway platform hole by a guardrail system and toeboards erected on all exposed sides, except at the entrance to the hole, where a self-closing gate or an offset must be used.”

This means that every ladder opening needs to be either (a) Offset so that a person cannot walk (or fall) directly into the opening or (b) Protected by a ladder safety gate. It is an easy either/or. The most common ladder installation locations are not offset and as such require safety gates. Below you will see some photos of ladders and top view sketches clarifying why each of their orientations either do or do not require a gate. Note: ladder chains do not meet OSHA standards.

Another seemingly redundant standard from OSHA further increases the areas requiring gates is 1910.29(b)(13) and 1910.29(b)(13)(i): When guardrail systems are used around holes that serve as points of access (such as ladderways), the guardrail system opening: (1910.29(b)(13)(i) has a self closing gate that slides or swings away from the hole, and is equipped with a top rail and midrail or equivalent intermediate member(…). 

This standard opens up gate requirements to manhole covers, roof hatches and other similar systems that would remain open while accessed.

Now that we know what the code requirement is, it is time to review a few common ladder mounting orientations to discuss where they fall under the code.

Fixed ladder mounted to side of platform

Fixed ladder mounted to side of platform

The above fixed ladder is mounted onto the side of the platform. Work is performed further down the platform but it is possible to fall directly down the ladder opening. This location is not offset and as such would require a swing gate. See the below top view sketch for clarification.

Top view sketch of side mounted fixed ladderway opening

Top view sketch of side mounted fixed ladderway opening

You can walk directly to the ladder opening from where work is/can be expected to be performed and as such, a safety gate is required at the ladder opening.

Fixed ladder with offset landing platform

Fixed ladder with offset landing platform

The above ladder accesses a platform and then turns to access the main walkway. This ladder is offset and would not require a swing gate at the opening.

Top view sketch of offset mounted fixed ladderway opening

Top view sketch of offset mounted fixed ladderway opening

As you can see above, if someone fell while at the main walkway they would fall onto the ladder landing surface, they would not fall down the ladder opening. If the ladder was rotated to the left side of the landing it would require a safety gate because then the ladder opening would no longer be offset.

Ladderway opening on side of catwalk

Ladderway opening on side of catwalk

Above is a very common ladder mount position. This one can be tricky until you lay it out from the top view. From first glance it looks like because the ladder is off to the side that it would be offset from the normal flow of traffic, but if you fell at that point of the catwalk there would be no guarding to protect you. A swing gate is a requirement at this location.

Top view sketch of catwalk side mounted fixed ladderway opening

Top view sketch of catwalk side mounted fixed ladderway opening

As you can see from the above sketch, there is a single direction of travel to the ladder from the catwalk. This is not offset. It would be a single direction fall into the ladder opening and as such, a ladder safety gate is required to protect your employees when a ladder is installed in the above orientation.

Most areas are not offset. A good rule of thumb is that if you can fall into the ladder opening with a single direction fall, then you are not offset. The only example above that didn’t need a gate was the second ladder location. With that orientation, you would fall onto the ladder landing and then hit the rear railing, not fall through the ladder opening.

Stay safe everyone!

We received a sobering message from a customer looking at our caged fixed ladders today:

 “My dad fell off of the roof to his death in June while trying to come down the ladder he had rested on the side of the building.  I believe his foot got caught in the rope.  If he had had one of these ladders this would not have happened.”

Stay safe out there everyone. I know that the above was just a random accident but if there is the chance that you can prevent those, especially after hearing about what can happen, why wouldn’t you?  Taking precautions and doing things the safe and right way may take a little longer or cost a little more, but going home to our loved ones at the end of the day is worth any price.

Our sincere condolences are with this customer and their family and hopefully sharing this story will cause someone else to take a moment to look around and make sure they are taking all necessary safety precautions. If you are unsure if you are doing something right, ask someone.

With a little help we can all make it home safe tonight.

Replacement Stair Rails

We recently were called out to a site with a corrosive environment that was in need of replacement stair rails as all of the original handrails were rusting and in disrepair. The paint was almost all chipped up, and some areas of the handrails were so corroded you had to choose between risking a fall by not grabbing the stair handrails, and grabbing the handrails but risking the need for a tetanus shot.

Existing railings corroded from damp environment

Existing railings corroded from damp environment

The above picture shows the lowest section with a bollard and chain assembly “protecting” the pit ladder that is bent, corroded and weakened at the base. It also doesn’t meet OSHA standards for rail heights or strength at top rail. You can also see the rusted handrail and stair rail. Anytime you have a damp environment it’s best to use a material besides carbon steel – Galvanized steel, aluminum or stainless steel all perform much better over time. Remember that corrosion doesn’t just make the metals look bad, but it also weakens them, substantially lessening their lifetime usability. Sure, the other metal options cost more than plain carbon steel, but when you have to replace the material before its time you have to pay for demo of the inferior material, fabrication of the new material, installation of the new material and have the lost time from the job being out of service during that process.

 

New hot dipped galvanized replacement stair rails and safety gate

New replacement hot dipped galvanized railings and safety gate

Here is the same view after we finished. We removed the bollard and replaced it with one with a more sturdy post and baseplate. The chains were removed and replaced with our MLG Ladder Safety Gate with a hot dipped galvanized finish. The new set-up is going to stand up to the moist, caustic environment much better and easily meets OSHA standards for guarding at a ladderway opening.

29 CFR 1910.23 Guarding of floor and wall openings and holes. “(a)(2) Every ladderway floor opening or platform shall be guarded by a standard railing with standard toe board on all exposed sides (except at entrance to opening), with passage through the railing either provided with a swing gate or so offset that a person cannot walk directly into the opening.”

New rails with OSHA required toe guard to prevent items from falling over the edge

New rails with OSHA required toe guard to prevent items from falling over the edge

All of the new handrails were done to OSHA standards with a 4” toe kick at the bottom, a 21” mid rail and a 42” top rail. Along the stairs, the stair rails were 34” high from the edge of the nosing. There was no wall mounted rail as the stair width is less than 44” wide and there is only one open side.

29 CFR 1910.23 (d) Stairway railings and guards. “(1)(ii) On stairways less than 44 inches wide having one side open, at least one stair railing on open side.”

 

Smooth, continuous handrail to maintain contact with rail throughout the climb

Smooth, continuous handrail to maintain contact with rail throughout the climb

The replacement stair rails are designed for a seamless transition between flights, allowing someone to slide their hand from the top rail to the bottom of the stairs without letting go of the rail. This gives a nice, clean look and also allows for safer access and increased strength of rails. Added strength also comes from the baseplate design with a four bolt pattern to maximize rail strength and minimize movement regardless of where pressure is applied front, back, top etc.

There were some unique challenges to this project with the winding rails, but with proper site dimensions and knowing the details about the installation environment, it was quite easy to supply this customer with replacement rails that fit and will last them a lot longer than their previous set.

 

 

Bi-directional gates are not SAFETY gates

Safety gates can be confusing. Don’t let them be.

Safety gates can be confusing. Don’t let them be.

We often get calls from customers looking for bi-directional safety gates, i.e. gates that do not have a stop and swing both in and out. Often these customers are looking for gates for staircases to hang signage on in order to “restrict access” beyond certain floors in staircases. The problem is that these gates do not meet OSHA standards for fall protection. OSHA’s guard rail standard requires a top and mid rail and requires the gate to hold back a minimum of 200 lbs. of pressure at the top rail. By definition, bi-directional gates do not meet that requirement, especially when used at the top of stairs. The best option for these customers is to use a self-closing and self-stopping gate, similar to our AG series of gate.

Stair safety gate mounted with the orientation requiring user to pull the gate towards them to walk downstairs. Coming upstairs, the user would simply push through the gate.

Stair safety gate mounted with the orientation requiring user to pull the gate towards them to walk downstairs. Coming upstairs, the user would simply push through the gate.

When used at the top of stairs, these gates can be positioned to require anyone going down to a restricted area to pull the gate towards them and descend the steps. They can also be positioned at the bottom of the steps requiring anyone going up the steps to pull the gate toward them to ascend the steps.

What you cannot do, and what is not safe by any means, is to do the opposite. If you install a bi-directional gate at the top of a staircase and someone falls into it, odds are they are going to have a very bad injury.

Bi-directional gates are not fall protection. They can actually give a false sense of safety creating more accidents.

Bi-directional gates are not fall protection. They can actually give a false sense of safety creating more accidents.

So take the extra second and install the proper gate for your location. Being safe is a LOT cheaper than cutting corners.

Commercial and residential roof hatches for pitched roofs

economy series roof hatch mounted on a pitched roof

Standard roof hatch on a pitched roof

We received this set of photos from a customer who used our “off the shelf” Economy Series Galvanized Roof hatch on a pitched shingle roof like you would find in many commercial and residential locations. The standard roof hatch comes with cap flashing and 1” thick rigid fiber board insulation along the curb of the hatch. For this installation, the customer removed the curb insulation from the hatch and bolted the hatch down to the roof. They wanted the most economical roof hatch solution that had a low profile to match the roof slope. Ordinarily we would suggest using a pitch corrected roof hatch on slopes greater than 3/12, but the infrequent use and need for a low profile roof hatch was more important to the customer than the advantages of the pitch corrected roof hatch. Below are some pros and cons of each setup to help you decide which solution is best for your situation.

Open roof hatch showing clearances on a sloped roof

Open roof hatch showing clearances on a sloped roof

Economy series hatch installed on a shingled, sloped roof

Economy series hatch installed on a shingled, sloped roof

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Standard roof hatch on a pitched roof pros:

  • Low cost
  • Standard sizes most likely in stock for immediate shipment
  • Low profile on roof

Standard roof hatch on a pitched roof cons:

  • Cannot use roof hatch railing (roof hatch railing may be required by OSHA depending on your site conditions)
  • Increased strain on hardware – installation on pitches 4/12 and greater are not covered by warranty
  • Decreased opening area due to roof hatch angle (see above photos)
Sample pitch correction options for roof hatch curbs mounting on sloped roofs

Sample pitch correction options for roof hatch curbs mounting on sloped roofs

Pitch corrected hatch on a pitched roof pros:

  • Larger opening for exiting on a pitched roof
  • Less strain on the hardware
  • Roof hatch railing can be installed on pitch corrected curbs
  • Needed for warranty coverage on pitches of 4/12 and greater
  • Required for larger roof hatches on pitched roofs

Pitch corrected roof hatch on a pitched roof cons:

  • Slightly increased cost (made to order)
  • Increased lead time (made to order)
  • Taller curb on low end of roof may be more visible from ground level

Using the pitch corrected hatch for your pitched roofs over 3/12 gives you the standard manufacturer’s  warranty and can give you a larger opening to go through, but ultimately it comes down to your specific needs and what is most important for you. If you have any questions, please contact us.

How to properly paint galvanized metal staircases and railings

What is hot dipped galvanized metal and why do people use it?

Before we get into how to paint over galvanized metal, let’s give a really quick background into what hot dipped galvanizing is and why people would do it.

Stair parts being lowered into a bath of molten zinc

Stair parts being lowered into a bath of molten zinc

Hot dipped galvanizing is a process that involves dipping steel into a bath of molten zinc. This process creates a coating that is metallurgically bonded to the steel, in essence becoming the outer layer and part of the steel itself.

Stair components coming out of the zinc bath

Stair components coming out of the zinc bath

The galvanized coating adheres to the steel at around 3600 psi, where other coatings, like zinc rich painting and zinc plating, adhere to the steel at a rate of 300-600 psi at best. The hot dipped coating has a hardness of between 170-250 DPH (Diamond Pyramid Hardness) as compared to the soft non-abrasion resistant coating of zinc rich paint or a 75 DPH hardness of zinc plating.  This is important as it shows why hot dipped galvanizing is such a popular means of corrosion resistance as opposed to other coating options out there.

How do I paint over hot dipped galvanized steel?

If you are looking for a finish other than the shiny or dull galvanization finishes (there are cosmetic differences between each in luster, but no corrosion difference between the two), you would need to do a duplex, or two part, finish to your product:  a hot dipped galvanized base layer and a painted top layer.

In order to paint galvanized metal you will need to first know whether the steel is:

  • newly galvanized (under 48hrs exposed, no zinc compounds built up on outside of steel),
  • partially weathered (day 2 to one year, some zinc compounds built up on outside of steel as well as possible dirt, grease, dust, etc.)
  • fully weathered (one year on, zinc compounds covering the entire surface.)

If the galvanizing is new you will need to profile the surface to give the paint something to adhere to. You will also need to grind down any bumps or drips that may be present from the galvanizing process as these will show through the paint. REMEMBER: Take care not to grind away the entire galvanized coating; using a hand grinder may be best practice to control pressure and grinding depth. For a partially weathered galvanized surface you will also need to remove any drips or runs, as well as the built up zinc compounds on the surface. For fully weathered surfaces you can skip those steps as the built-up zinc compounds are good for helping the paint adhere.

After you have profiled and/or prepped the surface you will need to clean the oil, dirt and other compounds from the steel. You can wipe down the handrails using a product like “simple green” to ensure there is no oil or other buildup on the material. Then you will need to use clean water to rinse the surface and dry it. Dry time to paint time should be kept to a minimum (under 12 hrs.) in order to avoid allowing any other contamination or build-ups to occur.

paint galvanized metal stair crossover

Stair crossover with yellow paint over galvanized steel handrails and stringers

What are some paints that are available for use over galvanized steel?

After the surface is clean and profiled you are ready to paint. A primer such as Sherwin Williams “pro-cryl” can be used. This primer dries fast and is corrosion resistant. You can top coat shortly after that with an acrylic coating paint like “DTM”. Check with your local paint supplier for additional options, as well as to get re-coat and cure times based on your temperature, humidity and paint thickness.

 

Outdoor Stairs for a Construction Trailer

How to get safe permanent access to a construction trailer

Wooden construction trailer stairs

Temporary wooden construction trailer stairs

Job site construction trailers are used all over. Some are temporarily placed in location and then relocated, and some are permanently stationed. The construction trailers can house offices, tools, machinery, electrical controls and more. Oftentimes, job site trailers will have temporary wooden stairs affixed, like the above photo. But what do you do when the construction trailer is actually in a permanent or semi-permanent location?

assembled metal stairs for construction trailer

Shop assembled job site stairs

We often get calls to fabricate replacement construction trailer stairs to replace temporary wooden steps. The stairs below were used with job site trailer that housed electrical control modules and needed a safe OSHA compliant means of access from two sides.

removable handrail on metal stairs

Close-up of removable handrail option

As the construction trailer had some large control modules inside, we supplied stair landings with handrails that can be unbolted, to allow ample access should any module need to be replaced. The stair railings were welded to the stair stringer to maintain a stiff, wobble-free grabbing surface.   In an effort to help keep costs down on the project, the stairs were supplied with two support columns instead of four. This was achieved by bolting the platform edge of the landing to the existing structure, allowing for less steel to be used and a smaller concrete pad to be poured.

stair landing with grating for snow

Bar grating decking allows dirt and snow to fall through – allowing for a safe, clear walking surface

Construction trailers are generally located outside in work zones, oftentimes lacking paved access to the doors. With that in mind, the stair treads and stair landing surfaces are most commonly constructed from bar grating. Bar grating is inherently self-cleaning; mud, dirt, rain and snow fall through the treads keeping them cleaner and safer to step on. The landing also has toe kick around the non-entry and exit locations. The 4” high toe guard stops tools and other items from being kicked off the landing. It also serves to stop a slipping foot from falling off the landing, potentially preventing a serious injury and employee downtime.

fully assembled construction trailer stair with galvanized finish for corrosion  protection

Construction trailer stair with a galvanized finish for superior corrosion resistance

As for finish, hot dipped galvanized is one of the best, cost effective finishes to use when the stairs will be exposed to the elements. No chipping, peeling or blistering of the coating will happen. In fact, when the hot dipped galvanized surface is scraped to bare steel, it will ‘self-heal’. The zinc rich galvanized surfaces to the sides of the bare metal will sacrifice themselves to protect the base steel until all of the surrounding zinc is consumed. Hot dipped galvanizing also coats 100% of the structure because it is immersed in the zinc solution, as opposed to being painted on, which can miss hard to reach areas.

Winter Weather Tips

It’s getting colder now and it’s time for some winter weather tips to keep things running smoothly whether you’re at the shop or out on the road.Snow storm traffic jam

  1. Keep a 5 gallon bucket with salt by each of your entrances along with a shovel. Snow and ice buildup can not only make it tough for people to get into your shop, it can also hinder egress in case of an emergency. Be sure to open the emergency doors and shovel/salt around them. Drifts of snow and ice can build up on the outside wall even if there is only a little snow on the ground.
  2. Have entry mats and/or a dry mop by the entrances to your shop. Wet boots trekking in snow can be a dangerous slip hazard.
  3. If you have exterior silcocks (spigots) be sure to remove hoses from them. Even if you have a frost free silcock, it will freeze with the hose attached.
  4. If there is ice on your windshield there is ice on the road. It doesn’t have to be packed up deep to be a problem. Often a thin sheet of ice can cause a big problem, especially when people aren’t expecting it.
  5. Watch the spray from tires – if spray is coming off other vehicles’ tires it’s likely the roads are wet as opposed to being ice covered.
  6. Pack extra supplies. Be sure to bring extra supplies in your truck in case you end up sitting in a back-up, stuck in the snow, wrecked or spun out. Blankets, hats, gloves, wool socks, hand warmers, energy bars, bottled water, a bag of road salt or sand, a small shovel, tow rope, booster cables and emergency flares are a good place to start.
  7. Make an electronics bag for your car. If your job requires using cameras, two way radios, cell phones, laptops or another portable electronic device like a laser level or laser measurer, pack those items all in one bag that you can take to and from your car, along with some extra batteries. Remember, in cold weather batteries are not as productive and electronics can stop working, so it is best to take them indoors with you instead of letting them chill for a prolonged time in an unheated trunk. Packing these items in one bag makes it quick and painless to take them with you.
  8. Stay dry. Whether you are directing traffic, offloading a truck, or maintaining or installing equipment, keeping dry is the first step to preventing frostbite and hypothermia.
  9. Layer properly. Cotton tee shirts offer no insulating value to you when you get it wet, yet many people still wear them as they go off to work outdoors. Natural fibers, wool or silk are amongst the best insulators when damp. There are also many good synthetic materials out that do just as well.  Remember, even if you start off warm and dry, when you work, you sweat, and when you sweat, you get damp, and when you get damp in cotton, you get cold.
  10. When working outdoors, take regular breaks from the cold. Hop in your truck for a warm beverage that you keep in a thermos. This will warm you from the inside out. Same thing goes for eating. Hot soup will warm you up quicker than a brown bagged sandwich.
  11. To help prevent your fuel lines from freezing up, keep your tank at least half full. If the vehicle is going to park for lengthy periods, fill the gas tank beforehand.