Construction has always been a hazardous line of work, and you don’t need to look back too far to see the true cost of extraordinary buildings, structures and projects around the world. According to a paper published by Washington State University, the Panama Canal cost 25,609 lives over its 46 year development and even shorter term structures such as the Brooklyn Bridge in New York claimed 27 lives over its 13-year build. While basic standards and equipment were clearly archaic by comparison to today, the level of health and safety education was also borderline non-existent.
One of the most famous images of New York’s burgeoning development as a contemporary metropolis would be “Lunchtime atop a Skyscraper”, captured by Charles C. Ebbets on 29th September 1932. The photograph depicts eleven labourers taking lunch on a crossbeam resting on the 69th floor of the GE building in the Rockefeller Center, several hundred feet above the streets below. No surprise then that, according to the same WSU paper, the only two jobs statistically more dangerous than construction labourer during the early 20th century were mine clearer and bear tamer.
It wasn’t until 29th December 1970 that U.S congress established the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which according to President Nixon would, “assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance.”
In the following years a variety of regional regulators were introduced globally to ensure safety standards were at the forefront for all construction stakeholders and that the application of proper PPE, hazard communication, safer site conditions, training and teamwork were implemented.
At Doka, health and safety are fundamental priorities, something that is reflected in our structured systems and innovative products. From a services standpoint, we ensure a thorough approach to utilisation planning, and as part of our field service we also provide formwork instructors, on-site assembly, and on-site project support. We have also expanded our pre-assembly facilities to support our more complex projects.
Doka has also invested in developing a wide range of products and systems that have been designed to specifically address the most vulnerable areas on a construction site, and ensure they are made as safe as possible for site personnel.
Take for example our Edge Protection System, a universal safety solution that provides total edge protection, while remaining fully compatible with Doka floor formwork. Equipped with an all-in-one guardrail, the system is ‘hot-dip’ galvanised, making it extremely sturdy. It is also EN 13374-compliant and can be used on any shell structure as well as on our floor formwork systems. As part of our commitment to keep our products user and time friendly, the Edge Protection System can be installed following a logical set-up sequence and is twice as fast as a conventional wooden-rail solution. As an additional safety element, the integrated steel toeboard ensures no small items can fall off.
Developed as our ultimate fall-arrest system, Doka’s pre assembled Safety Net Fan’s can be used on any structure and adapted to any shape. Designed with triple layer nets, this product is also EN 1263 compliant, UV treated to resist sun damage and can extend to a width of 4.8 metres, providing significant cover against any falling objects and debris to personnel below.
Other systems which have been successfully implemented in the Middle East include our Protection Screen Xclimb 60, a hydraulic system that offers a fully enclosed and safe working environment for labourers over two working slabs and one re-propping slab.
Our access systems have also been developed to offer the highest functional safety for construction personnel. Take for example our Stair tower 250, a sturdy, stable access system that can be put together very quickly from load-bearing tower frames and pre-assembled aluminium stairway elements. With a height capacity of up to 100 metres, the system also enables intermediate exits meaning safe access to all work-deck levels. When it comes to moving up and down the formwork itself, our Ladder system XS is not only mountable while the formwork is flat on the ground, but furthermore comes equipped with a ladder cage, for added protection.
One of our more versatile systems is DokaScaff, a modular scaffold used for access, forming and reinforcing works. Thanks to its pre-defined connection points, DokaScaff is not only safety certified by DIBT, AENOR, AFNOR, NASC and SP but also comes with tried and tested anchorage points for personal fall-arrest systems. With the added benefits of being quick and easy to assemble, DokaScaff uses a wedge lock system meaning a strong and rigid connection is possible with just one blow the hammer. The system itself is also extremely durable thanks to all its components being galvanized. DokaScaff is much quicker than traditional systems available in the market.
Outside of the obvious ethical priority of ensuring the wellbeing of site staff, there are in fact proven financial benefits of applying diligent health and safety standards. According to the International Social Security Association (ISSA), an international study with 300 participants across 16 countries showed that investments in safety at work pay back with a cost/benefit ratio of 1:2.2, clearly illustrating that increasing standards in safety really is a win-win for the construction industry.