Ironworkers on the Safe Side Safety Bulletins

On the Safe Side: Drop Test on Rebar Determines Impalement Hazard and False Sense of Security

The Safety and Health Department has been notified that an unsafe practice of bending rebar dowel ends is being used in lieu of appropriate protective covers.  This safety bulletin highlights a recent rebar drop test on “dowels fabricated with 90 degree bends and caned ends” to illustrate the impalement hazard and “false sense of security” of this unsafe condition.  The photograph below illustrates the results of a drop test using a 250 pound sand bag that was dropped 10 feet on #5 rebar dowels.  The dowels were fabricated with 90 degree bends and caned ends, and spaced on 12 inch centers.


In an effort to observe and evaluate impalement hazards under similar workplace conditions, drop tests on rebar were conducted at the Ironworkers Regional Training Facility in Benicia, California.  The Ironworkers International Union, officials from the California OSHA Research and Standards Unit, Western Steel Council, and other reinforcing steel stakeholders observed test-drops to evaluate and document the drop test results.

After observing the test drops and documenting results, Eric Berg, principal safety engineer of the Research and Standards Unit for California OSHA provided an official letter of clarification to the Ironworkers International.  In Berg’s letter, he stated:

“Cal-OSHA does not accept the bending or hooking of rebar as an acceptable method of impalement protection. An employer that bends or hooks rebar for employee impalement protection instead of providing approved covers or troughs is in violation of Title 8, section 1712.  Such an employer would be placing their employees at risk of serious injury.” 

The photograph below clearly illustrates that “rebar dowels fabricated with 90 degree bends and caned ends” DO NOT provide any protection from impalement.


  DO NOT work above or around rebar that has been fabricated in this manner as a substitute for appropriate impalement covers.  Always notify your employer and job steward if you encounter this hazardous condition in your work place.