Rebar Safety

Rebar 101

Each year the majority of the injuries at Burning Man can be traced to collisions with rebar. These steel rods have become the tent stake of choice because they are relatively cheap and hold up against the playa winds better than standard-issue tent stakes.

Most rebar injuries result from stubbing a toe, piercing a foot or otherwise impaling a body part on the exposed metal. Injuries generally happen at times of low visibility, such as in the dark and massive dust storms.

The solution? Covering the exposed end of the rebar with a tennis ball, doll head, plastic bottle or other padding will help prevent injuries is a step in the right direction, but the best way to prevent injury is to HAMMER THAT SUCKER ALL THE WAY IN! However, before doing so, you have to make sure you are equipped to pull it out again. Here are a few suggestions.

  • Use a length of pipe to fit over the end of the rebar to bend it into a “J” before you hammer it in. Not only will this remove sharp ends that could hurt people, it will give you good attachment for guy lines and something you can grab when you’re trying to pull it out.
  • Bring a crowbar, pipe or something to pull it out with. The keyword here is LEVERAGE. Think Archemides, a fulcrum and moving the world.
  • Use vise grips or crow bar to twist the metal a rotation or two, tap it a few times on the side with a hammer, and it should pull straight out. If you’re still having trouble, remember: your car is stronger than you. Don’t forget work gloves.
  • Stubborn rebar can be coaxed out of the ground by pouring some water into the hole. Wiggle the rebar around a bit to get the water all the way down the length of the metal. Sometimes, this is all it takes to do the trick.
  • Whatever you do, DON’T leave the rebar behind, stuck in the ground. This is a Leave No Trace event, and part of the fun is the improvisation and community that comes from solving problems like getting that bastard out. If you can’t get it out, ask someone to help you. Adapt. Be dogged and tenacious. Don’t let it win.
  • Remember that guy lines are almost as dangerous as rebar. You don’t want to “clothesline” an unwary cyclist. Make guy lines more visible by sliding a short length (3- or 4-foot) of PVC over the line before driving peg into the ground. It CLEARLY marks both the line and the location of the peg, EVEN ON THE DARKEST NIGHT. When used with candy-caned rebar, it makes securing your structure fairly safe. (Thanks to Ray Leslie for this suggestion!)
  • You can also attach bright tape, ribbon or glow sticks. In a perfect world, guy lines would be marked with EL wire or Christmas lights to prevent people from clothes lining themselves in the dark, but do what you can.

For more detail, go to Securing Your Desert Structure