Working Near Electrical Hazards

If you are washing windows in a downtown metropolis city, you will certainly be working close to live power lines.  Whether it is working from a:

  • Bosun’s chair
  • Ladder
  • Temporary platform
  • Scaffold

working near hydro lines can be dangerous!  Unfortunately, some property managers and maintenance workers do not fully understand the risk that these lines present.

Making the Area Safe

In Ontario for instance, the Occupational Health and Safety Act states that it is the constructor’s responsibility to assess hazards and ensure that everyone on the work site adheres to the safe limits of approach for live lines (this is not the responsibility of the hydro company).  A constructor may be a building owner, general contractor, property manager/owners representative (amongst others).  

If the hazard assessment and the safe limits are not conducted or adhered to then the work site could be shut down.  If an injury did occur one or all of the constructor’s could be held liable.

If you are working near lines, you must do one of two things:

  1. call the hydro company for more information about having the power lines de-energized (power temporarily cut off) or relocated/removed.
  2. call the hydro company to have the lines covered.  This option is beneficial as it makes the lines much more visible than they usually would to alert (remind) the workers of the danger.  Please be aware that while covered lines draw attention to the lines; they do not provide any protection when contacted.  These covers must also be removed, tested and replaced every six months.

There is a fee for the above mentioned services though.  Cost estimates and installation schedules can be obtained by contacting the hydro company ahead of time.  Although, the work may be performed by a contractor if authorized by the hydro company.  Check your local listing for the hydro company in your area.

All Electrical Lines Are Hazardous

It must be noted that contact with any line (even a residential secondary line) can cause serious injury or death.  That is why it is important that proper precautions are taken to protect workers.

In Ontario, it is required that all workers and “tools ladders, scaffolding and other equipment that are capable of conducting electricity” keep a minimum distance of three metres (ten feet) from high voltage lines between 750 V and 75 kV (the full listing is shown below).


All lines must be treated as high voltage until the voltage has been identified by the hydro company.

The property manager/owners representative must evaluate the work site well in advance.  Then before the work starts they should review the work site with their general contractor (and their workers) and point out the location of all lines near or within the building.

Daily Inspection

If you have covers installed (option 2. mentioned above) you must inspect them each day prior to work commencing.  You should look for:

  •  Fallen covers
  •  Loose covers
  •  Gaps in the covers

If you notice any exposed equipment or lines then call the hydro company immediately and they will make the necessary repairs.  Only the hydro company or one of their authorized contractors may install or repair covers and only their covers may be used on lines.

Bottom Line

If you come across any power line:

  • Stay back three metres (ten feet)
  • Contact your local hydro company
  • Have the lines de-energized or covered
  • Stay alert daily

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Customized Rigging Sleeve

Pro-Bel was recently faced with the problem of installing a rigging sleeve on an existing building where we had no access to the ceiling below the roof.

The interior atrium of the building could not be cleaned (or maintained) because there was no lift/platform that would reach the height required (and there was no other access point to install any other equipment).  The biggest problem though was that there was no access inside the ceiling and between the drywall and the roof there was a ten foot gap (which again complicated things even more).


What we did was add a large twelve foot extension bit to a drill and then (once we opened up the roof beside an I-beam) lowered the extended drill ten feet and drilled through the drywall below (to create a circular hole).  


Once that was completed we installed the pier of the rigging sleeve by wrapping its base plate around the I-beam and then offsetting the pier. 


Once the pier was installed we lowered a cable through it and the drywall hole and eventually all of the way to the ground floor.  Once the cable was hung from the roof to the ground we were able to thread the cable through a PVC tube insert.  The insert had a cap on the bottom which would give it a nice looking finish with the ceiling.  We had to find a way to attach the cable to the insert prior to lifting it to the ceiling though so we secured an anchor to the end of the cable. 


We then began to hoist the insert (along with the cap and anchor) up to the ceiling. 


The insert eventually entered the pier and then screws were inserted into the side of each to secure it into place. 


The rigging sleeve was then finished (like any other rigging sleeve) with a cap on top of the pier and the roofing around it was patched to a watertight condition. 


This is the first time that we have ever completed an installation under these circumstances and it was an enormous success.  There really is a solution to every problem! 

Always A Solution

Working With A Standing Seam Roof

We are often asked to provide our equipment on buildings with a standing seam roof.  In the past this request would make even our most knowledgeable designers cringe but alas we have engineered a solution.

What is a Standing Seam Roof?

A standing seam roof consists of a series of sheet metal panels that are connected “above” the panels (creating a “standing seam”) in a manner that does not penetrate them.

These are some examples of connections:

Various Types

Pro-Bel is an official distributor of S-5!® clamps (as seen in the picture below) which connect the panels by tightening the seams together.  You can learn more about this product from their website ( and by following them on Twitter @S5_TheRightWay.

S-5!® Clamps

Structural Requirements

The big obstacle with our equipment being on a standing seam roof is that the panels will not support the applied load/force that our equipment is engineered to accept.

CAN/CSA-Z271, Section 6.3.2  – “Strength Requirement” asks that all “anchoring systems shall be designed to resist a force” of five thousand (5,000) pounds.  This load/force is indirectly applied to the structure of the roof as well which is where the problem arises.

The Ridge Cap Flashing

Usually with a sloped roof there is a gap at the peak of it between the panels.  This is usually covered by a ridge cap flashing which actually does penetrate the flashing and panel (in a strategic way).  As seen in the picture below, Z bar connection penetrates the flashing and connects it to the panel.  As long as the penetration is “above” and “away” from the envelope (the area inside the flashing) there is no concern for water damage.  If the Z bar is installed incorrectly (as shown on the right side of the picture below) then water could potentially enter the envelope and travel toward the unprotected roof material and structure.

Ridge cap flashing

The flashing will run along the peak of a sloped roof with a large amount of connections (nails or screws) running along each side of it like so:

Ridge cap flashing 1

ridge cap flashing 2

Our Solution

Our Engineers agreed that the connections make the flashing the strongest component of a standing seam roof and thus the ideal location to install a piece of our equipment to.

What we did was design a large galvanized rectangular plate with ninety degree angle pieces welded to it (the plate).  Our standard stainless steel U-bar is centred on the plate and the angles would be screwed into the flashing (standing seam where the Z bar would be) instead of penetrating the envelope or panel.

Anchor Details

We hope to build upon this application as this solution will revolutionize fall protection systems on a standing seam roof.


Working With Hollow Core Precast

Every type of roof structure presents its own unique challenges in new construction for companies who supply and install permanent equipment on them.  With structural steel its reinforcing, with concrete it can be missing a pour.  Hollow core precast can be looked at as one of the most challenging roof construction types for the installation of window washing, suspended maintenance and fall protection systems.

The main issue with precast lies with the fact that there usually is no drop ceiling underneath.  It is quite often stucco and even plaster which means bolting through the structure would require leaving a backplate exposed to view at the underside of the precast.  Not only is this not aesthetically pleasing, it also presents a potential danger to the workers who use the roof anchors as the base securement of the anchors is exposed and could potentially be tampered with.  This provides us with two options: cracking open the cores and grouting the anchor in or having the precast manufacturer embed plates.

Grouting A Roof Anchor Into Hollow Core Precast

This option requires two cores to be broken open and embed plates at bottom of the bolts to be cast in with rebar and grouting.  This prevents from having to bolt through the structure but is very labour intensive and thus costly.  Ideally in new construction the roof anchor company would supply only this anchor and leave it up to the general contractor to break open the cores and grout the anchor in.  Grouting in hollow core is quite common.

Having The Precast Manufacturer Embed A Plate

This option although the most cost effective when you cannot bolt through, is unfortunately very impractical and rarely used.  An embed plate is sent to the precast manufacturer along with an engineered stamped layout showing the location of the roof anchors on the roof plan.  The precast manufacturer then embeds this plate in to the hollow core structure at the appropriate locations.  The roof anchor manufacturer goes to the site afterwards and welds the pier and U-bar in place.  The problem with this approach is that the precast manufacturer will usually not want to take responsibility for casting the embeds in.

At the end of the day bolting through is the best way to go but when you cannot here are a few options for you to consider.

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.

Roof Anchors Explained

Roof Anchors are the most common piece in the permanent window washing equipment industry. This article will help you better understand what a roof anchor is and why they are so popular.

A roof anchor at first glance is a very simple product, a basic post with a u-bar attached to the top. Looks can be deceiving and when it comes to roof anchors there is much more than meets the eye. Several factors need to be taken into consideration when designing and manufacturing a roof anchor. First we must know that the intent of the roof anchor is to protect the people who otherwise may be exposed to a fall. A typical Pro-Bel roof anchor is designed to meet a 1,000 lbs static load and a 5,000 lbs ultimate load. The static load is the allowance for a constant fixed load to be placed on the anchor. The ultimate load is a one time force in which the anchor is permitted to bend but may not fracture or detach. Some areas have regulations for roof anchors that are much stricter such as California.

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