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Contractors Speak on ways for Mitigating Construction Risk

Español | Translation Sponsored by TCA

By James Baty, FACI, FTCA

The construction market today is arguably experiencing the strongest momentum of the last three decades. Despite the more than two-year impact of a global pandemic, the annual US construction industry has risen to nearly 9 billion USD. reports that after a moderate 1.8% growth in 2021, 2022 can expect to exceed a 3% growth rate. Annualized growth exceeding an average of 2% can be expected for the remainder of the decade.

Opposing the impressive growth trends that are pushing the construction industry at an all-time high of both pace and level are the persistent hurdles of workforce labor and the supply chain, which itself is largely affected by the labor force. Together, these constraints to performance put such pressure on construction firms that the most important aspects of your business—your policies and procedures—can be overlooked or set aside.

Policies and procedures define the top professional companies in this industry. Whether describing quality control (QC) and quality assurance (QA), training and education, or safety and hazard mitigation, today’s professional construction teams must focus not simply on maintaining their proven systems, they must also work to continually improve them in the face of the eroding pressure of performance.

The tilt-up industry demonstrates how to maintain this focus through our QC/QA procedures and the drive to continue advancing operation manuals. The Tilt-Up Convention and Expo in St. Louis, Missouri, this past fall was one of the most recent examples. There, attendees heard in multiple settings about the importance of bracing safety and the continued leadership TCA provides throughout this industry and outwards into other related industries.

“The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires that all precast wall units (site-cast and plant-cast) be temporarily braced to prevent panels from overturning or collapsing during construction,” offered Barclay Gebel, speaker and vice president of construction operations for Concrete Strategies of St. Louis, Missouri (Title 29, Code of Federal Regulations, Standard 1926.704). “However, the means and methods for doing this are not specifically outlined by OSHA and [are] therefore left up to the construction team to execute.”

Industry-specific professional organizations are often the source for guidance on these issues. This is an area where TCA has been a leading authority for decades. The first publication of the TCA’s Guideline for Temporary Wind Bracing of Tilt-Up Concrete Panels during Construction was issued in 1998. Developed through a collaborative effort of member professionals that was led by TCA fellow David Kelly, PE, this document delivered specific guidance that bore through the ambiguity of the OSHA standard and rationalized the more general specifications that were then directed by ASCE 7 and 37.

Since that initial publication, TCA has revised the guideline document five times to respond to updates in both ASCE standards as well as changes in the industry and technology. Today, the guideline document maintains firm direction for exposure conditions and rationalization of appropriate wind speed/pressure, and discusses how to increase protection based on risk-mitigation interests. Another significant feature is the maintenance of the minimum bracing requirements at two per concrete element. This compares to masonry wall segments or precast panels where often single braces are used to initially stabilize the construction, facilitating release until welding operations stitch smaller segments together.

Certified by both the Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute (PCI) and TCA, Concrete Strategies and its closely related parent company, Clayco, constantly evolve their construction standards and policies for safer workplaces. “Our new safety standard requires adherence to the TCA wind bracing guidelines on all projects during bidding and installation because it creates the safest environment for temporary bracing of panels,” states Joe Rock, CSP, safety director at Concrete Strategies. “All construction projects that have concrete wall panels—regardless of off-site fabrication in a precast plant or site-cast as tilt-up panels—will be braced per the latest TCA guidelines.” 

“As general and concrete contractors constantly looking to improve safety standards for the benefit of our employees, clients, and overall industry, Clayco and Concrete Strategies have made the decision to adopt the Tilt-Up Concrete Association’s Guideline for the Temporary Wind Bracing of Tilt-Up Concrete Panels during Construction across all tilt-up and precast projects,” said Todd Friis, senior vice president, risk management at Clayco. While this seems to be an obvious statement and position for a company involved in tilt-up construction, some companies have not adopted it as a formal practice for every component. For those contracting companies responsible for precast (plant-cast) and tilt-up (site-cast) projects, as well as erectors that specialize in crane operations who are still unfamiliar with industry standards or best practices, review of these guidelines is paramount for safety of the workforce.

The TCA guidelines are stringent and specific about wind loads, incorporating the methodology of ASCE/SEI 7-16, Minimum Design Loads and Associated Criteria for Buildings and Other Structures. “The windspeeds vary greatly by region and geography as well as day to day,” said Friis. “Identifying and understanding the design wind speeds applied to a bracing scheme and protecting for any condition that exceeds that speed is critical to the safety of both crew members and, in some cases, the public, as well as paramount to the risk management of the operations.”

The anchorage points for braces is another matter described in the TCA guideline document, which has grown to include the latest technology for helical ground anchor systems as well as slabs on ground (SOG). “Important issues related to brace anchorage from TCA guidelines have also been incorporated across the board by our team,” states Friis. “If the tilt-up or precast panels are braced to the SOG, the erector will follow TCA guidelines and have the SOG reviewed by a structural engineer to determine if the SOG will support the brace loads. The owner, or Clayco’s designated representative for construction, shall be responsible for assigning a qualified firm to review the floor slab capacity for the bracing of the concrete wall panels in accordance with the latest edition of the TCA bracing guidelines.”

The Clayco and Concrete Strategies teams are examples of companies certified by the TCA for specific tilt-up operations, and are among the countless professionals who have shown decades of commitment to increasing safety standards. Thereby, they are leading the way toward industry improvement, making investments in additional braces, and requiring strict adherence to TCA guidelines. 

“We are committed to adhering to these increased standards on all of our job sites,” states Rock. “In doing so, we are encouraging the entire concrete wall panel industry to brace for appropriate wind speeds, utilize two braces per panel at a minimum, and carefully consider the brace load on floor slabs. Clayco and Concrete Strategies are going above and beyond the industry standards because our biggest concern is safety, no matter the costs. We hope our stance will affect industry-wide change.”

The TCA currently has a task force looking at the latest published ASCE standard in relation to the 2018 version of the guidelines. Additionally, new panel markets emerging from efforts such as composite panel research provide the task force with opportunities to look at bracing connections and further guiding principles. 

For more information and a copy of TCA’s Guideline for the Temporary Wind Bracing of Tilt-Up Concrete Panels during Construction, visit

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TILT-UP TODAY, a publication of the Tilt-Up Concrete Association, is THE source for Tilt-Up industry news, market intelligence, business strategies, technical solutions, product information, and other resources for professionals in the Tilt-Up industry. A subscription to TILT-UP TODAY is included in a TCA membership. Subscriptions for potential TCA members are also available. If you would like to receive a complimentary subscription to the publication, please contact the TCA.