Category Archives: General

Equipment on Terraces

As architects continue to imagine and design complex projects; it is becoming increasingly common that fall arrest and tie-back equipment are located on terraces of buildings.

As the condominium market is still as competitive as ever; builders and developers are coming up with special features and incentives to lure buyers.  Items like barbecues, bars, built in kitchens, gardens, lounges, hot tubs, patio furniture, and even pools are frequently being included on terraces of buildings.  While these are great selling features for buyers, they do create complications when designing window washing and fall protection systems.

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These condominiums are so lucrative that every detail is considered.  Therefore, as much of the buildings equipment is hidden as possible in common areas and private terraces (to not disrupt the aesthetics).  This usually means on terraces that our equipment is recessed under some sort of removable paver stones.  This regularly causes two major problems:

1)      the paver stones over the recessed equipment are not actually removable
2)      items are placed over top the recessed equipment

If it is planned accordingly there is a simple solution for problem “1)” as there are covers and inserts that can be manufactured and installed in paver stones that allow for them to be (rather easily) removed whenever recessed equipment (underneath them) require access.

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If the design of the window washing and fall protection system is provided to the architect then the architect can review to ensure there are no disruptions.

What should the architect review?

1)      They should ensure that no items (the special feature and incentives mentioned above or any others) are placed over top the recessed equipment.
2)      They should confirm items that are in line with the point of suspension (perpendicular from the parapet to the equipment) will not interfere with the rigging lines.

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This is where problem “2)” can become complicated.  The architect and equipment manufacturer have communicated and reviewed all of the areas but then a tenant installs a deck and built in kitchen on their terrace (usually without contacting the condominium corporation).  This makes accessing the recessed equipment nearly impossible which may mean a drop of windows cannot be washed or a section of the building façade cannot be maintained.

While usually a worker can move some items like small barbecues or potted plants, some items like large barbecues or large planter boxes simply cannot be moved.  A worker in some cases may not even want to move anything because they are concerned about damaging the property.

It must be stressed to tenants the importance of communicating any additions and modifications to their terrace that they are making.  The tenant should notify the condominium corporation and then the condominium corporation should contact the window washing and fall protection system manufacturer.  Also, the condominium corporation should notify tenants when the equipment is going to be inspected or used so that the tenant can remove any items that are over the recessed equipment.

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Engineering a Complete Anchor System: Part 1

Fall arrest and tie-back anchors are primarily designed to protect workers from falls while working on or over the roof edge.

While a clear understanding of codes, regulations, and standards is of the utmost importance; the first consideration (after safety of course) is function when designing proper window washing, suspended maintenance, and fall protection systems.  Often buildings will install a system only to meet the needs to comply with building codes, Federal standards, and safety regulations.  It is however essential to consider function to achieve and ensure long term success of any system.

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What is Function?

Firstly, you must consider what type of work is being completed while the system is in use?

  • Window washing
  • Exterior building maintenance (caulking, restoration, replacement, etc.)
  • Fixing/servicing/replacing equipment (cooling tower, drains, mechanical units) on the roof

(If you would like to read more about this then please see http://www.pro-bel.ca/blog/category/basics-of-fall-protection/)

Secondly, you must consider if the workers will think the system is convenient and easy to use.  This beyond anything else is the first thing that will jeopardize a workers safety.  Like all professions really, a worker will bypass or modify elements of the system if they believe it is inefficient and slowing down their pace.

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Technical Audits

It is fortunate to note that building technical audits (for warranty programs) are becoming more concerned with inadequately designed and impractical systems.  The audits are bringing this to the building’s attention as a way of saying that the inconvenient system is just as dangerous as a poorly engineered system because no worker will use it.

The Design Process

If you want to ensure that a system is compliant and efficient; manufacturers like Pro-Bel will work closely with architects, construction manager, engineers, and general contractors to provide design services which encourage and initiate discussions regarding the design (at an early stage of the design process).

This process seeks to:

  • Collect and analyze safe access and egress methods
  • Determine unique building needs
  • Establish functional and common relationship in equipment locations
  • Establish maintenance goals
  • State conventional rigging problems and methods
  • Uncover test methods and inspection practices

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Budget

This process also looks to balance budget, compliance, and function.  It must be stressed that caution should be used when budget is the main consideration for any design (as functionality is the first factor to go).

The design process discussions have a significant impact on the design of the system (and building even) as there are various perspectives included in the conversation.  It is almost a way of conducting thorough due diligence and quality assurance.

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Common Misconceptions Series – Part 1

I recently became aware of some very serious misconceptions within our industry and I thought that this would be a great platform to clear them up.

One of the most frequent misconceptions that I hear is that “we need davits” for a building/project to complete window washing and suspended maintenance.  In certain situations this is definitely the case; however, they are not the typical starting point for any design.

I think the misconception is that anchors and davits are the same type of equipment and function the same way.

Anchors and davits are not the same thing

Anchors fundamentally refer to a U-bar tie-off that can take many different shapes and are quite versatile.

Davits consist of multiple elongated pieces that primarily allow for rigging over unique structures.

  • Anchors usually come in two different styles: roof or wall.
  • Davits consist of three components: base, boom, and mast.
Davit Arm

3 components: base, boom, and mast

  • A roof anchor is a stainless steel U-bar welded to a cylinder shaped steel pier (usually 15” or 18” tall).  A picture of a roof anchor is shown below.
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Roof anchor

  • A wall anchor is a stainless steel U-bar welded to a steel base plate (varying in size but usually a few inches).  A picture of a wall anchor is shown below.
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Wall anchor

  • The davit arm consists of an aluminum mast (varying in size but typically 5-6’ tall) and an aluminum boom (again varying in size but upwards of 8’ long).
  • Davits are quite large assemblies.
  • These components are pinned/secured together to form the “davit arm”



  • Anchors can (in both cases) be secured to structure in many ways.  Most commonly they can be bolted through structure, cast or embedded into concrete, glued into structure with adhesive epoxy, welded to structure, or wrapped around structure.
  • The davit arm is then pinned/secured to a davit base.
  • A davit base is a galvanized piece of equipment that is responsible for securing the davit arm assembly in place during use.
  • Davit bases can be secured to structure in the same ways that anchors are.

 

  • Anchors can be used in practically any rigging situation – fall protection, suspended maintenance, window washing, direct rigging, in-direct rigging, etc.
  • Davits are not a practical as anchors in the sense that there are very specific reasons and situations that you would use them (basically over tall parapets and non-structural structure).


Rigging scenarios

Davits are not the typical starting point for any design.  Pro-Bel will always look to include the most simple and cost effective system possible (which is an anchor based system) and build on the design from there based on the building/project conditions.

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The Inspections Department

The Inspections Department is an integral part of our company.  Fall arrest and tie-back anchors (for window washing systems and fall protection equipment) are required to be inspected annually in accordance with manufacturer’s recommendations and the Department/Ministry of Labour.

Our mission in this Department is two-fold:

  • To develop first hand experience and maintain an expert team of Inspectors in this highly specialized field; thereby ensuring smooth information exchange that may affect liability or safety on buildings.
  • The Department must report on safety issues that may affect safety of the professional high-rise worker and the public.

In order to meet this mission statement the Department pro-actively promotes annual inspection programs which include:

  • Deficiency inspections,
  • Compliance inspections, and
  • Rigging inspections;

There are all supported by the Department/Ministry of Labour’s (DOL/MOL) input through their site inspections and published guidelines.  This collaborative involvement allows the agency (DOL/MOL) and all contractors using the equipment to work more harmoniously, in a safe manner.

The Inspections Department consists of dozens of professionals including trained inspectors, compliance specialists, testing technicians and professional engineers.  The Department also upgrades existing systems if needed, working closely with system designers and the operational teams as needed.

It also calls on the expertise of almost 150 skilled members of various Departments which may include AutoCAD designers, manufacturing and installation as required on a job-to-job basis.

Besides the general staff listed above, this Department includes and relies on five other major components:

1) Chief Executive Officer (CEO): responsible for formulating policy and providing the Inspections Department with first hand compliance information.  This executive direction is derived from the CEO’s experience dealing with the DOL/MOL; personally guiding the removal of Stop Work Orders (SWO) on buildings.  In addition to direct supervision, the CEO provides overall executive direction and broad administrative supervision for this Department.

2) Compliance Specialist (CS): reviews, routes, and tracks hazardous or potentially hazardous safety and structural conditions.  The CS’s staff is on call to respond to SWO’s or other safety and rigging issues or emergencies.  They can flag system conditions normally sited by DOL/MOL Inspectors or other sources, such as building inspections or technical auditors.  The CS evaluates all conditions; including review of site conditions, drawings, inspectors’ reports and photographs of the roof and conditions.  Subsequently, a “flag report packet” may be created; describing the type of upgrade or repair that may be needed (which may also include changes to the certified drawings or may need a DOL/MOL response report for removal, review and approval).

why inspection

3) In-House Maintenance Technicians & Skilled Installation Personnel: perform repairs to address flagged conditions.  Flagged repairs may include structural or other safety issues such as the repair of roof anchors, davit arms, safety tethers or locks, or other components damaged by corrosion or accident impact.   The maintenance and installation staff will perform the required corrective repair that will help to rehabilitate worn or defective components whose failure could affect long term service (such as heat shrink, mastic, cap flashings or remedial rust repair work).

4) Professional Engineering and Design Group: provides technical expertise related to normal engineering practices and principals; including reviewing the structure, preparing calculations and writing job specific test prescriptions.  The team also supplies invaluable engineering declarations for unsafe conditions that may affect the system.  The Professional Engineering Group member will make recommendations for immediate remediation, thereby assisting the CS in facilitating a proper solution.  The Professional Engineering group also provides technical expertise related to the procurement and development of system design and product development, supporting various areas of the division, including supervision of installation and inspection services.

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5) Administration Management & Invoicing Group: provides essential administrative and inspection process support, including tracking of each activity within the division.  The Senior Administration and Finance Group oversees and administers all administrative functions for the division, acting as liaison with the inspectors and technicians including, but not limited to:

  • Reviewing reports for completeness to ensure compliance and functionality is clear
  • Reviewing lists of equipment to ensure they match  drawings for quality control purposes
  • Tracking documents and publishing control documents to our web-based customer portal
  • Monitoring staff and supervising repairs flagged by inspectors or compliance specialists
  • Scheduling work performed by Pro-Bel installers or other contractors and producing mandated modification and repair reports on all activities
  • Managing the status of each warranty claim and ensuring products are tracked and replaced through our Pro-Bel case system
  • Ensuring all on-site inspections are preformed on time and that the field conditions are recorded

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The Inspections Department management takes a pro-active approach in the educating of Building Owners and Property Managers, as well as the training of workers and contractors in the use of equipment to work safely on roofs.

This professional Inspections Department will ensure a smooth yearly inspection process.  Each highly-specialized area is designed to address the essential services that are necessary to provide the expert service that our clients and industry expect.

In order to provide critical safety measures and due diligence on your rooftop please contact Pro-Bel for annual inspections, testing, safety assessments, rigging inspections or site training.

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Working At Heights

Everyone is responsible for preventing falls when working at heights.  The building owner/property manager/owner’s representative, the self-employed contractor, any subcontractor and the worker are all responsible for safety considerations when on a roof.

The concern for health and safety on a roof becomes critical as soon as someone steps foot on a roof (and not just when they “get close” to the edge).  All aspects of working safely at heights should be considered.  The general rule is that fall protection is required: 

  • In Canada, where any section of the parapet wall is less than 36 inches (and someone is subject to a 10 foot fall)
  • In the USA, where any section of the parapet wall is less than 42 inches (and someone is subject to a 4 foot fall)

Preventing falls from heights is a priority for the Department of Labour (DOL) and Ministry of Labour (MOL).  Each expects contractors and employers with staff working at heights to actively manage any significant hazard.

Controlling the Hazard 

In order to stay safe when working at heights you must ensure effective controls are in place to prevent people from being harmed.

To select the most effective controls, you must consider the following steps: 

  • Eliminate the chances of a fall by doing as much of the preparation work as possible before work begins.  Normally this is done by doing a fall hazard roof assessment.  The assessment report will review all aspects of safe access and egress for all work activities that may take place on the roof.  The intent is to isolate the worker from the risk of a fall by using guard rails, scaffolds and roof edge protection as means of prevention.  In some situations a combination of controls will be required to ensure safe work.
  • Edge protection is imperative.  Edge protection should be used as a means of isolating workers from a fall.  This includes guard rails, horizontal life lines, localized tieback and lifeline anchors, access ladders and catwalks.  Edge protection should be provided on all the exposed edges of a roof, including the perimeter of buildings, skylights or other fragile roof materials and for any openings in the roof.  This also applies to openings and edges of floor areas.
  • Where there is the risk of workers falling through openings in a roof, the openings should be identified and guarded. 

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Check List for Working Safely on a Roof 

  • Are workers trained or supervised to work on a roof, near the roof edge or over the edge using suspended equipment safely?
  • Has a full hazard assessment been completed before work starts?
  • Is there safe access to all roof areas?
  • Has the contractor provided a work plan to safely access the building edge or facade?
  • Have the roof and fall arrest system been inspected, reviewed and tested if needed?
  • Have all the access restrictions been identified and understood by the contractors?
  • Are workers protected from falling off roof edges and do they have a rescue plan?
  • Are workers protected from falling from incomplete roofs?
  • Are workers protected from falling through skylights and penetrations or other brittle roofing?
  • Are people below the work protected from the dangers of falling materials?
  • Do roof workers have appropriate footwear to prevent them from slipping?
  • Are the weather conditions suitable for working on a roof?
  • Have lower electrical hazards and vehicle traffic hazards been identified?  

Other Possible Considerations

  • Eliminate the hazard of a fall from a roof.
  • Work from the ground.
  • Work from inside where there is no possibility of a fall.
  • Prefabricate components at ground level or prior to installation.
  • Remove complete fixtures to ground level or shop for maintenance (e.g. air conditioning units).
  • Pre-paint fixtures/roof prior to installation.
  • When isolating the hazard of a fall from a roof you can consider some addition temporary protections.
  • Scaffolding and mobile scaffolds/step platforms/working in an elevating work platform.

It is the law so doing nothing to address safety when working at heights is not an option!

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Basics of Fall Protection

Our industry is most commonly associated with window washing systems and suspended maintenance systems.  Because of this, fall protection (specifically on low-rise buildings) is often overlooked. 

Fall Arrest vs. Fall Restraint

“Fall protection” is actually a term that encompasses the method of either “fall arrest” or “fall restraint”.

Fall arrest prevents a person from reaching the ground (once a fall occurs).  An example of fall arrest is a worker tripping over the edge of a building but then being suspended midair (by a lanyard tied to a cable system) and not reaching the ground.

Fall restraint prevents a worker from even reaching a fall.  An example of fall restraint is a worker not being able to reach the edge of a building because a guard rail is located in the way.

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Preventing Falls

Data shows that falls are the most common accident in the construction industry and that 75% of the falls occur at elevations of less than 3 stories.

A fall protection system can include:

  • Cable systems
  • Fixed ladders
  • Guard rails
  • Localized anchors

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When designing a fall protection system one must concerned itself with:

Function

 
What type of work is being completed while the system is in use?

Is it…

  • Washing the windows from a ladder

or fixing/replacing/servicing…

  • Antennas
  • Cooling tower
  • Drains
  • Equipment located on the façade of the building (from a ladder on the ground)
  • Lights
  • Mechanical units
  • Pipes
  • Roofing
  • Satellites
  • Surveillance cameras

Frequency


How often will this work occur?

If it is expected, routine, scheduled maintenance then the most user friendly system (to encourage its use) should be implemented.

If it is unexpected, non-routine, unscheduled maintenance then the most basic and cost effective system should be implemented.

Users


Who is using the system?

A worker who is trained and supervised may not require as much equipment as someone who is unfamiliar with fall protection.

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Falls can effectively be prevented with adequate safety equipment, proper training, and a suitable fall protection system.

The bottom-line is; fall protection equipment is needed:

  • In Canada, where any section of the parapet wall is less than 36 inches (and someone is subject to a 10 foot fall)
  • In the USA, where any section of the parapet wall is less than 42 inches (and someone is subject to a 4 foot fall)

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Perception vs. Reality

The following is an email that was sent to me from our CEO, Marc Lebel.  I thought that it was an interesting message about interpreting “common beliefs” for yourself.  I hope that everyone takes something positive from this message and applies it to themselves at some point this year.

I recently traveled to an area that is not considered by many as the most desirable holiday location.  There are parts of this country that are full of crime and considered highly dangerous and because of this I had avoided (this country) in the past.  But I discovered what so many other tourists have experienced – the long sandy beaches, the picturesque mountains, the extraordinary safaris, and the beautiful vineyards.  If I had stayed away from this country because of the widely accepted belief that this is “not a safe place to visit” then I would not have the fantastic memories that I do today.  This made me think that we need not always accept popular opinion and we need to think for ourselves.

Success Comes to Those Who Think Differently

In life, as in business, too many people cling to misconceptions that hold them back and inhibit their chances for success and happiness. Consider the words of Steve Jobs in Apple’s “Think Different” commercial: “Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently – they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do”.  This is not just an advertisement; it is the backbone of the Apple business model to which no one can argue that it has not worked!

Creativity, Focus and Executing Effectively Through Different Thinking

So how do you think differently?  Let us start off by identifying some of the most “common beliefs” you should reject:

1. People are primarily motivated by money

All too often, business leaders think that the main concern of their customers and employees is money.  This is probably because money is a central concern in business so leaders become obsessed with its importance.

Over the past couple of years specifically I have realized that humans are emotional creatures and we crave purpose and value.  Employees want to be paid fairly but they also want to feel as though they are part of something… part of a team!

Customers take price into consideration but they also pay attention to quality and convenience.  By thinking that money is the most important motivator, business leaders forget to build a more talented team and connect with customers on a more personal (even deeper) level.

2. The best dressed is the most successful

Putting up a fancy front has an undeniable attraction.  How can a business be taken seriously unless it has a trendy office, slick marketing collateral, and a presence at all the major events and trade shows?  The truth is that focusing on “fluff” can take your mind away from the more important matters at hand; namely creating an efficient structure, culture, and platform that allow all to share information and knowledge.  I would venture to guess that this misguided diversion of focus is the cause of many business failures.  The reality is that the best dressed is just that: the best dressed – period.

Success in business is about identifying opportunities, continually innovating, creating compelling value propositions, executing effectively and efficiently, and developing long term strategic competitive advantages.

3. Do not enter a market where there is competition

This adage can be compared to being the skier who insists on hitting only the slopes with fresh powder or veering off the trails to ensure there are no other skiers on the same run.  These are always the first skiers to fly off of cliffs or find themselves buried by an avalanche.  Going into uncharted markets can involve a lot of expense and risk.  You may end up spending a lot of time and money “educating the customer” and perhaps you will find that your idea was a bad one from the being.  Thinking practically though if you enter a market that is rife with competition it actually validates your business model.  Your goal should not be to avoid competition but to outperform it!

4. We should do what our competitors are doing

Leaders cling to this misconception; especially when the competitor has a higher profile or is well established.  The truth is that if a competitor is well established it may mean the operators have more money to burn and they will inevitably find extraordinarily ineffective ways to burn it.  Yet people still feel the need to follow their lead.

I say – forget the competition!

The key is to assess your core assets and consider how you can leverage them to seize an advantage.  When you do study the competition you should be looking at what they are doing so you can do something entirely different (and lead the industry).  If you want to stand out from the competition then challenge every notion you have, colour outside the lines, and as Steve Jobs said – “think different”.

These “common beliefs” are misconceptions that in the end are simply shortcuts.  People love shortcuts but success comes to those who are willing to roll up their sleeves and do the hard work.  Anyone can copy competitors but the standouts put in the effort to come up with innovative new strategies.

Thomas Edison said – “opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work”.  In closing, I think that the best way to summarize what I am saying is that mediocrity comes to those who stay within the boundaries and in turn mediocrity in business is a recipe for failure.