Category Archives: Services

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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Retrofitting Systems

It is always better to have fall arrest and tie-back anchors for window washing, suspended maintenance, and fall protection systems installed in the “new construction” phase.  But far too often, builders attempt to save the client money on construction costs without due consideration of retrofit.  There are a number of reasons to avoid retrofitting these systems when at all possible:

  • it is a lot more expensive
  • will require penetrating the roofing assembly and possibly voiding existing warranty
  • intrusive; retrofitting can require gaining access through suites to get on to balconies and terraces
  • construction work during occupancy can disrupt the day to day operation and enjoyment of the building and tenants units
  • reinforcing of the structure may be required
  • cutting open the ceiling in tenants units may be required

Unfortunately, each day buildings require retrofitting of anchor systems for a number of reasons.  They may be very old, the current system may be deficient, or the building may simply have never had a system installed.  When it is decided in these cases that a system will be installed there are some things that must be considered.

The Drawings

Search everywhere you can to try and locate the as built architectural and structural drawings.  If the window washing system manufacturer has full sets of drawings he may not need as much or any access to private suites and terraces thus eliminating the need to inconvenience tenants at the design stage.  Keep in mind, access will still be required to perform the installation and for annual inspections.  Note: If this particular building already has anchors, there is a good chance that a drawing of this anchor system is posted at the roof access point.

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Roof Warranty

Check to see if there is an existing warranty in effect on the roof.  If there is, be sure that that roofer does all the patch work for the roof anchor systems installation otherwise the existing warranty may be voided.  If there is no warranty, make sure the roof anchor contractor will provide its own roofing contractor.  It is also worth considering having your anchor system installed at the same time as re-roofing.

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Suite Access

If the anchor contractor tells you that suite access is required, make sure that tenants are aware of the exact date the site walkthrough will occur.  This way the roof anchor contractor and building super are not met with any resistance when entering tenants units.

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Window Washing or Suspended Maintenance?

One of the most important things to understand is what type of system is being proposed by the anchor contractors.  Clarify if you want window washing only or the ability to suspend swing stages for facade work.  The difference in cost and functionality can be quite significant. Knowledge is power.  At the end of the day knowing and understanding more will serve to save money and headaches from getting quotes to supervising the construction of the job.

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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).

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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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