Sunday, May 29, 2016

Attic Ladder Safety Innovation, 2016

Captioned photos that follow are from web album Innovations In Attic Ladder Safety . The photos are in reverse chronology from Spring 2016 to Spring, 2015. Innovation never ends. I hope mine is speeding up.

The album and this post are in service of a consensus Year-2018 revision of the International Energy Conservation Code, Paragraph 402.2.4. My campaign for the revision began seven years ago, twice missing once every three year revision cycles. My web site R5 Portals  collects all of the campaign information. This blog post will be duplicated in a first installment for a new page at the r5portals site, Innovations In Safety .

2015 IECC states: "Access shall be provided to all equipment that prevents damaging or compressing the insulation. A wood- framed or equivalent baffle or retainer is required to be provided when loose-fill insulation is installed, the purpose of which is to prevent the loose-fill insulation from spilling into the living space when the attic access is opened, and to provide a permanent means of maintaining the installed R-value of the loose-fill insulation."

I believe we need much more access provision, for safe work and achievement in attics. Reaching far, my proposal asks this: "The entry to an attic space at a portal shall have a surround of an ample raised floor that does not diminish insulation value. Flooring shall protect insulation against trampling while giving safe passage, to all attic electrical service points including fans, lights and junction boxes. Junction boxes not accessible from heated space shall be raised above insulation and flooring levels, or where this has failed, shall be flagged as a decked service point. Accessible service points will include static vents that require periodic cleaning. Where there is burial in insulation at a service point, insulation must be of batt form, tolerant of the displacement."

Please judge what compromise here, serves best. 
A near step-through occurred where an inspector toppled from this fragile OSB rim. Such minimal yet expensive structure seems to be prescribed in 2015 IECC. The installed cost of a simple factory-built access plug and surround might be less than that of a plunker and drywall edging. Step through repairs are expensive and often imperfect, and such cost is nothing compared to consequence of injuries, that do happen. Years of energy waste in trampled insulation cancel savings, and those are pocketed by a builder.

Without new flooring requirements, a drop-down ladder here would be no safer. Cheapest ladders are framed for 2x4 floor joists, then if there is not mandatory flooring, again barricaded against initially-deep loose fill, by a similar OSB skirt.

The tentatively-approved 2018 revision of IECC R402.2.4 makes no change of rules that result in the dangerous construction in the photo above, where a drywall plunker would still need an R38 batt gob in Oregon, or an R49 gob in Minnesota. The tentative new rule just allows that, if a drop down ladder is installed, it may be about R8 (U<= 0.10). Present construction endangering workers and an obstacle to good attic weatherization, is not addressed. In debating best rule change that then considers worker safety, we must understand what is possible.

Please see that my IECC proposal is a large compromise of all I find necessary in my work, for my safety, and to guard against liability should a customer be injured. I hope that I can prevent an accident by offering always at no added cost, every safety feature I imagine.

This attic in action is served by a Fakro LTK 22/47 drop-down ladder set at safe 60° angle. 2x10 rough opening sides are suspended from 2x10 composite beams bearing upon hallway walls. A 2x4 safety pole is rigidly attached to floor framing and roof joists. A lighted switch on a safety pole grip empowers bright lighting while a worker is still securely standing on the ladder center section. Footing on the ladder top section is more tricky, then with a hand advancing to bear weight transfers, on  safety pole grips.

An added hinge in the center section is essential to convenient and compact deployment. Bend at the added hinges, and tug straight down. Without the added hinges, the deploying ladder would not clear the ladder frame. Leveler legs give best protection against floor scuffing. Soft-rubber leveler legs also resist the scary phenomenon of "kickout", where a bottom section may suddenly transfer upright if one leans forward, midway up the steps.

This ladder is directly over a garage door. While deployed, a 3-way switch below for attic lighting, acting as SPDT, overrides the garage door operator. Safety pole hand grips are fixed to a truss element.

I modify "Recovery" ladders by Calvert USA, with safer broad top steps. The new step gives match of ladder step pitch, for the 10" distance to the raised attic floor. Probing down with a foot, one will not be tricked by weight bearing on tops of ladder step sides or the top edge of the door. In ladders I prefer, by Fakro, Calvert USA and MidMade, door springs operate entirely upon the ladder door. There is little in the "hole" to snag a person or object carried.

It generally works out that a ladder acts parallel to floor and roof joists, with egress in attic at roof peak. Hold on while moving about the safety pole. Guide yourself by the safety pole. Rails about the hole obstruct, raising new dangers, and I rarely build them.

Here a drywall plunker hole to the attic, replaced by a Fakro LTK 22/47 ladder, is not patched out. A hoist via that opening is offered, where some items appropriately stored in attic conditions, might be very heavy. The LTK ladder has 300 pound rating, but there is more danger in falling while carrying a clumsy object, than in some breakage of the ladder. Observe neat lines and near-invisibility of hatches edge-dressed with flexible grout.

Here is a hoist concept for attic storage of clumsy objects.

A loading hatch might rarely be used. It is closed by a prototype of an R6 factory-built plug. Where usage involves access from the attic via a parallel ladder, added insulation might be placed under the lid, upon the plug, saving perhaps $1 per year of heating cost. Don't spend more than $10 for the pillow!

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