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Staking study refresher

Features, On the Job | August 1, 2014 | By:

Whether you are a new installer or a seasoned professional, safe installations begin with understanding the IFAI Staking Study.

Tent Rental Division (TRD) of the Industrial Fabrics Association International (IFAI) has always been at the forefront of the tent event industry in terms of education, training and useful tools for the safe installation of tents. A clear example of this is the IFAI Staking Study. The staking study was a project identified by the division in the late 1990s, culminating with the 2006 launch of a user-friendly tool, “Pocket Guide—Pullout Capacity of Tent Stakes.”

The study was identified by TRD’s education committee and brought to fruition by industry leaders and division members including Kevin McBride, Jerry O’Connell, Bernie Armbruster and former TRD managing director Jan Schieffer. The goals of the study were to:

  • Provide a user-friendly method to test the
    holding power of stakes.
  • Provide the installer with a tool to assist in
    testing soil to meet the manufacturer’s
    required anchoring loads.
  • Simplify the process so installers,
    sales people and code officials would have
    access to the same information when
    addressing staking.

Prior to the study, the only way to properly test soil conditions was to use an expensive tool, a dynamometer, in conjunction with a fork lift, chains and other equipment. Because soil testing should occur at the time of the site survey and again prior to the installation of a job, this type of testing was unrealistic and beyond the abilities of all but the largest rental companies.

TRD tasked the education committee to work with the College of Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign on the testing, formula generation and adjustment factors for stakes. The goal was to allow a tent installer to test the holding power of soil with just a 1-inch-diameter steel stake, a tape measure and a sledge hammer.

The division accomplished its job, and since 2006 the IFAI Staking Study has been the standard the industry uses to test the holding power of stakes. Free to TRD members, it is also widely used for training by numerous associations and manufacturers, and has been adopted in recent codes as the standard, including the Kentucky code. The study and pocket guide take complex tests and formulas and convert them into simple testing techniques that can be used by any installer. The study provided tent installers with the engineering data to support many of the staking techniques they had used for years. In addition, installers no longer have to fall back on field experience but can apply the study’s findings when making staking decisions on jobsites. This achievement was historic in terms of educating installers on the safest staking techniques.

Why do stakes fail?

One of the key questions the study and subsequent training sessions generated was, “Why do stakes fail?” There are several reasons they fail, and many were not a surprise to tent event
professionals. Reasons for stake failure include:

  • Insufficient stake diameter. The larger the
    diameter, the better.
  • Insufficient stake length. The longer the stake,
    the better.
  • Stake angle. Stakes should be straight to provide
    a larger soil wedge.
  • Angle of the guyline. Following manufacturer
    guidelines for guyline angle is critical.
  • Stake depth. The deeper the stake is driven, the better.
  • Soil consistency. Consistent soil eases penetration
    and holding power.
  • Stake strength. Be sure that your stakes come from reputable manufacturers or suppliers and that the stake specifications meet the required loads.
  • Stake condition. Has the stake’s structural integrity been compromised through use or age?

All of these factors should be taken into consideration, and the pocket guide addresses many of them through the baseline soil test and secondary stake capacity adjustment factors. These factors are based on changes in the stake size, depth, angle, gang staking (use of multiple stakes or stakebars), etc. It is critical for tent professionals to understand the impact that each of these factors may have on the holding power of the stakes and ultimately the stability and strength of their respective tent system.

The key to safe staking starts at the tent site. Testing should take place during the site survey when sales staff or installers are discerning what tent should be used, how to safely install the tent, what obstructions there may be and what the soil conditions are. These factors allow the tent company to not only assure a safe tent event
but also to properly price the job
so that it has the required amount of stakes and the labor necessary to install them.

Because weather and site conditions can and probably will change, this testing should occur again prior to the installation. Also, for a long-term setup (more than a month) this testing may need to be done again, based on weather patterns. After each test it is critical that the installer ensure that additional anchors are added as needed to preserve the integrity of the installation.

Common mistakes

Understanding the factors named above is one aspect of installing a safely staked tent. Installers have been known to make other common mistakes related to staking.

The first mistake is to fail to refer to tent manufacturer instructions when determining how many stakes are necessary or what anchoring load is required. Many good, professional rental companies may have the staking experience to make their own determination on stakes, but by doing so they shift the product liability from the manufacturer to themselves.

A second mistake is to adjust the number of stakes or the method of driving them to meet a certain job cost. I have heard many stories of installers stating that “the customer wouldn’t pay for the total number of stakes required” or “we didn’t drive the stakes in all of the way because we were in a hurry and were behind on the job.”

A third mistake is to not conduct a proper site survey when approaching a job. This includes a full review of overhead and underground obstructions and a call to 811 (Call Before You Dig). This will help prevent an unnecessary injury or property damage when staking.

How does an installer get better at staking? This is simple! Installers should encourage owners or managers to join Tent Rental Division of IFAI. This membership will allow an installer to attend at a discounted cost regional training courses that explain and demonstrate how to properly stake in addition to many other useful topics. In addition to this training, it is critical for an installer to understand the types of tents being used, what is recommended by the manufacturer, codes or permit requirements and the regional weather patterns for their area.

This industry is comprised of terrific, knowledgeable tent professionals, and it is our duty to ensure that tent installations are safe for our fellow crew members and for occupants attending events. If you want to be the best installer you can be, then proper staking is the place to start.

Jim Reyen is business manager of Eureka! Tents/Johnson Outdoors Inc. With 25 years experience in the tent industry, Reyen is a former chair of the Tent Rental Division and played major roles in the creation of the Life Safety Committee, Training for the Tent Professional educational sessions, and the launch of the Ballasting Study and Tool. Reyen served on the TRD Steering Committee for 12 years.

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