Safe Stilts?

Donald E. Smith, CCS

January 2005

Does OSHA have any information of the safe use of stilts for drywall workers?

A trip to the OSHA Web site, www.osha.gov, produced some responses to written inquires dating back to 1974. The replies all contain the statement that OSHA regulations do not prohibit their use. The biggest caution is in regard to the height of guardrails in areas where stilts are used. The recommended height for the guardrails seems to the standard height plus the height of the stilts being used, usually 36 inches. The other hazard is rough walking/working surfaces that could present a hazard to employees using stilts.

OSHA also provides a Tool Box Talk for stilts, ladders and scaffolds: "A guardrail cannot stop your fall if you are higher than the guardrail. If you use stilts, ladders or scaffolds near fall hazards, raise the height of the guardrails as much as you have raised yourself above the walking/working surface. If your stilts are 3 feet high, then you need to raise your guardrail and toprail another 3 feet so your protection remains hip high to you when you are on stilts"

Some other points from Marek University: "Inspect stilts daily for deterioration of footpads, straps, and buckles. Be aware of your walking surface, even a clean floor can have pieces of debris such as screws, electrical wire, trash of all kinds. Walk on stilts correctly, by taking smaller steps and keeping your weight above your feet."

Some of the dangers of stilts include the following:

  • Risk of falling when walking backward or changing directions.
  • Tripping hazards from normal objects.
  • Foot constraints reducing the capacity to recover from a potential fall.
  • Risk of bumping into windows, and potentially breaking glass.
  • Overloading of the spring mounts can cause stilt failure.
  • Increased risk to worker of sprain and strain injuries as a result of lifting objects from the ground or leaving stilts on to do related tasks.
  • Poorly adjusted stilts can result in worker fatigue and further contributes to the risks of sprains and strains.

Most important of all, make sure your workers are trained properly before allowing them to use stilts.

I am preparing to launch some new ladder products in 2005 and would like any reference you may have from OSHA/ANSI regarding ladders and/or scaffold products.

The OSHA Website indicates there 645 documents concerning ladders and 631 covering scaffolding. I am sure that ANSI also has some standards covering ladders and scaffolding, but their Web site is not as forthcoming as the OSHA site. These documents are from soup to nuts. They cover fixed, portable and temporary ladders.

We have a situation with a partition that is both fire and sound rated. The basic design has only one layer of drywall on each side going to the underside of the slab above. Our particular design has two layers on each side. My question is, Do the additional layers have to go to the underside of the slab above to maintain the fire and STC rating?

Since the basic design ratings for both fire and sound were tested using only one layer on each side of the studs extending to the underside of the slab above it is safe to say that the additional layers do not have to extend to the underside of the slab above. While the additional layers will enhance the sound rating not extending them to the underside of the slab above will not void the basic rating.

About the Author
Donald E. Smith, CCS, is AWCI's director of technical services. Send your questions to smith@awci.org.