General Information

INTRODUCTION

For years, the construction industry has been seen as a sector with a high degree of occupational risk and unsatisfactory working safety.

Despite the fact that in the years 2008-2011 the construction industry in Poland has seen a marked decline of the numbers of people injured in accidents, which may indicate the fact that construction companies, learning from conclusions from the past years, adhere more and more closely to requirements of occupational health and safety, including using modern safety systems protecting people from falls from height, however, sadly, the number of such accidents is still very high as compared to other European countries. The construction industry is the area of national economy most prone to accidents. In relation to the fact that a great number of causes of falls is related to working at a height, in particular, to formwork installation works conducted at heights, particular care should be taken with respect to the methods of protecting workplaces located at elevations.

Works at heights thus belong to particularly dangerous works, and a fall from a height is particularly often the cause of injury, in most cases - grave or fatal injury. In Europe, the most common cause of fatal accidents in the construction industry are falls from heights. They still constitute in excess of 40% of all fatal work accidents. According to data of the Polish Central Statistical Office, falls from heights constitute 37% of all work accidents. Work accidents are also a great financial burden for every company, irrespective of the field of activity or its size. In the construction industry, costs of such accidents on average account for 3% of the annual sector turnover. Investing in OHS equipment allows companies to limit losses from work accidents, which in turn contributes to investment return increases. Proper understanding of dangers stemming from these factors, and the associated risk, forms the basis for undertaking of diverse preventive actions.

Employers, and employees as well, working in small and medium enterprises, who themselves undertake the evaluation of occupational risks, should precisely analyse the workplace and determine, what could cause a fall or adversely influence their health and the health of other people in their vicinity or working close to them.
The construction site, its form and character, should always be considered as one of the most dangerous places of work, indicating a particularly high risk level. The cause of a major part of accidents may also be presence at elevations in locations foreseen for other tasks, improper coordination of diverse works, hazards due to external factors, and others. For this reason, in the year 2003, the Polish Minister of Infrastructure has issued an ordinance, defining that during the execution of construction works, persons being at an elevation of at least one metre from ground or floor level, should be protected against falling from a height (Journal of Laws of 2003, no. 47, item 401, par. 133.1).

Each fall from a roof results, in the best of cases, with grave bodily injury. The risk is always great, irrespective of the works executed at the time lasted long or short. Many victims of fatal accidents were supposed to be on the relevant roof just for a few short minutes to 'quickly check something' or make a quick fix.

This bulletin is aimed at persons working on roofs or those directly responsible for managing and overseeing such works. This document discusses the main measures of protection against falls from heights during installation of formwork, meaning, during work, at which grave injuries occur most often.

REQUIREMENTS CONCERNING THE SELECTION OF TECHNICAL EQUIPMENT DURING WORKING AT HEIGHTS

The basis for selection of technical devices constituting preventive measures hindering falls from heights is the evaluation of professional risk. The measures implemented following it should ensure safe working conditions. Collective safety methods should always be given priority before individual safety measures. According to guidelines of the Polish National Labour Inspectorate, when choosing measures of protection during work at heights, one should:

  • eliminate hazards at the point of their emergence - i. e. by changing design solutions and by eliminating the need to work at a height already during the design phase,
  • prevent hazards - i. e. through changing work technologies - installation of work platforms, ladders and railings for wall, ceiling slab or pillar formwork, in a horizontal position on the ground or on a surface,
  • limit passive work areas - prevent the occurrence of falls by using methods not requiring employee presence, i. e. use railings, handrails or vertical nets,
  • limit active work areas:
    • prevent occurrence of accidents through use of resources requiring employee action, such as:
    • personal safety measures (devices and short ropes), which limit the field of movement and prevent falls from occurring,
    • measures for work in self-supported positions,
    • working using rope support technologies,
  • minimise fall lengths and consequences:
    • passive measures, through the use of collective safety measures (nets at the working level),
    • active measures, through the use of personal safety equipment (fall arresters, self-braking devices, etc.),
  • minimise fall consequences,
    • i. e. through nets at lower levels.

The basic technical occupational safety resources for working at heights include:

In the group of collective safety measures:

 

  • railings,
  • safety nets.

 

The group of personal safety measures (fall prevention systems);

 

  • harnesses (safety harnesses),
  • joining and suspension subsystems,
  • anchor points.

 

Personal safety equipment constitutes resources borne or held by the employee in order to protect them against hazards. The conditions of their use should correspond to the risk evaluation, and they should be set out in the work execution manual. The equipment should be checked by the user every time it is used, and periodically by an authorised person, who shall make an appropriate entry in the equipment usage sheet.

Personal safety measures - fall arrest systems - should be selected depending on the type of work to be carried out. Because, in every case, they serve different purposes, i. e. they prevent falls, limit movement freedom, allow suspended work or work using ropes, thus, they should under no circumstances be neglected.

Safety suspension (harness) - used to arrest falls. They should be manufactured according to relevant norms. The harness has a device to hook up the arrest system, and they may additionally be equipped with a system used for suspended work.

Joining and suspension components (snaphooks, safety ropes, suspension devices, ropes with self-clamping devices, self-braking devices) arrest falls of employees in case of falls from heights. They should correspond to requirements of relevant standards.

The anchor points connect the joining and suspension components with the structure components. In case these parts are missing, additional devices should be used that allow system anchoring. The anchor points should fulfil requirements of relevant standards.

Modern employee protection systems for workers working at heights are used to provide safety during execution of ceilings and concreting-related work. A leading example of such safety systems is the Alsipercha system, by the Spanish company Alsina, of which Betomax is a representative and distributor. It is a system of specialised solutions, allowing protection of a particular type of work. It complies with the type B from the Standard PN-EN 795, foreseen primarily for safety during execution of ceiling slab formwork and concreting works.

Alsipercha is a kind of small crane introduced into a sleeve embedded in a pillar (immediately after pouring concrete). To the small crane there is a self-braking device attached, placed above the employee's head. In such a system, the space required to arrest the fall is minimal (elevated attachment point), thanks to which one has the ability to protect workers during execution of formwork and reinforcement for ceiling slabs - particularly in buildings with a small storey height.

Attaching the suspension systems to one support pillar allows work in a radius of 6,5 metres around the pillar, and if the distance between the pillars is less than 8,5 metres, one has the ability to move horizontally (applying the rule of attaching the personal suspension system to at least one support pillar).

This arrangement is a fully safe and effective fall prevention system for all hazardous situations which may arise during the installation of formwork for concrete structures. The Alsipercha system must be distinguished, among others because it was praised through numerous awards, and also because it holds a great number of international certificates and product approvals.

This recognition by many institutions shows the level of engagement by Alsina towards increasing safety levels in the construction industry, and the expectations, to which this product has given rise, as of the time of its presentation on the market.

Awards:

 

  • gold medal of the Poznań International Fair during the Bumasz 2010 International Fair for Construction Machines, Vehicles and Equipment,
  • first prize of the Construmat fair of 2003,
  • International Creativity Award (College of Industrial Engineers of Catalonia),
  • Award to the best Fall Arrest System (Catalonian Chamber of Contractors),
  • the Caupolican European Award for Construction Safety (General Council of Technical Architecture in Spain),
  • Technological Innovation Award Paleta de ORO (Construmurcia Fair).

 

ALSIPERCHA - fall arrest system

ALSIPERCHA - safety system, particularly useful at formwork edges. Allows fully secure execution of tasks related to arranging battens and planks, protective railings, fork nets, formwork partitions, gates, and in general any other related work required during installation of formwork, during which the risk of falling from a height exists, i. e.

 

  • ceiling formwork assembly,
  • tray ceiling installation,
  • ceiling concrete block installation,
  • joist formwork installation.

 

The system is also adapted for installation at steel structure components, in particular IPN, IPE, UPN, HEB profiles from 150 mm to 450 mm. For this purpose, the following parts set is required: clamp and metal pillar socket end. This solution is in line with the UNE-EN 795 standard and Applus certificates. The system is, apart from that, easy to install and operate, and does not require services of external installation specialists.

This system emerged pursuant to the broad experience gathered on the international market, and extensively developed research and development work of Alsina, in order to assist those interested in choosing and executing construction projects. The constant upgrade and improvement work in relation to formwork systems are always accompanied by care for safety, quality and conformance to norms and provisions in force, thanks to which Betomax has become a reliable supplier of formwork systems.


Key system characteristics

  • the system allows the operator to safely execute works over an area of 125 sq m and movement within a radius of 6,5 metres around the pillar,
  • the metal structure is constructed in the shape of an inverted letter L, with an arm length of 2,5 metres and a height of 4,3 metres (3,5 metres after installation in a pillar),
  • the metal structure is, furthermore, constructed of high-quality steel (yield strength 42-36 kg/mm2, elongation resistance 61-76 kg/mm2) weighing 80 kg,
  • the system is equipped with an automatic rope extraction, with a maximum rope length of 2,5 m,
  • the system also includes a stay-in-place conical steel pipe with a length of 85 cm,
  • the system allows hassle-free transport by crane,
  • the system is only composed of three basic components,
  • a broad selection of additional equipment allows adaptation to any particular construction site situation, while at the same time appropriate safety measures are adhered to (safety harness, automatic protective extraction, self-braking mechanism arresting the fall in case sudden acceleration is detected, etc.),
  • the system was designed to work in the light free space between pillars of up to 8 metres (for this purpose, the use of a boat hook pole is necessary),
  • the crane can effortlessly turn about by 360° about the attachment point,
  • the system is easily anchored to pillars or walls using metal sleeves.

Apart from that, the system minimises work time saving maximum efficiency.

System limitations

  • the structure, to which the system is attached, must have sufficient load bearing capacity so as to maintain the indicated loads,
  • the maximum radius, within which an employee hooked up to the system by a harness may move around, is 6,5 metres. The indicated radius may not be extended by any ropes or similar methods,
  • the maximum number of users for each system is 1 (one) person. System strength depends on the weight of the person using it and the weight of light tools, which the person may have on them. The total weight may not exceed 100 kg.

History of the ALSIPERCHA system

2001 - system is patented
2002 - development, research and improvement
2003 - tests, commencement of manufacture
2004 - obtaining required certifications
2005 - sales and market introduction

Tests of the Alsipercha system were conducted in the years 2002-2006 among others by:

  • ICITECH, Department of Construction Engineering and Civil Engineering Design, Technical University of Valencia,
  • Department of Applied Physics, Technical University of Valencia,
  • STDI laboratory of Lafarge Asland
  • Payma-Cotas laboratory