Vol. 11, Issue 1
  January 12, 2017
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Ladder Safety - DOs and DON’Ts


Winter Fire Safety Tips

> Wood Fences

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Ladder Safety - DOs and DON’Ts
Clinton A. Roberts, Jr.

Whether you are climbing roofs to inspect for damages or just taking down Christmas lights, ladder safety is important. Did you know:

  • Falls are the leading cause of death in construction
  • In 2014, there were 249 deaths reported from falls and many injuries also go unreported
Ask yourself these questions before climbing a ladder:
  • Will I have to hold a heavy item?
  • Is the height going to call for a long unstable ladder?
  • Will I be working from this height for a long period of time?
  • Will I need to stand sideways on the ladder to work?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, then you should consider using a different method, other than a ladder. When our staff climb ladders to inspect roofs, they carry a backpack to hold all the tools needed to inspect and document the roofs conditions.

Ladder Placement Tips:
  • Never place a ladder within 10 feet of power lines
  • Always set a proper climbing angle (1 foot out for every 4 feet up)
  • Ensure there is room to safely raise and lower the ladder and both bottom feet are placed solidly on stable ground

Ladder Use:

Always perform a safety inspection of the ladder and do not use if it has:

  • Loose or missing rungs, cleats, bolts or screws
  • Been dented, or badly worn rungs or side rails
  • Corrosion of metal parts
  • Dry-rotted or damaged rope (on an extension ladder)
  • Do not exceed the ladder’s maximum load rating. Be sure to include both your weight and the weight of any tools you are carrying
  • If there is dirt or grime on your shoes or the ladder rungs, clean before use to avoid slipping
  • Always, keep three points of contact while on the ladder (two feet/one hand or two hands and one foot)
  • Face the ladder both climbing or descending
  • Never carry tools when climbing or lean out beyond a ladder’s side rails

Ladders, when properly selected and used correctly, are great tools to help us do our jobs and finish chores at home. So, let’s select the proper ladder, inspect it before use and set it up safely. Lastly, be mindful when on a ladder.

If you have questions about site safety or ladder use, please contact Clint Roberts at: croberts@brackenengineering.com.

Winter Fire Safety Tips
David L. Compton, PE

Winter brings cold weather, and even in Florida we need to heat interior spaces to stay warm. The 2014 Fifth Edition Florida Building Code (FBC) requires that all spaces intended for human occupancy must be heated. In CHAPTER 12 INTERIOR ENVIRONMENT SECTION 1204 TEMPERATURE CONTROL:

61204.1 Equipment and systems
Interior spaces intended for human occupancy shall be provided with an active or passive space-heating systems capable of maintaining a minimum indoor temperature of 68°F (20°C) at a point 3 feet (914 mm) above the floor on the design heating day.

Exception: Interior spaces where the primary purpose is not associated with human comfort.

Heat can be supplied to interior spaces through a variety of means, including mechanical ventilation equipment, fireplaces, and space heaters. While mechanical ventilation equipment can be relatively safe and easy to operate, fireplaces and space heaters require special consideration prior to and during use.

Fireplaces are used to burn solid fuel to produce heat. While open flames within a structure can produce a great hazard, taking safety precautions can provide a safe source of heat. The Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) has published multiple safety tips regarding the maintenance of fireplaces and chimneys:

  • Have the chimney inspected and cleaned annually to prevent possible blockage, which can result in back flow of gases into the residence
  • Clear the areas around the chimney top and the fireplace hearth to prevent other materials from catching fire
  • Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors where fireplaces are located, then check the batteries frequently

Electric and gas space heaters can also be used to heat interior spaces. When using either of these, it is important to keep the surrounding areas clear of combustible items to prevent fires. Only space heaters designed for interior use should be used in interior spaces. Heaters should also be cleaned of dust and debris periodically to prevent potential fires.

If you have any questions, please contact David Compton at: dcompton@brackenengineering.com.

Wood Fences
Matthew R. Depin, PE
  2016 Season

Hurricane Matthew’s strong winds and wind-blown debris caused many wood fences to fail and need to be replaced.

Wood Fences are built for a variety of purposes:

  • To provide privacy
  • To keep people and/or animals inside or out of a particular area
  • To direct traffic flow

The Florida Building Code (FBC) 2014 Fifth Edition Chapter 16 Structural Design SECTION 1616.2 General Design for specific occupancies and structures addresses fences:

1616.2 Fences.
Fences not exceeding 6 feet (1829 mm) in height from grade may be designed for 75 mph (33 m/s) fastest mile wind speed or 115 mph (40 m/s) 3-second gust.

1616.2.1 Wood Fence.
Wood fences design shall be as specified by Section 2328.

The FBC also has specific requirements for fences constructed within High-Velocity Hurricane Zones (HVHZ), or within Miami-Dade and Broward counties. Wood fences within the HVHZ are addressed in Chapter 23 WOOD, Section 2328:


Wood fences, so located on a property that by zoning regulations they cannot be used as a wall of a building, shall be constructed to meet the minimum specifications in Sections 2328.2 and 2328.3.

Fences not exceeding 6 feet (1829 mm) in height, shall be constructed to meet the following minimum requirements: from nominal 4-inch by 4-inch by 8-feet-long (102 mm by 102 mm by 2438 mm) posts No. 2 grade or better spaced 4 feet (1219 mm) on center, and embedded 2 feet (610 mm) into a concrete footing 10 inches (254 mm) in diameter and 2 feet (610 mm) deep.

Fences not exceeding 5 feet (1524 mm) or 4 feet (1219 mm) in height shall be constructed as provided in Section 2328.2, except that the spacing of posts may be increased to 5 feet (1524 mm) and 6 feet (1829 mm) on center for these heights, respectively.

Many municipalities have local codes and ordinances, which are not found within the Florida Building Code, that further regulate the height of fences. For example, a privacy fence between two homes may only be permitted to be 6 feet tall, while a privacy fence between a business and a residence may be permitted to exceed 6 feet. You should consult the local zoning/building department to ensure repairs and replacement of wood fences are in line with local codes and ordinances.

Remember, fences which exceed the height requirements of the prescriptive portions of the Florida Building Code should be designed by a licensed professional.

If you have questions about the building code and fence replacement, please contact Matt Depin at: mdepin@brackenengineering.com.

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Bracken Engineering
2701 W Busch Blvd
Ste 200
Tampa, Florida 33618

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