Offsite manufacturing mitigates risk of working from height

Figures from the Health and Safety Executive reveal roofers account for 24% of work-related deaths in the construction industry. Working at height can be 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, specialist manufacturer of offsite, prefabricated GRP component products Stormking, explains how onsite risks can be mitigated through the utilisation of offsite manufacturing.

Roofing is a risky occupation; it accounts for one-in-four construction sector deaths. Therefore, construction site managers put a huge emphasis on safety in order to prevent work-related accidents. So intense is the protective focus it’s sometimes forgotten that for workers, the journey to the roof itself can be quite hazardous. This is because it might involve coming into contact with other trade persons whose health and safety risk isn’t regarded as perilous as those working on the roof.

When it comes to implementing and enforcing strict onsite health and safety standards, it has to be a shared responsibility between the client, contractor and the workers themselves. Each has a role to play in identifying and mitigating risk, and acting accordingly to minimise the potential for accidents and injury.

It is a given that there are key factors to consider when looking at onsite health and safety. This can include an assessment of which indicators are in place, to highlight safety guidelines are being followed. Site managers should also take time to consider which risk mitigation measures are being taken, and the potential outcome of failure to maintain industry safety standards.

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 be aware of how they have to operate safely onsite, there will be instances when accidents happen. According to figures from the HSE, falls from height were the most frequent cause of fatal accidents in 2017. 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.

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.

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.

Less waste, greater productivity 

Waste reduction is a big target on housebuilding sites, with contractors having to find ways to reduce order consumption during the build process and minimise excess material. Offsite manufacturing lowers the amount of waste materials that are generated and need to be disposed of from construction sites. And where there is less waste onsite, the chances of it proving to be hazardous are also significantly lessened!

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.

As the statistics suggest, roofers working at height are more vulnerable than others employed in the construction industry. This is why the housebuilding sector has to be responsible for maintaining the highest onsite health and safety standards to assure long-term physical and mental wellbeing. Working at height is a mainstay on housebuilding projects, but so is safety. Utilising processes such as offsite manufacturing reduce the risk of working at height purely because less time and labour is expended in these hazardous areas. In a safety-critical construction industry where risk has to be continually moderated, selecting a solution which reduces risk before it can take hold is a no-brainer.