Advance guardrails: new developments in safety building scaffold towers.
By Maria Hadlow10 May 2011
Advanced guardrails are becoming increasingly available on scaffold towers increasing safety for erectors and users. Maria Hadlow reports on some new developments
Falls from height are one of the most frequent causes of death and injury in the work-place. Various measures can of course be taken to avoid falls when working at height such as sufficient guard rails, kick boards and so on.
Other measures can be taken to reduce the risk of injury should a fall occur, such as the use of PPE (personal protection equipment) harnesses and lanyards; nets and airbags. Training in identifying risk and using safety equipment properly is of paramount importance.
If working from scaffolding or a scaffold tower the above measures, if suitably employed, should ensure worker safety, but the safety of those building scaffolding and erecting towers needs additional consideration.
UK company Turner Access Ltd is a division of the Turner Group; a private family owned and operated business since 1912.
The product range includes aluminium access towers, system scaffolding, collective protection equipment and specialist training courses. The company incorporates Turner PlusEight® and Safespan® Europe.
Turner Access advocates that scaffolders who build and dismantle scaffolds, and therefore, remove and install the guardrails, do not enjoy the same safety as those working from the structure.
"They have always been exposed to great dangers of falling and many have had to pay with their lives, building safety for others.
"In recent times, there have been moves to increase safety through the use of safety harnesses. However, harnesses do not prevent, but can arrest falls, and therefore, seen necessary as a last resort.
"As it is often only possible to attach the anchoring point at foot level, falls happen which can both harm and possibly kill. And contrary to popular belief, the majority of fatal falls occur below the height of 4m - where harnesses are almost ineffective.
"Harnesses, by their nature, also restrict movement, which not only slows down the work process, but also in itself can be dangerous.
The use of harnesses also imposes a duty on the user's employer to provide both a rescue plan and rescue resources capable of carrying out rescue and dealing with suspension trauma."
One method of protecting scaffolders as they build their scaffolding is in the use of advanced guardrails; these as the name suggests allow the scaffolder to erect guarding around the next work level before moving on to it.
Turner Access manufactured and supplied one of the first universal product solutions in the form of a telescopic advanced guardrail (PlusGard). This was further developed for use off-shore.
Following The PlusGard Turner Access went on to develop a similar solution for aluminium towers. The BetaGuard is an integral AGR (advanced guardrail), designed to prevents the risk of fall and enable users to better comply with Manual Handling Regulations.
Turner Access says, "Risks commonly associated with standard tower practice have been eradicated, but a key benefit of the invention is its efficiency, given that it removes the need for braces and additional platforms.
"A 4m tower can be safely assembled and dismantled in only seven to eight minutes, proving efficiency savings can easily be made when using the BetaGuard."
At the UK's Executive Hire Show this year there were a number of AGR systems being shown by other manufacturers. (See box stories)