Making tent installations safer
Making tent installations safer

Getting tent installation crews to wear safety equipment can be a challenge. Items get lost or forgotten, and when it’s hot outside, wearing a hard hat and long pants isn’t top of mind. However, wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) is not only a requirement for workers, it could help lower the risk of injuries as well as insurance claims.

Mike Tharpe, director of sales, TopTec Products, Moore, S.C., has given several presentations and training sessions on safety, and says safety equipment is an important part of tent installation.

“Safety equipment is available for a reason. It should be used,” Tharpe says. “Depending on the state or province in which crews are working, if workers are injured on the job and have chosen not to use personal protective equipment, the insurance claim could be rejected.”

Some safety equipment is standard across the board, such as steel-toed boots and hard hats. Sometimes, the job site may dictate the safety equipment needed, Tharpe says. He suggests listing personal safety equipment on every load list to make sure it is part of the operation and that it makes it on to the job site.

“On government job sites, you’re required to wear hard hats all the time. The management and the crew foreman are the key to people wearing hard hats. You can make it a requirement. Some people make it a point where they give employees one or two times where they can forget the hard hat, but the next time, they will be fired. Remember that OSHA doesn’t always come until someone gets injured, most of the time. If they see there are no hard hats being worn, they’re liable to fine you,” he says.

“The challenge is getting them to use it. Everybody wants to take them off. On a government site, you have to wear it all the time,” he says.

Carol Cundey, CERP, marketing communication manager, Eureka! The Tent Co., Binghamton, N.Y., agrees. “All of our instructions sheets and technical manuals call out information on personal protective equipment, as well as job-site safety, when installing a tent. Items such are hard hats, safety glasses, steel-toe shoes, hearing protection and safety vests are just a few,” she says.

“This is true for rental companies, full-time employees, seasonal employees and even temporary help. At Eureka!, we also ‘practice what we preach’ in that we follow these same safety rules and guidelines when we set up tents for trade shows, demos and local events. Safety on the job site is about personal safety and company safety. Showing you have these measures in place also can help a company with different types of insurances they must carry,” Cundey says.

Lacey Wright, CERP, Celebrations! Party & Tent Rentals, Roseville, Calif., says the company emphasizes the need for personal protective equipment with training and checklists.

“First and foremost, we stress training, training and more training,” Wright says. “Training our crew helps ensure the safety of our crew and products while on site. We require our crew members to be trained and certified for each piece of equipment that they operate on the job site. We also train in the proper handling of our products. In addition, since each site is different, we make sure to assess the site before installation. Some sites will require different installation equipment and safety measures, so assessing the site prior to installation ensures we have the proper equipment needed.”

Personal protective equipment includes personal fall-protection, hard hats and appropriate footwear and attire, she says.

“Our crew is assigned their own personal protective equipment and each person is responsible to have it on-site for jobs. The biggest challenge is making sure they remember to take it with them on jobs. We have a checklist for all our tent installations and include the personal protective equipment on the checklist,” Wright says.

Alex Kouzmanoff, vice president, Aztec Tents, Torrance, Calif., agrees. “The best measures are preventative training measures. Start with instituting a requirement that the right equipment be worn and used by your employees. Not only will this get your employees thinking safety each time they put on their hard hat, it will send a message throughout the company that you are serious about safety. Many injuries and accidents that occur while outside installing or delivering product are minor in nature, but the severity can be greatly minimized by using the correct PPE. More serious accidents can be avoided by proper training, such as where to stand and where not to stand as well as proper lifting techniques,” he says.

Kouzmanoff says Aztec’s protective equipment list includes long pants, hard hat, steel-toed boots, gloves, eye protection and ear protection.

“Whenever installers are utilizing lifts, proper fall protection equipment also is required,” he says. “This is part of our training. Each of our personnel that conduct product training for our customers instruct the proper use of PPE and practice the use of PPE during training. We also hammer this home when we are not training, but installing ourselves. Whether it is for sales training at our production facility or installing exhibit tents at trade shows, we practice what we preach.”

Chad Struthers, Warner Shelter Systems, Calgary, Alberta, Canada, says safety is of the utmost importance when installing tents and that in some places, the regulations on personal protective equipment are very strict.

“Our manufacturer instructions, first of all, specify to always deal with your permitting and engineering requirements, whatever they may be in your area. Second, we recommend checking your underground location and calling before you dig. Then, follow your normal OSHA guidelines and wear protective equipment including hard hats, safety glasses, steel-toed boots, gloves and long pants,” Struthers says.

“For our employees, we have safety manuals and always do a job hazard assessment. Our people always wear fire-retardant reflective coveralls, steel-toed boots, hard hats, safety glasses, gloves and long pants. We also always have safety meetings at the job site and it’s kept in a log. That’s for each job,” he says.

Also, consider your location. “Provincial standards can be more stringent that some of the U.S. standards. We have to get permits and plans signed off for anything larger than 600 sq. ft.,” he adds. “For some of the larger events, whether it is the Stampede or others, there are often inspectors walking around daily to check these things.”

For that reason, it’s good to develop a pre-installation checklist, says David MacArthur, national sales manager, Losberger US, Frederick, Md.

“At the start of each work session — first thing in the morning and before resuming work after breaks — the site supervisor should hold a brief safety meeting for all site personnel. Recap what types of hazards are present on the job site, report on any dangerous site conditions, report on any equipment problems, evaluate weather conditions and if they could negatively affect the work that is about to be performed, and assess the physical and mental condition of all personnel and their ability to perform the tasks to which they are assigned,” he says, adding that this includes assessing whether someone may be too ill or tired to take on the tasks at hand.

“Losberger recommends that all people on the tent site during installation and dismantling of one of our clearspan tent structures should wear a hard hat, safety glasses, work gloves, an iridescent green/yellow/orange safety vest and steel-toe work boots. When using loud equipment like stake drivers, ear plugs also should be used,” MacArthur says.

“Since Losberger personnel are not usually on-site for installations and dismantling, we can’t ‘enforce’ these common sense recommendations, but they are clearly stated in the product information that is sent to new users of the equipment and in the User Manual we send to new users. When one of Losberger’s field project managers is on-site with an installation team, he wears the PPE and requires all site personnel to do the same.”


Job-site safety

Job-site safety measures to consider:

  • Follow the manufacturer’s product installation and procedural guidelines when installing and dismantling tent equipment. Taking short cuts is usually not a good idea.
  • Keep a good quality, well-stocked first aid kit available on site at all times.
  • Stress ladder safety. For example, if someone is above the fourth rung, he or she must use a harness and have someone holding the ladder. Assess the operating condition of all ladders and repair or replace distressed pieces of equipment, and collapse A-frame ladders on windy days.
  • Work in pairs, so each person is looking out for his or her partner.
  • Keep workers well hydrated and enforce rest time on excessively hot or cold days, so nobody gets heat stroke or frostbite.
  • Look up, look down and all around for holes in the ground, overhead wires/utilities and weather changes that could be potentially dangerous.
  • Always call 811 “Call Before You Dig” prior to driving tent stakes, so underground utilities can be marked and avoided.
  • Do not smoke, use the telephone or listen to loud music while work is underway.
  • Listen and watch out for heavy equipment moving around the tent site. Make sure that all equipment is maintained in good working condition. Only certified operators should use heavy equipment.
  • Check all tools and the cables, ropes and webs that are being used on-site to be sure they are in good working order.
  • Report all injuries immediately to the site supervisor or other senior person on the site. Know how to contact emergency personnel if there is an accident.
  • Accidents happen more frequently when site personnel are tired, so do not overdo it.

Source: David MacArthur, national sales manager, Losberger US, Frederick, Md.


Eye protection required

When workers’ eyesight is lost or damaged, it affects almost every aspect of their lives. A survey conducted by Kimberly-Clark Professional found 85 percent of workers have seen their co-workers not using eye personal protective equipment (PPE) for jobs that required it.

The same survey showed workers consider eye protection to be the most important PPE in the workplace. Why the disconnect? It could be because more than half — 51 percent — of workers reported being forced to wear uncomfortable or poorly fitting PPE.

Try appealing to workers’ emotions to get them onboard with wearing eye PPE. Remind them of all the things they’d miss out on without their eyesight: watching their children grow up, being able to drive, their independence and more, but be strict, too. Remind workers PPE isn’t optional, even if it’s not the most comfortable to wear. Consider allowing your employees to choose from several options to find the most comfortable for them.

Don’t allow your employees to fall into the trap of comfort versus safety.


Personal protective equipment to consider:

  • Hard hats
  • Ear protection
  • Eye protection, including safety glasses
  • Gloves
  • Long pants
  • Steel-toed boots
  • Fire-retardant apparel (if required)
  • OSHA-approved harness and restraint system for off-ground activities