There is nothing worse than spending 20 million dollars on a brand new building only to find out that you can’t maintain certain areas because there is no fall protection anchor points. Time and time again, we see that safety regulations are an after thought for architects especially in the public sector due to their recent legislative immunity.
We’ve talked about Areas of Refuge being overlooked by architects for years, now the recent trend is fall protection anchor points and railing. The issue with these items being an after thought is that the aesthetics of the building tend to be compromised with after market products. Not to mention, penetration into roofs and walls is never something that you want to do to a brand new building. Leaving 10,000 lb k-rail barriers on the ground (thanks Dante) to act as anchor devices works, but again it looks messy and makes a hassle for storage. So why do architects continue to overlook safety issues like this? Short answer – I have no idea.
What can we do?
The best thing you can do is talk with your facility planners, bond managers, construction managers and insurance carriers. Make sure that when you go out to bid that you specifically state that you want fall protection and other safety devices built into the building. This is especially true if you are hiring a firm from overseas who are not familiar with OSHA and the United States safety regulations. Simply putting the clause “comply with all federal, state and local laws” is not hitting the mark and is leaving safety engineers and risk managers to come up with creative solutions that are better addressed at the beginning of the design phase. You can also put clauses in the contract that states that if they overlook issues like this that they will pay for the retrofit, etc…
After market consideration
If you must do an after market fix, then you should really get a structural engineer to evaluate the possible anchor points and you need to include the architect to ensure that it is not going to compromise the building integrity.