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August 12, 2016

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High-rise protection ensures safety does not slip through the net

Frankfurt am Main-20120509-00145

Construction firms building high-rise developments in compact, inner city locations need effective safeguards that protect site operatives and the public from falling objects and debris. Here, Kristian Heller, engineering services manager, Central Europe for Combisafe, part of Honeywell, explains how safety net fans can provide a cost-effective and flexible solution.

Anyone who has worked on a busy construction site will appreciate the key challenges that most contractors face: delivering a project on-time and on-budget while ensuring nobody is injured and safeguarding property from damage.

Construction firms are under immense pressure to turn developments around quickly. Take into account the sheer scale of many projects, the narrow window for completion and the many different contractors or teams that may be working on the project simultaneously. A building site can easily become a hive of activity with potential risks to safety.

For instance, with workers completing installations on multiple floors, there is a danger that objects and debris can tumble to the ground. The building method employed often involves cast concrete construction, which means concrete slabs will extend beyond the building’s soffit, increasing the likelihood of debris falling over the edge unless there is protection in place. As is the case in crowded, inner-city areas where space to build is limited, pedestrian walkways located on the periphery of the site need to be protected from falling objects.

Businesses must also ensure that workers operating on the ground and ferrying materials around the site are kept safe. Access roads typically will remain open during the construction to allow trucks to unload. Developers also must ensure that any neighbouring property is not damaged to avoid any potentially costly disputes.


Protecting the workforce and the public

The use of edge protection systems has helped create safer conditions for site operatives working at height but is not a fool-proof method for safeguarding against falling debris and objects such as dropped tools. Additional protection, such as temporary tunnels for pedestrians, can be used to reduce the likelihood of these type of incidents but all too often they are overly expensive.

On the other hand, safety net fans do provide construction firms with a cost-effective and flexible solution to ensure that both workforce and the public are protected. In the UK, the industry’s regulator, the Health and Safety Executive identifies safety netting as the preferred method of fall protection as it provides collective protection and does not rely on individual user discipline to guarantee acceptable safety standards. 1 Safety net are a variation of the standard netting and project 3.3 metres from the building to catch and securely contain falling objects.

While the purpose of an edge protection system is to act as an effective fall-prevention system for site operatives, safety net fans can also serve as a secondary level of protection. Construction workers may take risks such as using ladders to climb between floors. In rare instances where they might fall over an edge, safety net fans can provide an additional safety cushion by catching and containing them.

When selecting safety net fans, which normally come in two standard lengths of 4.2 metres or 6 metres, it is important to ensure that they are tested to meet the requirements of EN1263, the European standard for safety netting and have been proven to arrest falls of up to 100kg from a height of 6 metres. The safety net fan should also comprise a 60 x 60mm fall arrest net and an extra fine 20 x 20mm debris net, which are laced together to provide a safeguard against everything from large objects such as dropped tools to smaller, finer particles of debris.

Variations include Combisafe’s Safety Net Fan Maxi, which extends the catching width to increase the level of containment provided and Combisafe’s Safety Net Corner Fan, which is only to be used for material catching.


Enhancing flexibility and reducing downtime

Suitable for most construction sites, but especially relevant for high-rise developments, safety net fans are adaptable and versatile. Some of the latest equipment available on the market is designed to fit directly on the steel or concrete frame of most buildings or to scaffolding using a large range of purpose-built attachments. They can also be easily adapted as the construction development progresses.

Improvements in slab attachments means that construction workers can now carry out brickwork over the safety net attachment. Designed for ease of use on site, the latest fans also feature an optional offset beam for use on inclined facades, a knee-brace and a reshaped leg extension to aid application.

At high-rise developments, fans exposed to strong winds benefit from a wind lock on the safety net fan system that provides greater stabilisation when the fan needs to be folded away. These special fans are designed to withstand winds of up to 100mph.

Another advantage of the safety net fan is that it can be folded in against the side of the building allowing free movement for both above and below work. This means, for example, that contractors can lift pallets and other materials to the top of the building via a crane lift and then, once complete, the safety net fans can then be folded out again, bringing downtime to a minimum.

Falls from height are the main causes of fatal accidents in the construction industries in the European Union (EU) 2. Also, falling objects and debris can present a significant safety hazard to both the public and site workers unless precautions are taken. Careful planning before construction work begins is not only essential to ensure workers and the public are adequately protected but will also drive up safety standards.

Building practices vary across the EU, and in some countries it is common practice for construction workers to install the safety net fans themselves. However, specialist training is always recommended to ensure that they are correctly installed and this important task requires the support of a specialist installer, who can meet the needs of each individual development.




Combisafe, a business unit of Honeywell Industrial Safety, delivers innovative collective protection equipment for the construction industry. Founded in Sweden, COMBISAFE has become the industry benchmark with its innovative modular approach, integrating site-wide solutions such as edge protection, fall safety and temporary roofing to keep employers, the public and assets safe. The systems stand alone, or are combined into a total safety envelope. 

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