When formwork contractor Getjar was asked to cast the slabs for an 18-storey high-rise development without using external scaffolding, the perfect edge protection solution presented itself from Down Under. Joanna Booth took a helicopter ride to get a bird's eye view of the system's first use in the UK
FROM the ground, the climbing protection panel system obscures from view work in progress at the Falcon Wharf project in London. Only when our helicopter rises above the high-level hoarding is it possible to see the busy site behind it.
The system is simple. Designed for use on high-rise buildings, a panel soffit supported on steel beams is raised up each time works progress another storey, surrounding workers with a wooden wall well above head height. As well as providing a barrier preventing workers and materials from going over the side, the solid panels have an important psychological impact ? operatives feel safer and protected.
Inside, it feels as if the site is at ground level.
Peri's system had never been used in the UK before. It was first brought to the attention of Getjar chairman Michael Masterson by an Australian engineer he was interviewing.
'He asked me why we didn't use it, ' says Mr Masterson, 'so I got him to tell me about it.' Mr Masterson liked the sound of it and contacted Peri directly to discuss the possibility of tailormaking the system for one of Getjar's jobs.
Peri UK southern sales manager Simon Coveney had first come across the system at his company's stand at Bauma last year.
'The Health and Safety Executive inspected it and we realised we had a product that conforms to all its regulations, ' he says.
Using the CPP system for the first time on the Falcon Wharf development was a baptism of fire.
'It is one of the most difficult jobs we could put it on, ' says Mr Coveney. 'There are no st raight lines. It has really given the system the chance to prove itself.' Falcon Wharf is a £37 million mixed-use development. Carillion is main contractor.
The building's highest point, the section which comprises 18 f loors, reaches up to 55 m.
'It's very high up, ' says Getjar contracts manager James Molloy. 'The tender was to build the job without a scaffold. So the alternative would be traditional edge protection. It is technically safe but, when you're 18 floors up on a ladder, something more solid definitely gives you a bit of confidence.' The building is a very unusual shape, with every elevation curved.
'It's like four boomerangs back to back , ' says Mr Molloy. 'It really didn't lend itself to a table formwork system as that works best with st raight lines. Tables are also affected by wind.' The system is only suitable for high-rise buildings as it works over three floors at a time. Anchor points are cast into each slab at centres of 2.5 m around the edge. Guide shoes fit over the anchors. Two steel beams are bolted to the back of each panel. As panels are craned into position, operatives guide the steels into the shoes. The panels are pinned on the two lower floors and the panel extends another floor up, protecting workers as they pour the next slab.
The top third of every panel has a dog-leg kicking out, allowing extra space for the formwork on the edge of the top slab being poured.
After a slab has cured and the team is ready to start work on the next level, the crane is again attached to each panel. The bolts are removed and the crane lifts the panel up one level, through the next guide shoe up, then it is rebolted into position.
Because the panels are always held in position within guide shoes, they can be moved even in winds up to 72 km/h.
A guard rail can be erected within the bottom floor covered by the panels before they are shifted up, making sure workers are safe even while installing edge protection.
John Kenny (pictured right) Getjar's project manager, can't praise the system highly enough.
'It's the best system I've seen on the market in 25 years. The men feel safe and there's no danger of stuff falling off, which was more likely to happen with the flimsier systems. I saw it in the brochure and thought it was the business. Then we saw guys using it in Poland. I'd use it again tomorrow morning on any high-rise project. The guys here adapted to it very quickly. They took one day to work it out and by day two they were fine.' As well as being secure enough to be moved in bad weather, the panels protect the workers from the worst of the wind ? which can gust with some strength on the higher floors.
The CPP system has the benefit of providing edge protection to a substantial height. Workers on ladders casting columns close to the edge of the slab are not in danger of falling over the top of the edge protection.
The panels could be assembled on site but things are so crowded on the Falcon Wharf job that the steels were fitted to the soffit before arriving.
Despite the system working from three floors and above, the Getjar team decided only to start using it on the fifth floor, where there is a 2.6 m cantilever. Up to this point the team used traditional edge protection.
The system has the added benefit of speed. Due to delays to the groundworks Getjar was unable to get on site on time and started the project nearly five weeks beh ind programme. A lthough the team was able to begin the catch-up process while working with traditional edge protection, the CPP system allowed them to make real progress with getting back on programme. Currently the team can work to a two-week turnaround per floor.
'The speed has been a major benefit of the system, ' says Mr Molloy. 'It's a slight pain to get started but once it's up and running it's so quick.' Although this is its first use in the UK it is common in Australia, South Africa and mainland Europe, where its advantages are clearly appreciated.
'One of the benefits of the system, especially in countries with a poorer reputation for health and safety, is that it's almost idiotproof, ' says Mr Molloy.
Since the system was installed at Falcon Wharf the entire project team has realised yet another benefit to having wide wooden walls high above the city.
'There is 215 linear metres of panel at Falcon Wharf, ' says Mr Coveney. 'The advertising potential is amazing.'
Fasten your seatbelts
THE PERI panel system is not the only safety innovation Getjar has introduced to the Falcon Wharf site. Workers are using French equipment that can replace the function of a traditional inertia reel, the first outing for this system in the UK with Getjar.
The Alsina system works like a seatbelt on a pole. At regular intervals across the slab where the columns will be formed, a slightly cone-shaped steel tube protrudes from the concrete. A carabiner attached to a tensioned line held within the tube clips onto the operative's harness and acts as an arrest system, preventing him from falling within the building to the floor below.
'These are so much better than inertia reels which are awkward and heavy to work with, ' says Mr Molloy.
'At slab level they create a trip hazard. Also, raised on the pole the anchor point is always above the operative so it locks the moment they trip.'
Getjar ready to party
THIS IS A special year for Getjar, as the firm celebrates its first quarter century. Chairman Michael Masterson started up the company 25 years ago and it has been growing ever since.
Getjar is predominantly a formwork contractor but will take on projects where the groundworks are let in a single package.
The group also contains Atlantic Joinery, which takes on formwork and carpentry packages up to £2 million, and plant hire arm Glencoe.
The group turns over £80 million and at the moment Mr Masterson is keen to cap it at th is level.
'Repeat business is the way we trade. There are people we were working with 25 years ago that we're still working with today. It's good for both us and them.
'We want to steady ourselves at this turnover and make sure we can retain the high standards we've become known for when we move into further growth.' Mr Masterson also hopes to bring in more innovat ion like the CPP system.
Peri's Simon Coveney remembers that Getjar was the first company in the UK to use its Trio wall formwork and Skydeck quick fix and strike aluminium panel formwork.
'They're not afraid of the unfamiliar, ' he says.
'It pays dividends, ' says Mr Masterson. 'We like to have a reputation for doing things right.'