For children, the school summer holidays can seem to stretch on forever. However, if you’re a contractor brought in to carry out building work during the summer break, you’re all too aware of just how quickly six weeks can pass. William Cooper was one such contractor, facing a tight window for project delivery when it was hired to refurbish the roof of Knightsridge Primary School in Edinburgh.
The company needed to replace the existing flat felt roof, which measured 3,200 m2 and had failed in places, with a pitched roof solution including external drainage.
While William Cooper had more than just six weeks to complete the work – the company began the project in the middle of the Scottish school holidays at the end of July, and were required to finish before the onset of the harsh Scottish winter – the timescale was still tight for the scale of the project, whose total value came in at a little under £1 million.
Carrying on the work into the opening weeks of the autumn school term also brought with it the significant added challenge of having to operate a construction site while surrounded by children.
“The key challenges were completing the roof before winter storms and working in a live primary school,” says William Cooper’s director Iain Grimley. “Working at height in an operational primary school creates a problematic interface with children and parents, especially when you consider that traditional scaffolding could encourage kids to climb.”
Working at height in an operational primary school creates a problematic interface with children and parents, especially when you consider that traditional scaffolding could encourage kids to climb
As a result, William Cooper was looking for a safety solution that could, on one hand, help ensure the project was completed before winter and, on the other, address the safety concerns about using traditional scaffolding around children.
The safety solution the contractor chose was an edge protection system provided by Combisafe, part of the Honeywell group. The company supplied William Cooper with 500 linear metres of its Counterweight System. Specifically designed to better protect those working on flat roofs, the system sits on the roof itself, eliminating the climbing risk that is exists with traditional, ground-anchored scaffolding.
Made of galvanised steel for maximum durability and fully compliant with the Personal Protective Equipment Directive 89/686/EEC and EN 13374 class A EU regulations, the Counterweight System comprises guardrails placed at the roof’s edge, which are anchored via a lever arm, connected to a weight pack that sits further back on the flat roof. The guardrails come in 1.57m and 3.07m lengths for flexibility in every environment, while the weight pack includes 3 x 15kg rubber weights and a weight holder.
Combisafe product sales manager Andy Gibbons says that what impressed William Cooper most was the speed of its installation when compared with traditional scaffolding. “The time it takes to erect the system saves both time and money through labour costs,” says Gibbons. “A 10-metre run would take two scaffolders two hours. With our system it only takes half an hour to protect the same area – a quarter of the time.”
One reason for the counterweight’s speed of installation is that it is very easy to move around the site thanks to its integrated trolley system.
The specially designed ergonomic Counterweight Trolley provides easy, single-person loading, transport and positioning of rubber weights to reduce manual handling and risk of injury. It also incorporates a lever-controlled gas strut to adjust the lifting height.
The first stage of William Cooper’s renovation of the roof involved installing a steel beam on the existing flat roof. The trolley system, combined with the lever arm’s ability to be moved sideways while still attached to the weight pack, enabled the contractor to quickly move the weight pack out of the way when a section of steelworks needed to be installed without any reduction in the level of worker protection.
Its impact on the overall project timescale for William Cooper was substantial. “This system helped us achieve a tight programme by saving two weeks of scaffold time,” says Grimley.
William Cooper’s refurbishment of Knightsridge Primary School’s roof was effectively completed on 23rd November 2015 – in good time for the school to be ready for the harsh Scottish winter.