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Fall guys

Falls from heights are a leading cause of construction site fatalities

ANALYSIS, Business, Falls, Heights, Site fatalities

Falls from heights are a leading cause of construction site fatalities. Cathal McElroy looks at some of the fall-arrest systems available on the market, and talks to the people protecting those who work at the edge.

Kee Safety has been saving lives and preventing injury for a surprisingly long time. “We have been around since 1934, and we cannot afford to have an accident or a death,” says Stephen Willson, Kee Safety’s GM in the Middle East. “It has taken 78 years to build the company as it is now, and we can lose that reputation overnight by having an accident,” stresses Willson.

Kee’s safety range starts with fall protection or collective protection systems relating to barriers. The Kee Klamp, a product developed at the time of the company’s inception in 1934, allows for the building of safety barriers and handrails without the need for any welding. Kee supplies the product in both component form and as a complete system, with the option of an aluminium version called Kee Lite.

Alternatively, the customer can opt for a KeeGuard system, of which there are two types. “We have two types of KeeGuard,” explains Willson.

“We have a permanent vertical version, and we also have a collapsible KeeGuard fold-shield option, which means that if a customer does not want to see the barrier during the day-to-day operation, it can be collapsed and still remain up on the roof,” he adds. KeeGuard has been deployed on some significant GCC projects, including Abu Dhabi’s Masdar City and Raha Beach, Al Ain’s Tawam Hospital and Qatar’s Nakilat shipyard.

For personal protection, the company offers the Kee Line, which is a full arrest or a full restraint system based on a harness-and-wire design. “Both need training,” insists Willson.

“You need to train operatives; you need to train during commissioning, and during the handover stage,” he says. The Kee Line has also seen action in some notable projects in the region, including Fujairah City Centre, Abu Dhabi’s Raha Beach and the Sohar power plant in Oman.

As an accompaniment to the Kee Line, the company launched the Kee Walk, which Willson describes as an aluminium frame with a glass-reinforced nylon thread that complements the wire system, particularly on a standing-seam type roof.

Emphasising the company’s commitment to the cause of safety, Willson concludes: “We will not supply a system [to a project] if we know there is a chance someone could be injured or die – because whenever that happens, we know it is our name on that system.”

Another UAE-based company signed-up to the fall-arrest safety mission is Marinetech, established in 2005 when, according to MD Gareth Owen, “there was absolutely no requirement for fall protection in the Middle East.” Marinetech is the exclusive regional distributor for Latchways products, the leading manufacturer of fall-arrest systems in the world, according to Owen.

Marinetech’s products and expertise have been employed on some of the region’s biggest projects, including the Dubai Metro, Dubai World Central and the New Doha International Airport.

“When we work with major roofing contractors, we work in partnership with them really – all the way through from tender to submission for the job,” says Owen.

“Getting approval from the roofing manufacturer has been key to actually getting onboard with the jobs the contractors are doing. It gives them the peace of mind that they are taking the responsibility and giving due care and attention to the safety of people working on the roof. Working together all the way through really allows us to build a system that works properly for the end user, and that has been key for us breaking into this market.”

Marinetech’s main product is the ManSafe Constant Force Post, which attaches to any roof, explains Owen, and which is then attached to a wire system. The company’s product range also includes the Ladder Latch, a climb latch that enables safe ascent of ‘monopoles’ as part of Marinetech’s ladder system.

In addition to this, the company supplies H-extenders – energy-absorbing horizontal line systems – and SRL (self-retracting lanyards) which are “completely patented” and field-serviceable.

The latest addition to this range widens the customer’s fall-arrest options. “Our newest product is the PRD (personal rescue device), which is a harness with a deployable safety system,” says Owen. “If you fall off, you can actually deploy it yourself, and it will automatically disable you to the ground.”

For Owen, the work that Marinetech does is more than just a job. “We take this incredibly seriously. All we do is work tirelessly to keep people safe on roofs, and Latchways helps us do that. Latchways call it the ManSafe system, and that is what we deal in – systems that keep people safe.”

Adding further international expertise to the fall-arrest market is Austrian-based firm Innotech. The company was founded in 2001, and entered the European market with its SDH02 roof-hook model for ladders, which doubles as an anchor point for a fall-arrest system.

Following this, the company launched a horizontal line system called the ‘All-in-One’ – Innotech’s most well-known product, according to sales co-coordinator Roland Lusthtinetz.
Joining its fall-arrest range this year is the Taurus model, a horizontal and vertical rail system that includes a trolley with speed control, and the Temp model, a temporary stainless steel lifeline system.

Innotech has been working with MMG as a regional trading partner to distribute these products, as well as more established models.

“We are a very technical company; we have many field tests,” says Lusthtinetz. “All our products have to be certified according to ANSE or European standards. The weakest point in the whole system is always the connection to the roof itself, or to the substructure, and we focus on this aspect very well.

We have many different sample roofs, and we do the installation of our products. Then we do tests on the product: drop tests, fall-down tests, static pull tests, so we can be sure that the product really fits on the substructure.”

While Innotech focuses on fall arrest and window protection systems, Atlas Safety Products takes a broader approach to safety on the construction site. Marketing leader Racan Melhem describes the company as a “one-stop shop offering solutions related to all types of hazards at the workplace covering physical, chemical, gas and vapour, respiratory, noise, burns and injuries, heat stress and heat pressure.”

This business model includes a consultancy service, Atlas Safety Consultancy, which offers “complete solutions related to risk assessment, training and consultancy services related to all types of safety and environment applications,” says Melhem.

“The good thing about our consultancy team is that the head is a HS&E manager who used to work with the Al Hamadi Group. The guy knows construction inside out, and he acts as the expert. If a customer wants to have a survey or process-mapping or a risk assessment in the workplace, or even to prepare an HS&E framework, then that can be done through Atlas Safety Consultancy,” he adds.

Atlas distributes a diverse range of safety brands. It is through Miller, Honeywell and Canasafe, for whom it is an exclusive distributor, that it provides its fall-arrest system solutions. Atlas offers a full-body lightweight harness which Melhem describes as “the first line of defence”, and which is accompanied by a lanyard that is connected between the harness to a snap-hook.

The third aspect of Atlas’ fall-arrest solution is blocks or retractable lifelines that can range from 10m to 60m, connected to the lanyards. “It works exactly the same as a car seatbelt,” says Melhem.

Beyond the products themselves, Atlas is working to improve safety standards in the industry in general. “We see a lack of awareness when it comes to safety, so we are trying to collaborate with Dubai Municipality specifically to bring more awareness when it comes to the safety business,” says Melhem. “In this area of business, we talk about life and death; it is not just injuries.”

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