It’s Time to Work Smarter Says SAEMA

Everyone is familiar with the more common forms of access equipment such as ladders, scaffold towers and truck mounted platforms. Less familiar are the façade access systems – either temporary or permanent – designed and installed by members of the Specialist Access Engineering and Maintenance Association (SAEMA). These provide a safe place of work for cleaning and maintenance at many of the UK’s landmark sites, including 30 St Mary Axe (the Gherkin) and 122 Leadenhall Street (the Cheesegrater) in London.

Liaising closely with other specialist and standards-setting bodies, including the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), SAEMA participates in the development of national and international standards and is actively engaged in advancing the height safety agenda.

That agenda is currently dominated by two key issues. First, the Association’s growing concern about the confusion surrounding the role of the duty holder when it comes to façade access systems, which, it claims, can put workers at risk. Second, the need for better communication and cooperation between system providers and developers, architects and contractors at the earliest stages of a project.

Comments SAEMA’s chairman, Barry Murphy: “Recent incidents have only served to
reinforce our view that many duty holders – including health and safety professionals – are either confused by, or simply not aware of, their duties and responsibilities under the law. Ignorance is no defence and can leave the duty holder liable to prosecution.”

“These duties and responsibilities in respect of suspended access equipment are defined in the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER), the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER) and BS 6037 – the code of practice for the planning, design, installation and use of permanently installed access equipment.”

“In BS 6037, which SAEMA helped to draft, the duty holder is clearly described as a designated person with management responsibility for the safe use, maintenance and thorough examination of suspended access equipment.”

So what can go wrong? In the event of an operating fault in a building maintenance unit (BMU), the absence of a formal, documented rescue plan is an increasingly common occurrence. The emergency services are then called to recover the stranded operatives. Such incidents can be readily avoided by duty holders engaging with their supply chain and having the correct management procedures in place.

The Association’s second message focuses on the need for early engagement, as Barry Murphy explains: “Many of the access consultants employed by a developer and/or his architectural design team, continue to specify ever more complex suspended access solutions with unique features and duties. This regularly results in the need for a bespoke, project-by-project approach to the design of the access system.”

“Going forward, our aim is to encourage developers, architects and contractors to engage with SAEMA members, who, after all, are experts in this sector of the working at height industry, at the earliest possible stages of a building’s life. Leaving it late can miss the opportunity to employ standard products that have been developed over many years and have a proven track record when it comes to providing safe, user-friendly and cost-effective access. Why reinvent the wheel?”

Throughout 2015 the Association will continue to raise standards in the temporary and permanent façade access industry through the delivery of training courses, new guidance and technical seminars. It has already published two new guidance documents covering rescue and planning and how to determine the necessary loads to comply with the requirements of BS EN 1808 – the European standard which prescribes the manner in which suspended access equipment should be designed.

All these initiatives reflect the collective experience of SAEMA members who must conform to all the latest industry standards and guidance and satisfy stringent requirements for safety, quality and performance.

So what of the future? Developments in façade access systems and equipment will continue to be driven by advances in architecture, façade technology and building services. The space available to accommodate a BMU system will increasingly be at a premium, which will directly impact on the complexity, size and weight of the equipment.

Specialist Access Engineering and Maintenance Association (SAEMA)
T: 07854 226251