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Working Safer: The benefits of offsite manufacturing

WORKING SAFER: THE BENEFITS OF OFFSITE MANUFACTURING

By Kevin Bohea, Managing Director at Stormking

Latest HSE (Health and Safety Executive) figures highlight that construction fatalities are on the rise. Figures from the Health and Safety Executive reveal roofers account for 24% of work-related deaths in the construction industry. We all know too well how working at height is a perilous activity, particularly for the operators making lengthy modifications to products which could have been manufactured offsite in quality-controlled environments. With this in mind, how can we utilise offsite manufacturing to mitigate onsite risks?

Safety at height

Without sufficient forethought, roofers working on housing developments can put themselves at risk whenever they are working at height. Although they should have received training as to how they must operate safely onsite, there will be instances when accidents happen. We are of course, only human. According to provisional figures from the HSE, 40 construction workers died in site accidents from 2019-2020 compared to the record low of 31 the previous year.

Only three years ago, falls from height were registered as the most frequent cause of fatal accidents. The common dangers which can pose a threat to operatives working from height are mostly as a result of either human error or the elements: windy weather conditions, trips and falls, and dropped objects.

Whist there is no substitute for good health and safety on construction sites, there are alternative processes which can be utilised to reduce the time and labour spent working at height.

How does offsite manufacturing assure safety?

Offsite manufacturing is a potential answer to mitigating the risk of working at height, offering numerous benefits to the housebuilding sector such as speed of installation and quality control. Offsite manufacturing processes will not only go some way to eliminating the time spent working at height; its positives are all the more relevant in regards to the Covid-19 pandemic. Prefabrication is enabling products to be engineered in controlled conditions and gives businesses more ownership over how they can ensure operatives are working safely.

Furthermore, as products are being completely manufactured offsite in controlled conditions, it negates the need for wet trades on the roof, as no pointing-in or cement are required in the fitting of the products. Faster and easier to install, the process requires less in the way of skilled tradespeople working at height, greatly reducing risk.

It is also worth bearing in mind that GRP products, such as those produced by Stormking, which are produced offsite offer durable, weathertight seals on a variety of structures for up to 20 years, with little maintenance. As worthy alternatives to traditional build processes and materials, offsite manufactured GRP solutions are high-performance, robust and weatherproof, and negate the need for costly repairs in the future. If an unforeseen repair is necessary, aftersales service teams can always attend the site to remedy the issue.

As products arrive at site pre-prepared, working time at height is reduced and so is the amount of intensive labour. To put it simply, workers do not need to perform extensive product modifications at height as the system has been engineered offsite to the design brief.

Stormking has a wide portfolio of prefabricated products including lifelike chimneys and dormer windows which are BBA-approved. The Stormking GRP dormer window roof for instance is factory-finished complete with full internal timber frame; an all-in-one solution which is safer to install than traditional materials. With this product, the finer details can be achieved without requiring tradespeople to spend lengthy periods of time at height crafting the intricate aspects of a dormer roof.

As well as quickening the build time and driving projects to earlier completion dates, offsite manufacturing will also help to increase the number of houses that are being built. At present the UK is struggling to meet its 300,000 new homes a year target; an aim which cannot be met with traditional construction processes alone.

Roofers working at height are statistically more vulnerable than others employed in the construction industry. It is why the housebuilding sector has a collective responsibility to maintain the highest onsite health and safety standards to assure long-term physical and mental wellbeing. Utilising processes such as offsite manufacturing reduce the risk of falls purely because less time and labour is spent at these hazardous heights. In a safety-critical construction industry, surely it is worthwhile to select building methods that mitigate risk before accidents can happen?