There's no excuse for cutting corners when it comes to supplying PPE
A consequence of the global downturn having had a marked impact upon the construction industry in the Middle East is that, when it comes to making projects viable over the long term, engineers, contractors and consultants are more cost-conscious than ever.
The danger of this, especially in terms of construction in general and infrastructure in particular, is that lower-quality products are specified that can be detrimental to the health and safety of workers on-site.
It is vital that when such products are specified, they adhere to the highest international standards for health and safety.
It is equally important that specifiers implicitly comprehend what the safest solution is for the specific needs of each project, and that their ultimate decisions in this regard not be overridden by budgetary considerations.
“The benefit of such an approach is helping the specification and procurement departments to make informed decisions that are not solely motivated by value engineering,” says Andersen. Tamal Kumar Ray, Combisafe Gulf FZE business development manager: Miller fall-protection specialist, concurs.
“The current state of the construction industry is that it is more price-conscious than quality-conscious. There are always particular customers who do not care about price, as safety is paramount, and these always specify high-end products that comply with all the necessary standards. However, we are taking a hit at the moment in terms of our premium products,” says Ray.
Markus Edel, key account manager for VdS in the UAE and the Middle East, comments that the company works closely with key manufacturers on product certification and specification.
“The Middle East market is problematic due to the plethora of standards. We tend to promote the EN or European standards as these tend to be more flexible and are often more advanced.”
V. Jagdish, regional business development manager: building materials / life safety and security, emerging markets, for Underwriters Laboratories India, points out that, “product performance will vary depending on the standards and regulations for which they have been designed.”
In this regard, the Global UL Mark has been launched, billed as “the first certification mark in the UL portfolio to demonstrate compliance with the requirements in the US, Canada and the Middle East.”
Thomas F. Bell-Wright, CEO and chief technical officer of Thomas Bell-Wright International Consultants, comments that “top-drawer consultants are becoming increasingly aware of the need for testing and specifying appropriate products. The UAE market, in particular, is improving steadily, and has advanced over the years. We are experiencing an increased demand for specialist services.”
David Jerromes, key accounts manager for Delta Plus Middle East FZE, explains that the French designer and manufacturer “designs and controls the manufacture of all its PPE products.” This is critical to ensuring that the highest technical and quality standards are met.
“There is a hugely significant technical input to the products to help reduce the level of risk to the user from a respective hazard,” explains Jerromes. He says that “each item is designed specifically to incorporate features that will allow a wearer to operate in more comfort and safety within a given hazardous environment.”
However, there is also an onus on workers to ensure their own safety within their immediate working environment.
“The first step for any company or worker is to reduce hazards in the workplace. Risk assessments should be done to take into account the work environment and potential hazards. In theory, PPE should help protect a person from harm. However, if an employer purchases the wrong products for a specific job, then that PPE could actually be useless.”
Jerromes says that while a manufacturer like Delta Plus has no impact on the work environment, “we can, of course, give advice. What we do is discuss with a client the risks surrounding the workplace, and how best to reduce those risks.”
European Directives categorise workplace hazards and the PPE equipment that should be used to protect workers, according to European Standards.
There are three categories:
These include cleaning materials, hot components below 50°C, non-extreme atmosphere agents and minor impacts and vibrations which do not affect vital areas of the body, and sunlight. Appropriate equipment examples are gloves protecting against diluted detergent solutions, headgear, seasonal clothing, footgear and sunglasses.
Dangerous chemicals, radioactivity, electrical and thermal hazards. Appropriate equipment examples are gloves for mechanical risks, safety footwear, high-visibility clothing, protective glasses, worksite helmets, and earplugs.
Irreversibly harmful risks
Ionising radiation, low- and high-temperature environments, falls from height, electric shock and exposure to dangerous fumes. Appropriate equipment examples are fireman gloves, chemical gloves, anti-acid clothing, anti-heat and projections clothing, respiratory masks, anti-fall harnesses and lanyards.
Sperian Protection Middle East sales manager Hubert Veluire says the company, which has been acquired by Honeywell globally, is introducing a new concept of hearing conservation into the Middle East.
“Hearing protection is not only about providing products, but needs to focus on a total solution approach,” says Veluire. Despite earplugs being mandatory in the construction industry, for example, noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) remains one of the most commonly-reported occupational injuries worldwide.
VeriPro is a new technology to ascertain whether or not workers are receiving optimal protection, require additional training on how to fit earplugs, or need to try a different model. The technology uses software to measure real-world sound attenuation by using unmodified earplugs. Fast and accurate results are on hand within minutes through a simple computer download, explains Veluire.
“The device fits simply into a pocket, and measures the amount of noise when you are protected. This is important because while you can use a noise meter in any environment, how do you actually measure or rate the hearing protection of individual workers in different environments?”
Tamal Kumar Ray, business development manager at Combisafe, says the company will be introducing its latest Miller SafEscape controlled descent/self-rescue system into the Middle East market within the next eight months.
“The construction industry is a major market for us, where tower crane operators require the necessary equipment for a quick evacuation in case of accident or emergency. The problem is that many contractors often under-specify such equipment, to the detriment of the workforce. To address this lack in the market, we have developed the affordable and easy-to-use Miller SafEscape in handy kit form,” says Ray.
The device can operate as either a rescue or evacuation system, and has a vertical descent speed of 1m/s. This speed is critical, as fall-from-height injuries usually require evacuation within ten minutes of the incident occurring in order to prevent suspension trauma.
A unique feature of the Miller SafEscape, and one which represents a technological development in these products in the Middle East, is the use of kernmantel rope for the lanyard. Comprising a 12mm outer diameter lanyard tested over edges, the material will not fray or break when used on the edge of a steel structure, for example.
Schott Middle East FZE MD Kiomars Dabbagh explains that this German company provides technical glass solutions such as fire-resistant glazing in roofs and façades, partitions and transoms and doors and windows.
Pyran S is a monolithic, fully-toughened borosilicate glass with special strength and impact resistance.
It is approved for 30, 60, 90 and 120 minutes integrity in fire-resistant glazing. With maximum dimensions up to 1,600mm by 3,000mm, it gives the freedom to think and build in bigger dimensions, including special frameless constructions.
Pyranova is a compact laminated composite glass meeting the requirements of fire-resistance category EI.
It provides a physical barrier against flame, hot gases and smoke, as well as a reduced surface temperature and resistance against spontaneous ignition on the unexposed side up to 120 minutes. Double-glazed units are suitable for internal and facade glazing.
Safety helmets and footwear
The TW400 full-grain S3 leather boot from Delta Plus not only complies with EN ISO 20345, it also protects the wearer to underfoot temperatures of up to 300°C. Additionally, being a composite construction boot, it is much lighter than steel, and is therefore far more comfortable to wear, while retaining all the strength of steel.
“Workers wearing these can even walk through airport security without setting off the metal detectors,” says key accounts manager David Jerromes.
Other Delta Plus PPE products include the Diamond 5 ABS safety helmet. This features an innovative ‘baseball cap’ shape in order to improve vertical vision.
The safety helmet has also been tested for ‘front back’ wearing in order to limit its encumbrance. The harness has three textile straps with eight fixing points and a foam perspiration ban.
An innovative button adjustment caters for head sizes 53/63cm. Electrical insulation is another feature, as is fluorescent and retro-reflective colours for high visibility both day and night.