Glass is being used as a main structural element of the building envelope and on an increasing scale. The floor to ceiling installations which have dominated high rise designs for decades, have now migrated into high-end – and increasingly, mainstream - residential applications. This means not only bigger units but also increased use of laminate technologies, increasing weights and the complexities with it of handling of glass and units in production and on site.
“One of the things that we saw at the FIT Show was that not only glass processors, but also installers are looking for effective solutions for the safe manual handling of glass on the factory floor but also increasingly, during installation”, says Dave Broxton, Managing Director, Bohle. “There’s simply too much weight in the glass”, he continues, “You need the right kit to handle it, otherwise you risk damaging product, or far more critically, personal injury. Either way, the cost of not handling glass with the right tools can be exceptionally high – and not in any circumstances worth the risk.” Insulated glazed units of 4m2 or more are now common place, specified for use in floor-to-ceiling applications and large doors, with a ‘belt and braces’ approach to specification adding further weight through increased use of laminates.
“Structural engineers, installers and builders seem to be specifying laminates as a ‘catch-all’ approach to design. The net effect is that the weight of already very large IGUs is being inflated further. It’s not a problem that’s exclusive to IGUs, simply it's most acute because of the scale and weight of glass – across the board, glass dimensions and hence weight are increasing and that creates an increased requirement for safe manual handling”, continues Broxton.
Bohle’s range of Veribor suction lifters are at the forefront of manual handling technology. Designed and manufactured in-house, they have been refined over decades to make the manual handling of glass safer featuring state of the art ergonomics and a minimum 2:1 safety margin to reflect ‘real world’ usage. The range includes the compact LiftMaster B1 manual lifting device, which handles weights of up to 180kg. Its ultra-neat design means that as well as providing an in-factory solution for the safe handling of glass, the LiftMaster B1 also provides an on-site solution, packing down to fit inside an estate car.
“The LiftMaster B1 has been developed to combine the safe and secure movement of glass units, with maximum flexibility”, explains Broxton “you can get it in the back of an estate car as it doesn’t take up loads of space and is highly manoeuvrable, making it ideally suited to use on site. This was one of the key drivers of interest from those prospects we spoke to at FIT. Everyone we spoke to was facing the same challenge of manually handling very heavy units and glass on site or in confined spaces in factories.”
The LiftMaster B1 can be used with or without an electric pump, delivering exceptional versatility, while a dual circuit vacuum system, reserve tanks, vacuum display and secondary vacuum indicator, mean that it has the safety margins which define the Veribor range, built in.
Figures obtained by Bohle form the Glass and Glazing Federation reveal that if the industry has made progress on safety, it still has significant work to do. According to the latest figures, while the number of reported accidents showed a 12% drop year-on-year, the percentage of these that involved manual handling injuries increased from 17% to 20%.
“The attitude of the industry to health and safety is moving forward, however, so are specifications and glass is being used on a new scale, not only in commercial environments but residential ones. That means more and more installers are coming into contact with some very large units and that means you have to have the kit to handle them. If you’re running risks, they’re going to catch up with you.”