Safe Handling of Steel Reinforcement (Rebar)

safe handling of rebar on-site

Manual handling incidents account for a third of all workplace injuries in the UK, but many of these operations cannot be planned or designed out when it comes to the construction industry. It is the largest hand-built sector remaining, and as such, it is open to a higher hazard level than other activities.

Handling, moving, lifting, and working with steel reinforcement (rebar) on construction sites comes with a broad set of risks, but these can be managed using reasonably practicable measures.

So, what are the biggest issues facing rebar handling on site and what can you do to mitigate them?

Delivering Rebar to a Construction Site

When your rebar is delivered to a construction site there are several things to consider to minimise and manage hazards.

  • The construction site must have a trained banksman to coordinate vehicle movements on the site, especially when a delivery vehicle is required to reverse into position for off-loading.
  • Avoid any need to access the vehicle bed to either sling a load, or separate stacked bundles.
  • Do not allow operatives to climb on the rebar bundles on the delivery vehicle bed.
  • Visually check any slings on pre-slung loads for wear or damage before lifting.
  • Use prefabricated cages wherever possible as these are easier to pre-sling, or supply in cradles for safer lifting.
  • If access to the vehicle bed cannot be avoided, then edge protection or loading bay systems are preferred to individual fall-arrest PPE.
  • Collective protection measures for all affected operatives are always preferable to individual PPE solutions.
  • Do not use bundle ties for lifting!
  • Ensure the rebar can be laid out in a safe area, either on pallets, stillages or appropriate toast racks.
  • Where rebar is to be assembled, make sure the area is properly segregated and secure from vehicle movements or other construction site activities.

Handling Rebar On-Site

The proper organisation of a construction site is key to the safe handling of rebar. Having a clean, dry, flat lay-down area is essential.

Good, clear access to the rebar stock and assembly area is needed too so that management of rebar and associated materials is made as simple as possible.

Moving Heavy Items

The risks of manual handling require a dose of common sense. The individual capacity for lifting any weighty item can only be properly assessed by the operative required to do the lifting.

In order to avoid musculoskeletal injuries on-site an individual operative must be aware that any limitations on lifting capabilities are their own.

If an item is too heavy for one person to lift, then it will require more personnel or an alternative lifting solution.

Cages should be slung and lifted into position by proprietary, certified lifting equipment, that has been inspected, with a plan that has been assessed, signed off, and communicated to the site team.

Moving Smaller Items

PPE will be a requirement on most main contractor construction sites, and for operatives handling rebar, a good pair of gloves will help prevent injuries to hands and fingers.

Good means a cut resistance level of F and an abrasion resistance level of 4. There is a wide range of gloves which fulfil these requirements, and they are not expensive, nor do they restrict hand movement.

A box stillage is a good way to move bracing links, chair sets, spools of cable, or other smaller items around a site.

If using a wheelbarrow is a practicable solution, remember not to overload it as the heavier it is the harder it will be to control adequately.

General Considerations

Discarded bundle ties and wire can be trip hazards, so ensure there is a bin close to hand where these can be safely stored for removal and recycling.

Rebar off-cuts are another potential trip hazard and should be collected up and stored properly.

An assembly area should be clean, dry, and free of mud or other contaminants. Try not to site it close to a wash-out bay for concrete mixer lorries for example.

Protecting Others

Once the rebar is set in the formwork, most of the time it ceases to be a problem, especially following a successful concrete pour. However, when there are starter bars present, the risk of impalement remains.

When first installed these should have had mushroom end caps fitted to protect against injury. A concrete pour can sometimes interfere with a measure such as this, so it is always a good idea to check that the right level of protection is always maintained.

Responsibility for the protection of others from your work activities on a construction site rests with the rebar installer, and will usually be monitored by the client and main contractor.

The Health and Safety at Work Act

The HASAW (1974) Act is regularly updated to cover construction hazards and processes. Balancing the time, cost, and trouble of managing these hazards is what is meant by the phrase ‘reasonably practicable’.

Sourcing the right grade of gloves to protect an operative’s hands falls under this definition. It is an inexpensive, yet effective way to prevent incidents that might cause injury.

Likewise, sourcing and ordering reinforced steel cages that have been pre-made in controlled factory conditions, can also reduce levels of manual handling on a construction site. Pre-made cages are less susceptible to inclement weather, or poor housekeeping encountered when cages are made up on site.

Collective protective measures such as the installation of loading bays, clear segregation of working areas and coordination of work activities are preferable to individual protections that involve higher levels of risk.

Safety By Design

When you plan and design with safety in mind, it will save time, cost and trouble further down the line.

If you are considering what your next steps should be with regard to any future project do not hesitate to get in touch with our expert team.

Call or email whatever your query, whether you would like to place an order, or find out whether we can save you time and money with our range of pre-made steel reinforcement.

Stay focused on your project,
let us handle the reinforcement.

Simple, accurate, and rapid solutions direct from a leading UK manufacturer.

Stay focused on your project,
let us handle the reinforcement.

Simple, accurate, and rapid solutions direct from a leading UK manufacturer.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this blog is for informative purposes only. The owner of this blog makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this site or found by following any link on this site. The owner will not be liable for any errors or omissions in this information nor for the availability of this information.

Always consult a qualified engineer and/or architect when designing or carrying out any construction project. Always work within regulations set out by your government, and within recommended safety guidelines.

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