Height safety beats the heat at Gainsborough

Workplace Access & Safety Pty Ltd
Thursday, 19 April, 2007

The heat was on at Gainsborough Hardware Industries quite literally when a faulty air conditioner remained at a standstill all last summer until height safety systems were installed on a brittle roof.

Gainsborough has been die casting, electroplating and assembling door furniture at its current Blackburn site in Melbourne's east for approximately 14-years and the oldest buildings date from the 1970s.

The ageing saw tooth roofs are too fragile for foot traffic and access by walking along the spouting at the foot of the banks of glass skylights was considered too hazardous, making the air conditioning units inaccessible.

By the time one of the six air conditioning units broke down, HSE manager Bruce Mansfield said Gainsborough had already begun investigating the alternatives.

"We'd identified the requirement, had risk assessments done by Workplace Access & Safety in consultation with our maintenance people and asked two suppliers to quote the job," he said.

"We wanted to provide access via levelled walkways right throughout the plant but the costs were simply too high. We needed to rationalise our plans."

The solution provided by fall prevention specialist, Workplace Access & Safety, involved a series of ladders and walkways. A ladder bracket in the parking area allows a single operator to climb a portable ladder with safety, while an aluminium walkway with a guard rail on one side leads to the first parapet wall and several fixed rung-type ladders mean work can be carried out on adjoining steel deck roofs.

Access across the saw tooth roof was more challenging during the installation of fall prevention equipment due to the brittle nature of the roofing material. The answer was to 'rest' a walkway on the roof.

The supporting structure of the walkway designed by Workplace Access & Safety has a special profile that sits in the 'super six' roof profile, while existing penetrations are used for fastenings, avoiding the need to drill extra holes into the roof.

Three of the air conditioners are surrounded on three sides by platforms that include a guardrail, while the other air conditioners sited close to the guttering are reached using a personnel cage on a forklift.

Administrative controls include signage warning of the brittle nature of the roof, a site induction and contractor management procedures that require proof of insurance, electrical test tagging and height work permits. A roof access authorised personnel list is strictly enforced and contractors are accompanied by the Gainsborough maintenance supervisor.

"We've had a very good response from employees and contractors alike to our new fall prevention measures," Mansfield said. "The tradespeople requiring access are rapt."

Workplace Access & Safety has also installed walkways and guardrails for Gainsborough Hardware Industries at its Kyneton ceramics facility. A steel deck roof interspersed with laserlite skylights was originally fitted with a lifeline for the use of fall arrest harnesses.

"The lifeline hadn't been maintained, there were no computations to support its integrity and these types of fall arrest systems are not as safe as walkways and guard rails anyway. We don't use the lifeline and we're planning to remove it," Mansfield said.

As Level 2 controls according to Victoria's Prevention of Falls Regulations, guard rails and walkways are to be implemented in preference to the Level 4 fall arrest systems wherever practicable. The visibility of the guardrails was an added bonus, Mansfield said.

"Safety is very important to Gainsborough and the new equipment is a good visual reinforcement of the company's safety culture," he said.

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