Weighty problem?

Bigger units, heavier glass, and increased use of laminates is making manual handling of glass higher risk. Glass Times talked to Dave Broxton, managing director of Bohle.

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 of handling 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 looking for effective solutions for the safe manual handling of glass on the factory floor, but also installers during installation,” Dave Broxton, managing director of Bohle, said.

“There’s simply too much weight in the glass. 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,” Dave said. “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. Across the board, glass dimensions and hence weight are increasing, and that creates an increased requirement for safe manual handling.”

Bohle’s range of Veribor suction lifters are 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 company said.

The range includes the compact LiftMaster B1 manual lifting device, which handles weights of up to 180kg. Its 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.

“This was one of the key drivers of interest from those prospects we spoke to at FIT,” Dave said. “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, 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 GGF reveal that 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,” Dave said. “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.”