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Ballasting for safety and safety when ballasting

On the Job, Safety & Codes | June 1, 2016 | By:

Learning to ballast with concrete? Follow these steps to ensure safe and efficient jobsite practices.

My crew has forgotten how to use a sledgehammer. Well, not really, but it could happen. In my local tent rental market, ballasting is common. So common that the top priority for my management team has been to figure out how to make ballasting happen in a safe, quick and cost effective manner. The quest is ongoing but we have learned a few things along the way.

The recent heightened awareness of safety in the tenting industry is refreshing but leaves us all with a long list of considerations when implementing a new process or procedure with our installations. Even with years of experience, it’s easy to fall prey to shortcuts that can compromise safety. Once you have made the decision to switch from water barrels to cement for alternative anchoring, you’ll need to prepare for the transition. Here are the steps I recommend:

First, consider how you are going to calculate the amount of cement to use for your installation. We sometimes take for granted how much holding power a stake has and need to remember that the cement’s job is to replace that holding power. The Tent Rental Division (TRD) of IFAI offers a Ballasting Tool, which helps to ensure your tent is secure and safe with the right amount of cement. At PTG Event Services, we have used the Ballasting Study and Tool to develop a quick reference guide for our staff with typical weights used for our commonly rented tents.

The next step is to decide how you are going to move the cement. If you haven’t moved cement before, it can be overwhelming. It’s important to introduce proper truck loading methods and weight distribution into your training program. An inexperienced crew can easily put a truck in danger by over weighting or not distributing the weight evenly.

Once the cement is at the jobsite, there are different ways to handle it. I’ve seen a lot of successful methods using machines and hand carts. It’s important to certify your crew on heavy equipment before they attempt to move cement with it. This is probably the biggest safety hazard. Improper use of heavy equipment, overloading a machine or driving a machine on the wrong terrain can result in injury and expensive damage. Standardizing your company’s training practices and incentivizing your crew to become certified with bonuses will reduce your chances of injury and help protect you in claims. Some heavy equipment rental houses can connect you with certification classes.

If your installation does not call for a large amount of cement, it’s possible to use hand trucks to move weight. Be sure your hand truck and lift gate are rated for the size of your cement ballast and incorporate proper techniques for use into your training program to avoid back injury.

Training doesn’t end with truck and heavy equipment training. Enforcing a personal protective gear policy greatly helps in reducing injury and potential claims. Steel toe boots are particularly critical for cement ballast installations.

It’s not easy to make the switch, but with an organized approach and diligence when faced with resistance, ballasting can be fast, profitable and safe.

Liz Davis is director of operations at PTG Event Services, Bethpage, N.Y.

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