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CROSS Safety Report

Glass removal from façades

Report ID: 988 Published: 6 June 2022 Region: CROSS-UK


Overview

Removal of a glass panel from a building façade left a reporter concerned for the safety of both operatives and the public.

Key Learning Outcomes

For architects and other glazing designers:

  • Replacement of glazing should be considered at the design stage

For contractors and maintenance providers:

  • All works must be adequately planned, resourced, and controlled
  • All work at height must consider the extensive guidance available
  • Ensure approved risk assessed method statements are in place

Full Report

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A reporter was shown a video from their site of two operatives removing a glass panel from the façade of a building. The panel was fully tempered glass, 12-15mm thick and approximately 2m by 2m. It was about 20m above the pavement level. The operatives had accessed the panel by cradle. The area underneath had been cordoned off from public access. A timber board was held against the inside of the glass panel to prevent broken glass from entering the building.

The operatives proceeded to hammer at the upper edge of the glass until it dislodged from the frame and fell to the ground. Some of the glass fell outside the cordoned area. While a certain level of precaution was taken, it seemed to the reporter that preventing the glass from falling would have provided a safer method.

preventing the glass from falling would have provided a safer method

The reporter is further concerned that following updated fire legislation, spandrel panels will ultimately be made from a less safe construction; single glass ply rather than laminated glass being used. It is the reporter's opinion that guidance needs to be provided on safe removal of glass. While this event caused no harm (apart from damage to other glass panels) it is clear that it could have been done with greater safety in mind, without a considerable impact on time or cost.

Expert Panel Comments

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Expert Panels comment on the reports we receive. They use their experience to help you understand what can be learned from the reports. If you would like to know more, please visit the CROSS-UK Expert Panels page.

The reporter should be applauded for bringing this incident to light. It appears there were obvious issues around planning and executing the work. It would be expected that risk assessed method statements, the establishment of safe working practices and safety zones, together with competent operatives and supervision should have been in place. Significant apparent failings, such as possibly illustrated here, in the planning, resourcing and control of works must clearly be avoided.

Significant apparent failings in the planning, resourcing and control of works must clearly be avoided

The Construction Design and Management Regulations 2015 (CDM 2015) require designers to consider how a building is to be maintained and record specific provisions in the Health and Safety File. The Health and Safety File is a record of useful information that will help clients, building users and contractors manage health and safety risks during any maintenance or repair work. It would obviously be most beneficial if the methods anticipated by the designer for replacement of difficult to access glazing were recorded in this file.

Building owners and facilities managers may be advised to contact the original façade designer or contractor to review method statements for the replacement of broken panels. While smaller glaziers may be able to provide a quicker response at lower cost than the original façade contractor, they must be able to provide a safe method and be able to understand the risks involved.

Working at height

There are extensive regulations and standards designed to safeguard persons working at height. Legislation rightly requires very careful assessment of all potential work areas at height. The HSE provide extensive guidance upon working at height. The Specialist Access Engineering and Access Association provide free to use guidance upon both permanent and temporary façade access equipment.

Designers must be careful when considering all façade materials including glazing and, in particular, consider the changes to the Building Regulations made in 2018 concerning the prohibition of combustible materials in some buildings.

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