Health & Safety challenges surrounding security fence installations and maintenance
This article originally appeared on The Association of Fencing Industries in February 2021.
From the initial design stages of security fence installation, health and safety of all those involved must be a priority but construction is still one of the top industries where serious injury and death is not an uncommon occurrence.
During the initial scoping and risk assessment of a site many hazards will be identified. With utilities, underground services, traffic/pedestrian management, uneven/unstable ground, site access with plant and machinery, site security during the installation and even wildlife, the list is almost endless.
Once the installation has been designed and approved, the contractor will usually select the most cost effective method of carrying out the installation to maximise profitability. Then the hazards the installers may encounter are many; weather, manual handling, falls from height, lifting and rigging, suspended loads, to name a few.
Regulations, whether we like it or not, govern most of these activities. Some of those which apply include:
CDM (Construction Design and Management Regulations 2015)
Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (1999)
Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER 1998)
Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations (LOLER 1998)
Work at Height Regulations 2005
First Aid Regulations
Manual Handling Regulations 1992
In order to comply with the Regulations many things will need to be considered from training and competence to the standards and maintenance of equipment used during the work – lifting slings (BSEN1491-2;200), Protective footwear (EN ISO20345:2011), Safety helmets (EN397) to safety harnesses (fall arrest EN 361). These are just a few of the many applicable standards. No one said it would be easy!
Focussing on height safety
For a security fence to be installed to a height of 3 metres, one of the risks we must assess is the risk of a fall from height. It is important to remember work at height means ANY place including at or below ground level where a person could fall a distance liable to cause personal injury.
The application of a hierarchy of control for work at height should be applied to select the safest method of working, the simple way to remember this is AVOID, PREVENT, MINIMISE:
Avoid work at height – can the task be done remotely or from ground level?
Prevent fall by use of collective protection, working behind a handrail or other collective fall protection (MEWP or scaffold etc)
Minimise the risk by use of fall protection equipment (PFPE), this should reduce the risk and consequence of the fall
A safe method of securing the fence and associated defences (razor wire, CCTV etc) must be selected. This may be via Mobile Elevated Work Platform (MEWP), PASMA Tower or even a ladder if you can control the associated risks. All these methods of access may require some form of training (8 & 9 PUWER Regs).
In most cases ladders should only be used as a last resort. If you do consider using a ladder as your method of access, after eliminating other safer methods, consider the use of a fall restraint system that is freely available and ensure the ladder is secured. Any work carried out from the top of a ladder must be “light work of short duration” according to HSE guidance. However, using pry-bars and attempting to align mesh with posts from the top of a ladder could hardly be described as “light work”.
When lifting mesh panels, these can be very unwieldy and difficult to control due to flex, wind and alignment to posts – always consider mechanical lift to place and align rather than using homemade “Heath Robinson” lifting devices of bent wire and garden hose! The use of purpose built and rated equipment will provide reassurance that it will not fail and it will not damage the coating of the panel on installation.
When lifting and manoeuvring mesh panels by hand consider using a handle that has been designed and engineered to attach and lift the mesh. Post installation maintenance is still subject to many of the above regulations, as well as the installation of fence toppings such as electrification, PID sensors, razor wire and CCTV. Proactive maintenance will prove more cost effective than reactive repairs: it improves your perimeter’s effectiveness against perceived threats and will ensure continual security.
The cost savings that can be achieved through thorough planning and safety are significant. Products designed to make installers jobs easier and safer are freely available on the market.
For more information and help for work at height and lifting in the fencing industry contact email@example.com